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Rock and Roll High School Reunion at the Casbah in San Diego

  01/31/11 21:20, by , Categories: BFMN Exclusive, Bands, Review, Steven Rask , Tags: dark globe, deadbolt, san diego, scheming intelligentsia, steven rask, the dragons, the front

A Review by Steven Rask
Photos by Kathleen Tolen

Being part of the San Diego music scene in the mid-1980s was a great time. Age 20-something, exploring life, getting a grip on reality while still coveting those youthful days just a few years ago. Everyone in the scene was either in a band, starting a band, or knew someone in the band. There was a kind of exclusivity amidst the crowd, and it was comfortable. As life continues, that scene slowly fades into the 9-5 grind, the responsibility of  family, and conversations with friends consist of “long time, no see” and “remember when?” Once in a while, there would be a revisit of those days with a one-night gig at the “old club,” and all would come together to catch up and relive a little bit of the glory days.

January 28, 2011 at the Casbah was similar to one of those “catch up” nights, but more like a bad John Hughes film with old teenagers and a great soundtrack. It was a capacity crowd of used-to-be 20-something, now 40-somethings. Mutual friends, mostly alumni from 1980-1990 Chula Vista High, Bonita Vista, Hilltop High and other schools from that area got together for a night of glorious post-punk music from their favorite local bands. The Dragons, Deadbolt, The Front, and Dark Globe gave impressively youthful performances. Their friends and adoring fans, meanwhile, acted as if they were still roaming the halls of their Alma Mater, full of school spirit (not to mention the various spirits sold at the bar), some dressed as if they were still in the era from which they graduated.

Dark Globe, Photo by Kathleen Tolen

Dark Globe took the stage first, and and delivered their set with the fervor of youth. They busted out tunes from their catalog, including the pumping, 2-minute instrumental, Spin Her on My Johnson, the rousing, Fish Cold Light of Day, and the always entertaining jam in E, No Boom-Boom (the title taken from Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket"). Traditionally, during the instrumental breakdown of No Boom-Boom, bassist Mike Jones and drummer Conway Bowman would set into a heavy groove, and lead guitarist Scott Evans filled the space with inspired guitar cacophony, while singer/guitarist Jon Gire (pronounced, “Gear-ey") quoted lines – and sometimes full scenes – from Kubrick and other films. In past shows, Gire would often rant for 5-6 minutes. On this veritable ‘Senior Grad Night’ Gire put a twist on the rant, and brought forth an apt theme of responsibility, quoting an entire scene from James Foley’s “Glengarry Glen Ross.” “Let’s talk about something important!” screamed Gire, and delivered a rant that made Alex Baldwin look like a senior in a high school drama.

THe Front, Photo by Kathleen Tolen

The Front followed Dark Globe and impressed the ever-growing crowd with an unremittingly energetic set of tunes from their three 1980s releases, Man You Gotta Move, Gangland and La Bete Humaine. The most energetic performance came from Kevin “Kev-boy-face” Chanel, The Front’s bassist and hub of the aforementioned music scene. Chanel formed the Scheming Intelligentsia record label in the mid-’80s, and is both directly and indirectly responsible for the rise of The Front, Dark Globe, The Dragons and many other San Diego bands formed in the ’80s. During The Front’s third tune, Chanel charged up the crowd with Townsendesque leaps and jumps, and at one point, stood on the stage monitors, lost his balance and fell backward, landing flat on his back. All the while, keeping the rhythm and not missing a note. Afterward, when asked if he was okay, the 40-something Kev-boy shrugged and said, “Eh, I’m fine. That’s not the first time!” It probably won’t be the last, as The Front performed in La Mesa at The Riviera on January 29th at 8pm.

The seemingly musically displaced Deadbolt delivered a semi-energetic performance filled with similar sounding tunes, reminiscent of The Cramps. The first tune was their most entertaining, compiled of sound bytes and three bass guitars. The crowd milled about, elbow to elbow, and socialized like teens, while Deadbolt did their thing and managed to keep the crowd engaged. They also somehow managed to blow the stage fuses, leaving the stage completely dark for The Dragons.

After a gallant, but futile attempt by the Casbah crew to bring the lights back to life, The Dragons went on anyway, with one floodlight from the back of the club pouring onto the crowd and eventually onto the stage. They closed the show with a very long, ass-kicking set, appropriately encored with The Ramones Rock and Roll High School.

Before they started, The Dragons frontman/guitarist, Mario Escovedo laughingly explained that their original guitarist was in a band opening for a little band he jokingly called “The Fighters of Foo” and couldn’t attend the reunion. So instead of canceling, they recruited three local axemen/mutual friends of the scene to fill in throughout the night. Partially bathed in light, Escovedo sang and played each tune with adolescent energy, bassist Steve Rodriguez flawlessly thumped out each song with an unrelenting smile, while darkened drummer Jarrod Lucas pounded, and pounded, and pounded some more, until the last crescendo and three-beat punctuation rang out, leaving the still-full house in awe.

The scene afterward was one that came straight out of that bad John Hughes movie. That final scene of goodbyes, side-hugs and faux kisses to the cheek, half-hearted “email me” and “text me” requests filling the drunken air. Staggering, spike-heeled gals calling “woot” like senior cheerleaders dragged by their husbands back to their adult lives finished a night to remember for some, and a night for others to keep secret from their kids.

It’s always great to see the bands who were once on top of the San Diego scene back in the spotlight, reliving the glory days of youth. It’s not always great, and sometimes a bit uncomfortable, to see 40-somethings acting like they’re 20-somethings, but on a night like this, things like that can be overlooked. After all, that’s what glory day celebrations and high school reunions are all about. Right?

The Front, Photo by Kathleen Tolen
This entry was posted by and is filed under BFMN Exclusive, Bands, Review, Steven Rask. Tags: dark globe, deadbolt, san diego, scheming intelligentsia, steven rask, the dragons, the front

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