CVIndependent

Fri03222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Back in the ‘90s, punk-rock fans looked forward to the Warped Tour every year.

Today … not so much. The Warped Tour has evolved and no longer features such an emphasis on punk—and that’s where the It’s Not Dead festival comes in.

On Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Glen Helen Amphitheater in San Bernardino, the second version of the festival took place. Unlike the Warped Tour, the It’s Not Dead festival is a one-day affair—and attendees have to make some tough scheduling decisions. Everyone who is someone in punk rock fills the lineup, and the main stage features most of the best bands, meaning it’s hard to break away to see some of the bands on other stages.

Shortly after the festival opened, Warped Tour/It’s Not Dead founder Kevin Lyman appeared on the main stage, talked briefly for a moment and mentioned that the large stage rotated. One side was named the Gary Tovar Stage, after Goldenvoice founder Gary Tovar, and the other side was called the Gabby Gaborno Stage, named after the late Cadillac Tramps front man who passed away after a tough battle with cancer earlier this year. Lyman introduced the first act—Wraths, featuring Pennywise vocalist Jim Lindberg.

Wraths kicked ass—but many attendees hadn’t yet arrived or were in the parking lot tailgating, meaning they missed one hell of a show. Lindberg’s stage presence and intensity, which has made Pennywise great, was also present in Wraths. Toward the end of the set, Lindberg said the band didn’t know what to play, given they had only recorded a handful of songs and had five minutes left.

The Interrupters, a Los Angeles ska punk band that continues to grow in popularity, played after Wraths, as the crowd size continued to grow. The 100-plus-degree temps didn’t stop the Bivona brothers from wearing their signature white dress shirts, black ties and black pants, while frontwoman Aimee Interrupter was dressed all in black. The Interrupters put out a lot of positive energy, and most of the crowd was dancing, or slam-dancing in the mosh pit. Kevin Bivona declared that It’s Not Dead is his favorite festival, and that he hopes they come back in the future.

After skate-punk band Good Riddance put on a solid and energetic set, GBH followed—like a shot of adrenaline, which led to an even larger mosh pit. The members of the English street punk outfit that formed in the late 1970s might have appeared old, but they were intense. Vocalist Colin Abrahall declared that they were angry old men (in less appealing terms), and their set was brutal. I saw one attendee in a wheelchair go crowd-surfing—but his wheel chair tipped forward, launching him out of it. It wasn’t long before the guy was back in his wheelchair and rocking out on the security barrier.

Later in the day, former Black Flag frontman Keith Morris and his band OFF! put on a fantastic set. He took some time to talk about how he remembered coming to the Glen Helen Amphitheater in the ’90s for OzzFest, saying that the parking lot tailgating resembled what was shown in the ’80s documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and adding a story about a young woman who said she needed to give blow jobs in the parking lot in order to pay for her ticket.

As early evening set in, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes took the stage dressed in disco outfits. Missing were two regulars—NOFX bassist Fat Mike and Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett—with Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley and Face to Face guitarist Scott Shiflett taking their places. Frontman Spike Slawson sounded like he was calling San Bernardino “San Berdina” when he addressed the audience, and he was full of amusing anecdotes, including one about how he had the hots for some guy who also had the hots for him, and that they were busted in a park “finger banging.” One of the highlights of their covers-filled set was Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”

I decided to venture over to the adjoining Fender stages to catch headlining performances by the U.S. Bombs and Voodoo Glow Skulls. Duane Peters of the U.S. Bombs has received a lot of negative attention as of late due to … well, being Duane Peters. He’s made controversial posts on social media as of late, saying that Tony Hawk was involved in a conspiracy relating to his late son’s death after a car accident, insulting local pro-skateboarder Eddie Elguera, and using homophobic slurs. When the U.S. Bombs went onstage, Duane Peters required the aid of a cane, but quickly put it aside when he began to sing. The U.S. Bombs performed well, but Duane seemed to struggle a bit through the set.

Riverside punk-ska legends Voodoo Glow Skulls have also endured some recent social media controversy, after now-former frontman Frank Casillas reportedly began making pro-Trump posts—upsetting the other two Casillas brothers, bandmates Eddie and Jorge. After Frank Casillas declared during a recent show that he was retiring from the band—an announcement which came as a surprise to the rest of the band—the remaining members recruited Death by Stereo frontman Efrem Schulz to finish out the tour. Voodoo Glow Skulls took the stage to a very large and welcoming audience, and Schulz’s stage presence was extremely high energy. The fans loved it.

Dropkick Murphys and Rancid brought their co-headlining tour to a close on Saturday night at It’s Not Dead. The first quarter of the Murphys’ hour-long set was all older material from their first two albums, including “Barroom Hero,” followed by “Do or Die,” “Never Alone,” “Boys on the Docks,” and “The Gang’s All Here.” The band always delivers a great set, and Rancid’s performance was just as good.

Beyond the music, the festival included a tent featuring artwork, photography and … books? Yes, books. In fact, Jim Lindberg did a book signing in the tent in the afternoon, as did Keith Morris of OFF! and Jack Grisham of TSOL.

“To actually be able to talk to the people that read your books, it’s cool,” Grisham said. “It’s the same thing to me as music. If they read the book and they enjoy it, it means we have a connection. We probably connected somewhere else down the line. I actually like to meet the people who like what I do.”

One of the more interesting selections for sale on Grisham’s table was a children’s book, I Wish There Were Monsters, which was written and illustrated by Grisham.

“It’s about a kid who has all this bravado and wants to fight all these monsters, and talking about all these monsters he wants to fight,” Grisham explained. “At the end of it, he says, ‘Hey, I wish there were monsters, just not tonight.’ He cuddles up in his bed with a cat. It was fun to do something that was laid back, and when I wrote it, it was never planned for release. I wrote it for my kids. I would just Xerox copies and hand them to friends.”

Published in Reviews

Former Black Flag and Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris has always had a lot of fascinating and often dark stories to tell—and now those stories have been put to paper, thanks to his new book, My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor.

Morris and his current band, OFF!, will be returning to the area for a long-sold-out New Year’s Eve show with Redd Kross and The Melvins at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

During a recent phone interview, Morris said that writing the book with Jim Ruland was not easy.

“The difficult thing for me was just getting over the initial situation of having to work with an assigned writer,” Morris said. “We did 70 hours of interviews, and he had to transcribe all of it, sit and listen to everything, and take notes. When you read the book, there’s a certain flow to it, and it’s like listening to a punk-rock record. It moves really quickly, and I really appreciated that.”

There are a lot of rough stories in My Damage—related to Morris’ addiction issues, his departure from Black Flag, and the difficult relationship with his father. Surprisingly, Morris said none of it was hard to talk about.

“Not at all,” he said. “One of the great things about what happened with this process we went through is I work steps: I’m a recovering alcoholic and a cocaine addict. You go to meetings … and there are all these different steps to take for this enlightenment—tapping into your spirituality, and seeing the light. I consider it a bit of a self-cleansing and self-realization process. With the book, I got to tell some stories I got to get off my chest, so it worked out really well for me.”

Morris said he’s received complaints about some of the stories in the book.

“I had some people reach out to me and say they were really upset about what I had written about them in the book,” he said. “One of them who I had a bit of a conversation with—if you consider a Facebook chat a conversation—I said, ‘Look, we’re still friends. What I said wasn’t damaging, and all I was doing was telling the truth. Why would I sugarcoat anything?’ All I was doing was telling a story.

“One other person accused me of being a liar. That person can turn around and say things like, ‘My friend owns a bookstore, and she’s not going to carry your book, because you’re a punk-rock loser, and you’re a sexist.’ On that note, I might actually use that quote for the back of my second book to help sell it.”

Morris shared a story in the book about how he almost died in Norway from issues related to diabetes while he was there at the invitation of the band Turbonegro.

“I think that if the little old lady who came into my hotel room hadn’t come back when she did, it would have been the end,” Morris said. “I was completely dehydrated and gasping for air. That was about all I was capable of doing.”

Interestingly, not-so-positive parts of the book mention Steven McDonald of Redd Kross—who also currently plays bass in OFF! with Morris.

“Steven, who is actually a good friend, and I at one point we were at odds,” Morris said. “He listened to the audio version of the book while he was touring with The Melvins. Steven has not complained about anything. Steven is like a younger brother, because I’ve known him since he was 11 years old. He’s my bro; he’s my friend; and I love the guy. He can be a freak and irritating at times, but that dude gets an A-plus in my world.”

My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor

By Keith Morris with Jim Ruland

Da Capo

336 pages, $24.99

Coachella 2015 is now in the history books. There were a few moans and groans when the lineup came out months ago, but all and all, the festival’s performances were a success—including some fantastic shows on Day 3.

One of the most anticipated performances of the late-morning/early-afternoon was Chicano Batman. The group's psychedelic Latin sound was most definitely appropriate for Coachella, and a lot of local fans who had already seen the band’s local shows were present.

Coachella Valley's own Alf Alpha performed in the Sahara Tent shortly after noon and started off his DJ set with a lot of energy. He hopped up on a table and demanded that people raise their hands up—with the incentive of free Alf Alpha t-shirts.

The Mojave Stage became the de facto punk-rock venue early in the day. Touché Amoré offered a brutal hardcore set that was scheduled earlier than one would expect, but a lot of punk-rock devotees were present and ready to slam-dance. The energy was incredible during one of the hardest-rocking sets of the day.

OFF! was set up and ready to go when Keith Morris quietly said into his microphone at the 1:55 p.m. set time: "Should we wait another five minutes for 15 more people to show up?" The crowd had thinned after Touché Amoré, but OFF! wound up with a decent sized-crowd. Morris worked himself into a frenzy while screaming lyrics; guitarist Dimitri Coats was active and looked exhausted as they finished their set. A few minutes of tech issues aside, Morris and Coats rocked hard from beginning to end, when Morris thanked the founders of Goldenvoice individually for "making it happen."

Stagecoach is this coming weekend, but Coachella attendees were treated to a preview, of sorts, thanks to Sturgill Simpson in the Gobi tent. He has a sound similar to that of Waylon Jennings. While his music reminded of vintage country, Simpson garnered an appreciative crowd that offered a loud ovation at the end of his set. There’s one thing you can't deny about Coachella: The crowd is open-minded and eager to hear new and unexpected things.

Former child actress Jenny Lewis said she was performing at her seventh Coachella while on the Outdoor Stage. She noted the vibe was much more "low-key" than it was during Weekend 1—and that she liked it that way. Her relaxed, calm show made for a nice set to lay on the grass and take in.

Ryan Adams followed Lewis, and brought with him stage props that included oversized Fender amps, two actual working Atari arcade machines (Asteroids!) and a Dr. Pepper machine. It created interesting ambiance for a guy who has been known to perform punk, metal and country. He mostly played his alt-country material, which included some of his ballads. He pointed out that Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead was standing at the soundboard; some people thought he was joking, but Weir really was at the soundboard.

Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine) made news last week by jumping off the Coachella stage and breaking her foot. Even with the broken foot (although she didn't appear to be wearing a cast), she returned to perform what was supposed to be a half-hour set on the Coachella Stage. Seated at the front of the stage, she managed to put on a spectacular show, and her singing voice was beautiful. Toward the end of the show, she looked over to the edge of the stage and said it was a long way down—no wonder she was injured. Props to Florence Welch for putting on what turned out to be a great 45-minute show and not disappointing her fans.

As Drake took the stage, the Coachella grounds were lit up by the art installations. The caterpillar and the butterfly were both in the Coachella Stage area, as were two of the Balloon Chains. Despite being several minutes late, Drake seemed to have the largest crowd—not bad for someone with some of the weakest credentials for any Coachella headliner in recent history.

Until next year …

Scroll down to see a photo gallery from Guillermo Prieto of the Day 3 action. 

Published in Reviews

If Iggy Pop is the Godfather of Punk, Keith Morris the Warrior of Punk.

The former Black Flag and Circle Jerks frontman is almost 60 years old, but he’s not slowing down: Since 2010, he’s been fronting his new band, Off!

Off! will be playing at Coachella on Sunday, April 12 and 19.

Black Flag was one of the first Los Angeles punk bands to make an infamous name for itself. The band recorded its debut EP, Nervous Breakdown, in 1978; it contained what would become four of Black Flag’s most-well-known songs: “Nervous Breakdown,” “Fix Me,” “I’ve Had It” and “Wasted.”

However, Morris left Black Flag in 1979 due to disputes with band mate Greg Ginn—and a severe cocaine addiction. Morris soon formed the Circle Jerks with Greg Hetson (who later went on to join Bad Religion). Fun fact: The Circle Jerks also included Zander Schloss, half of semi-local band Sean and Zander. The band was active up until 1990, when it became more of a part-time group. During a recent phone interview, Morris discussed his days with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks.

“I was in Black Flag for three years, which isn’t really that short of a time compared to Ron Reyes, who was in the band for six months. Dez Cadena was there for a while; Henry Rollins was there for a while—but Greg Ginn was there the longest.”

Most of the early punk groups that formed in New York City and Los Angeles never saw any career potential in what they were doing.

“My whole strategy was a non-strategy and just being kind of a straggler,” Morris said. “I had no set mentality, because there were no rules, and there was no manager standing over us telling us to line our bank accounts, sell lots of records, lots of CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, T-shirts or any of that fun stuff. There were no rules. That was my saving grace in that. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a follower, but there was a wide-open road, a map and a van. You would get in the van and go wherever the van would go and play wherever the van would stop, and all of that fun stuff.”

Where did the van stop? Morris has stories … lots of them.

“You’re pulling into Mobile, Ala., and you’re playing at Nick’s Fun House, dealing with all of the rednecks,” he said. “The Circle Jerks did the same thing Black Flag did: We played locally and everywhere we could play. We played a birthday party in Malibu on a cliff overlooking the ocean in front of a bunch of rich Jewish parents, and they didn’t like what we were up to. We got invited to play the all-girl Catholic school in Flintridge, where the Los Angeles county sheriff showed up in full force with two or three helicopters and the billy clubs. We had our moments.”

The bands also played shows for all-ages crowds at Veterans of Foreign Wars halls. “We’ve actually played places like that where the kids were breaking the showcase in the entrance room and pulling the Civil War bayonets and swords out of the display and actually swashbuckling. They probably didn’t realize the history—they weren’t fighting any kind of civil war, and they weren’t fighting North versus South. They were all being like a bunch of pirates. They were pirates, and it was Black Flag anarchy.”

Morris said that while he’s almost 60, the past several years have been among his most active, while Off! has released three records and toured the world. Morris also took part in a Black Flag reunion called FLAG in 2013.

“I’ve never been as busy as I have been in the last four years,” he said. “All of the other guys have kids, wives, families, relatives, rent and health insurance, and all of those responsibilities, so we don’t get to go out for three months at a time—maybe four weeks at a time.”

Morris said he’s wowed by today’s punk-rock DIY network.

“It exists now more than it ever has,” he said. “Granted, we have had bands that have actually tapped out and mapped out and charted out routes for bands when they go out on tour. But there’s always that place where you pull into town, and the bartender is going to have hemorrhoids, and he’s not going to want to have all the all-ages kids come into his bar.”

Morris recently signed a book deal that he described as “decent” and is putting the finishing touches on an autobiography. One issue that he will probably discuss is his health: In the late ’90s, friends organized concerts to help him with his medical bills. He also became ill while touring in Europe with Off!—and nearly died.

“I’m a diabetic, and I’m approaching 60 years old,” he said. “I love Southern California weather, but I wish that when it was cold, it would be cold for two weeks so we could get acclimated to that. … For me, having been a cocaine addict, I’ve fried all the fibers of the interior of my nose. My sinus passages are completely ruined. Anytime there’s a drastic shift in the weather, I get clogged up; I get post-nasal drip, and wake up with a headache, sort throat and a stomach ache. My deal is that I find myself in this mentality that I’m thinking I’m competing with these younger guys, and I don’t want to get out and jog, so I have to mentally get myself up to the fact that I’ve got to get up there and act like a 19-year-old kid with a cherry bomb that’s been lodged up my rectum.”

Morris said Off! is happy to be playing at Coachella.

“There are a bunch of other bands that are playing, and we hear all the complaints (from fans): ‘I’m looking at the roster, and they want $8,000 for a weekend, and there are two bands that I like, and I hate all the rest of this stuff. And why are you playing with Drake? He’s no good.’ … The bottom line is if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go to it, so shut up and move along!

“This will be our second time at Coachella, and the reason we’re playing Coachella is because the first time we played, we played in a big tent in front of about 8,000 girls trying to find some shade. If you’re in a band, and you get to play in front of 5,000 women, aren’t you going to take that opportunity?”

Published in Previews

The lineup for the 2015 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival—you know it simply as Coachella—was released today, and it turns out some of the speculation was true: Goldenvoice has made AC/DC, Jack White and Drake this year’s headliners.

Of course, opinions on the lineup vary; much of the criticism focuses on Drake being listed as one of the three headliners. Also, many are scratching people their heads and muttering: Steely Dan is part of the lineup? Really?

Steely Dan jokes aside, AC/DC is undeniably a strange, yet compelling addition for Coachella. The classic rock band from Down Under is certainly worthy of headlining honors, but it’s hard to imagine enthusiasm from fans who attend the festival for its large offerings of indie rock and EDM. Also, the timing is unfortunate: Longtime rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young was recently admitted to a nursing home due to dementia, and drummer Phil Rudd’s future with the band is in question after his arrest in November on charges involving drugs and making a threat to kill.

Beyond the headliners, I tried to see the lineup’s silver linings—and I found many. Psychedelic rock group Tame Impala is just about to release a highly anticipated new album; the band played the festival in 2013, and a large crowd turned up to see them both weekends. Other notable acts include Flying Lotus, The War on Drugs, Florence and the Machine, The Gaslamp Killer, Bad Religion, Father John Misty, Bad Religion, OFF!, Jenny Lewis and Tyler, the Creator, to name a few.

There’s at least one compelling local angle: Former Kyuss drummer Brant Bjork will be playing with his the Low Desert Punk Band. The successful Los Angeles band Chicano Batman will also be appearing.

Coachella 2015 takes place Friday through Sunday, April 10-12 and 17-19. Passes go on sale at noon, Wednesday, Jan. 7, at www.coachella.com.