Article and Photos by L. Paul Mann
Travis Barker who is best known as the drummer of Blink 182 successfully brought the 12th annual Musink festival to Orange County Fairgrounds, March 8th to 10th. The three-day music, tattoo, and classic car event culminated Sunday with a retro Punk music line up featuring six veteran bands.
The fairgrounds somehow provided the perfect backdrop for the uniquely Southern California gathering. The industrial complex featured exhibit halls full of tattoo artists and related art and apparel. By Sunday afternoon there may have been more people being tattooed at the same time than at any other single event. The aroma of classic American fair cuisine mixed with dusty winds and the distinct smell of ink infused skin added to the atmosphere. Vintage cars elegantly tricked out created an exotic pathway into the festival. But it was the concert stage where most of the energy focused during the final six hours of the festival.
The party began with a short set by the ska punk band the Voodoo Glow Skulls from nearby Riverside, California. The band was formed in 1988 by brothers Frank, Eddie, and Jorge Casillas. Frank the lead singer retired in 2017 and was replaced by Efrem Schultz from Death By Stereo. The band tore through songs from their no less than 9 albums and riled up the crowd early on. An animated Schultz pranced about the stage sometimes carrying a giant flag with the band’s logo.
After a short break, the Pittsburgh hardcore punk band Anti Flag took the stage under a giant upside-down American flag backdrop. The group began in fits and starts at the end of the ’80s and came into their own in the early ’90s. The band is well known for expressing political and social dissatisfaction with the status quo, helping to endear them to a hardcore audience. The band brings to mind a punk sound much like early recordings by the legendary punk band, The Clash. By the time the band launched into their second song at Musink, the crowd had swelled to several thousand people, and the first real mosh pits and crowd surfing of the day began in earnest. The group featuring original members lead singer, Justin Sane, and drummer Pat Thetic tore through a setlist culled from over 25 years of recordings. Sane’s political anecdotes between songs were received enthusiastically but the Musink crowd.
Another local Southern California band from nearby Long Beach, TSOL was the next band to take the stage. The band which initially formed back in 1978, in the infancy of the California punk rock scene, features two original members, lead singer Jack Grisham, and guitarist Ron Emory. Along with early band member, keyboardist Greg Kuehn, these elder statesmen of punk led the group some classic punk tunes, much to the delight of a moshing crowd of enthusiastic fans. Grisham glided about the stage menacingly thrusting his large frame at his fellow band members while they played their instruments furiously. The band played classic old punk tunes from their repertoire including “Code Blue,” as well as newer songs.
Another important California rock band took the stage next. The infamous Dead Kennedys, who also formed back in 1978, led the early San Francisco punk movement, with often controversial and politically charged musicians performances. Legendary punk Svengali Jello Biafra left the band as lead singer long ago, replaced by a litany of singers that even included Brandon Cruise of “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” television series for several years. Current singer Ron “Skip” Greer does his best Jello impersonation, while original guitarist East Bay Ray and bassist Klaus Fluoride, backed by the band’s drummer since 1982, D.H. Peligro, laid down their classic punk anthems for an adulating crowd. Crowd surfing began in earnest with many in the Musink audience sporting fresh tattoos. The band tore through some of the rudest and crudest songs of the California punk movement that made this band so adored and vilified in the ’80s, and the crowd loved it.
Possibly the most legendary California punk band, Fear played the most intense set of the day as the sun began to set on Musink 2019. This Los Angeles punk band formed way back in 1977 and has featured a who’s who revolving line up of veteran California rockers that even included Flea of Chili Peppers fame at one point. But the one constant in the band has been the godfather of California punk, the mischievously masterful lead singer, Lee Ving. The witty singer-guitarist has written some of the simplest shortest and most indicative punk anthems of American punk. Infamous for his audience baiting, Ving single handily created the dynamic that is the norm of a California punk show to this day. The singer intersperses his classic songs with witty banter to bait the audience into a frenzied response, and the 68-year-old Ving shows little signs of mellowing in his old age. Recently lead guitarist Philo Cramer and drummer Spit Stix, both veterans of the band dating back to the 1970s have rejoined the group giving it an added layer of original punk credibility. The band tore through so many songs in an hour-long set it was impossible to count them all. The crowd responded by moshing and crowd surfing en masse.
It was difficult to top the pure punk performance of Fear but the California punk band The Vandals gave it their best shot was the final headline act of the day. The group had the advantage of being the hometown heroes as they were formed in Orange County back in 1980. The band has released ten albums, and from a pure fun standpoint, they were probably the most upbeat band of the day full of heavy punk and political banter and satire. While bassist Joe Escalante remains the only original member of the band from their hardcore earliest period, the rest of the groups line up has remained intact since 1990. Other veteran rockers in the band include animated guitarist Warren Fitzgerald, who played with Oingo Boingo at the height of their popularity. Drummer Josh Freese has the most remarkable resume in the band, having performed with Devo, Guns N’ Roses, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, and Sting to name a few of his collaborations. Dave Quackenbush has been the band’s singer since 1984. This powerhouse quartet played some of the most melodic punk tunes of the Musink show, with an evening performance that had exhausted concert goers prancing about the stage until they were nearly out of breath. The band played crowd favorites like “Live Fast, Diarrhea,” “Urban Struggle,” and “Anarchy Burger (Hold the Government).” While most of the crowd huddled around the band in the cold night air, a few stragglers were still getting fresh tattoos, and the coffee stand was doing a brisk business as another year of Musink ended on an upbeat note. The Orange County tradition is one Travis should be proud to have created.