Last Night: the Adolescents, Pennywise and More at Mike 'Gabby' Gaborno Benefit at House of Blues, Anaheim

The Hype: It's a bit unsettling to think of punk rockers undergoing bypass heart surgery. And when a purveyor of youth sub-culture such as Mike Gaborno goes under the knife, it sort of reminds us all of our mortality (after all, we're not talking about Sinatra here). But lest we forget, punks are human too, and by no means immune to the ravages of middle-age. Luckily, when you've been playing shows as long as Gaborno's Cadillac Tramps or Manic Hispanic, you've got some friends to help with the hospital bills. In this case it was Orange County legends the Adolescents, as well as Pennywise to the rescue. Both headlined a charity concert in Gaborno's honor Tuesday at House of Blues. 

Christopher Victorio
The Adolescents rocking the House of Blues
The Show: The Adolescents rocked the joint. As singer Tony Cadena barked out lyrics to such classics as 1981's "Amoeba," it served to remind those in attendance where bands like Pennywise found their sound. The gravity of Cadena's performance came less from his on-stage shenanigans, which were appropriately minimal considering the thrust of the night, and more from impassioned vocals and a super tight connection with the audience. With his dark, shoulder-length locks hanging in his face, Cadena would watch, clearly awed, as overjoyed fans chanted chorus after chorus. 

Pennywise took the stage sans original singer and founding member Jim Lindberg who left the band last year. We're pretty sure Zoli Teglas, from the Orange County punk outfit Ignite, took over vocal duties last night. As you might expect, it was difficult not to miss Lindberg's instantly recognizable growl. This didn't seem to bother the crowd, though, especially when the band closed with the anthemic "Bro Hymn," off their 1991 self-titled album. Watching the alpha males in room charge through the throng to join the pit in front of the stage, it was hard not to picture this song as the perfect soundtrack for a herd of jocks cruising the halls at some high school in slow motion while proudly slamming goth kids into lockers. Ironically, guitarist Fletcher Dragge's sanctimonious between-song blathering about unity and togetherness did little to dispell these images. 

The nagging question of the evening however, was how the Cadillac Tramps, and Manic Hispanic would manage without the participation of front man Gaborno. In the case of the Tramps, the band delivered their trademark blues and jazz inflected punk sound with the help from a handful of singer friends including Adolescent bassist Steve Soto. At one point Gaborno came onstage to thank the audience for their support and lifted his shirt to reveal his open heart surgery scar. Manic Hispanic, who notoriously sends up punk standards, often  injecting jokes about chicano culture, fared the worst. The performance relied on the monotone and harmonically flat growl of former singers "Tio" AKA Sonny, and "Mad Ralphie." The highlight of their set occurred when they were joined onstage by Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson and bassist Jay Bentley for a version of the Bad Religion classic "Atomic Garden." Instead of the original title however, the song was re-imagined as "Uncle Chato's Garden." 

By the end of the night, security had to break up a sizable brawl in front of the stage, prompting Adolescent Steve Soto to remark, "If Gabby were here, he'd make you two kiss right now." It was a reminder that while punk rock's greying veterans may be dealing with the ravages of time, its spirit is still alive and kicking, literally.

The Crowd: There was more than a smattering of studded leather jackets and haircuts which may have served as the inspiration for Sonic the Hedgehog. Assorted regalia announced fans of Black Flag, Screeching Weasel, Dropkick Murphy's and Dead Kennedy's, among others. Unlike some shows at the HOB, the end of each performance was met with a mass exodus of fans followed by a fresh influx of fresh ones. There was at least one little tyke sporting a mohawk. At one point, he was hoisted onto someone's shoulders and taken for a ride in the pit. Long live punk rock!

Overheard: "I'm not drunk. Just blind," said one patron as he stumbled up the venue's wooden staircase. 

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