Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The 2017 Warped Tour came to a close at the Pomona Fairplex, 80 miles west of Palm Springs, on Sunday, Aug. 6.

A cloud hung over much of the summer tour after The Dickies made some jokes that angered feminist punk band War on Women during a stop in Denver, dividing many fans over questions of free speech and political correctness. On the plus side, tour organizers included many of the old-school punk bands who had played the Warped Tour in the 1990s.

While entering the tour grounds on Sunday, we encountered a significant problem. If there’s one item that is a MUST-HAVE at a festival—an item that every festival I know of allows and even encourages—it’s sunblock. Well, when I walked up to security, a woman working the festival screeched: “NO SUNBLOCK! TAKE IT BACK TO YOUR CAR OR THROW IT AWAY!” I noticed a large trash barrel full of sunblock, into which I threw mine. Upon entering the festival, I found it hard to find sunblock for sale, and I was afraid what the price would be. Luckily, I found a booth selling small bottles of SPF 30 for $2 … but I’d already noticed by 2 p.m. that there were a lot of people getting sunburns. I was asked at one point if I could spare any sunblock for a young kid. What a terrible idea by festival managers.

As for the music: The Hard Rock stage featured performances by Sick of It All, TSOL, Municipal Waste, Adolescents and Strung Out. Jack Grisham, of TSOL—wearing a pink suit that is probably up for auction on the TSOL site by now, with proceeds going to charity—wasn’t shy about giving the finger or offering an amusing anecdote. Tony Reflex of Adolescents look sunburned to a crisp and ready to go home after playing the entire tour, pointing to the mountains in the background and saying, “I live in those mountains!”

At the Skullcandy stage, feminist punk band War on Women performed. Frontwoman Shawna Potter had a tank top on that stated, “I’m a fucking feminist,” and declared that if any woman felt uncomfortable at the Warped Tour, War on Women and their friends at the Safer Scenes were there and “had their back.” She then went on a rant about reproductive rights before singing a song with a chorus during which she screamed “GIVE ME THE PILL! GIVE ME THE PILL!” The song included lines about abortion and rape, and someone pretended to rip a baby out of her stomach. As a gay man in my late 30s who understands and respects the ideals of feminism, I feel that War on Women should write a song: “We Give Feminism a Bad Name.”

For attendees who love everything metal, the two Monster stages, which took up one whole side of the festival, offered delights all day long. One of the highlights of the afternoon was Hatebreed, who praised Sick of It All, TSOL and Adolescents for kicking the door down for bands like them. Hatebreed was returning to the Warped Tour for the first time since 1998.

At the opposite end of the festival, the two Journey stages featured performances in the afternoon by pop-punk band Goldfinger, rap metal band Attila and stoner-rock band CKY.

As the sun went down, it became time for the headliners, and the notorious costumed metal band GWAR took to one of the Monster stages. After the death of Cory Smoot (Flattus Maximus) in 2011 and frontman Dave Brockie (Oderus Urungus) in 2014, GWAR is continuing on with new frontman Blothar (Michael Bishop, who is also a history professor and software engineer; he was the original bass player, Beefcake the Mighty). As soon as GWAR came onstage, the band began spraying blood all over the crowd through hoses … and through all six of the penises on Blothar’s costume. At one point in between songs, Blothar said, “Hey baby, you’re pretty cute!” to one of the female attendees in front of the stage. When she acknowledged him, he said, “No, I wasn’t talking to you!” and then he said, “Yeah, you, hi!”

With all the controversy that surrounded the Dickies, one has to wonder how GWAR was given a free pass. GWAR was pretty misogynistic—but both the men and women who caught the band’s set seemed to be having a hilarious good time.

Published in Reviews

The Adolescents are part of the Vans Warped Tour this summer—and the band is retaining its punk cred by eschewing a cushy tour bus in favor of a van. Yes, after almost 40 years in the business, the Orange County punk outfit is still kicking ass.

The Adolescents are one of several legendary bands—including T.S.O.L. and GWAR—playing the Warped Tour at the Fairplex Pomona on Sunday, Aug. 6.

During a recent phone interview with front man Tony Brandenburg (often known as Tony Reflex), it sounded like he was losing his voice. He told me the humid weather at the Nashville tour stop was getting to him.

“I thought this was going to be brutal, and the weather has been, but the tour has been a lot of fun,” Brandenburg said. “We are where it’s real humid, and that’s a lot harder than the drive. When you get closer to the water, it gets a little tricky.”

He scoffed when I mentioned tour buses.

“No!” he said with a laugh. “I like the van better. It’s a comfort thing for me. I find it to be more comfortable.”

I asked Brandenburg how it felt to be singing the same songs as an adult, now 54, that he sang as a teenager.

“We first started when I was 15 or 16, so I was still really a kid,” he said. “In the years that have passed, I’ve looked back on it, and it was a fun ride. It was fun being that kid, and it was kind of scary, but it was what it was. Playing the stuff now, I find it to be exciting how other people dig it. Kids take it one way and are really into it, and there are people who are generations older; you can see in their reactions where they are in life. The songs are just as valid to (older listeners), even though they’re in a different place.”

Brandenburg said that he always sort of feels out of place, and the Warped Tour is no different.

“I feel like I’m in the wrong spot, at the wrong time, all the time, so do I feel like that more than usual? No,” he said. “The bands are really cool. There are a lot of young bands that come from different genres, and they’ve all been really super-sweet to us. Of course, I feel like I’m distant, but I feel that way by generation and by genre. We may have the art in common, but our lifestyles might be completely different. … But I’m enjoying this. I’m enjoying meeting the kids, the younger bands and older bands. It’s just fun to watch how this is all playing out.”

The Adolescents continue to keep a busy schedule—but the Vans Warped Tour is allowing the Adolescents to reach a different audience, including … well, adolescents.

“We’ve toured the United States about every two years, and we tour Europe annually, sometimes twice within a year,” he said. “South America, Australia, Asia—we’re pretty busy. Our opportunities to do an all-ages (show) are very limited; we can do those in other countries, but we can’t do them here in the States. This is the first all-ages tour we’ve ever done, and that’s very cool. If the kids want to come, that’s great, and this is one of the few opportunities they’ll get to do it.”

When he’s not fronting one of the best-known punk bands on the West Coast, Brandenburg has a day job: He’s a school teacher.

“It’s no surprise to anyone in the community that I work in, but I think that it’s been a kick for a lot of them. I’ve run into parents in the community. They have come up to me and said they were at Ink-N-Iron or at the Warped Tour or whatever, and I get a kick out of it. They’re listening to great music, so how can I not appreciate that?” he said with a laugh. “The touring, we usually do in the winter or the summer; that’s a good three months of the year when I’m able to break away and tour, so what’s when I usually do it. But we need more teachers in punk rock.”

The Adolescents are planning to keep the cycle going, Brandenburg said.

“We just recorded something for a Halloween compilation, and we always do a show at Christmas time, so we’re starting to put together the bill for our Christmas show,” he said. “We want to start work on a record for next year’s tour and head over to Europe.”

The Vans Warped Tour takes place at 11 a.m., Sunday, Aug. 6, at Fairplex Pomona, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., in Pomona. General admission tickets are $41.50. For tickets or more information, visit

Published in Previews

When L.A. punk scene was gaining national attention in the 1970s and ’80s that was both good and bad, Rikk Agnew was there.

Today, he remains a popular figure in the Southern California music world, and he will be performing at the Bat Country Labor Day Blast at the Palms Restaurant in Twentynine Palms on Sunday, Aug. 31.

Agnew played with some of the biggest names in L.A. punk: He an early member of The Detours, Social Distortion, D.I., and the Adolescents. During a recent phone interview, Agnew said he had a feeling that punk music would go on to take the world by storm.

“It was so fresh; it was so honest; and it was a true resurgence of roots rock ’n’ roll,” Agnew said. “It was not just in sound, either; it was DIY and for the love for it—just wanting to have fun, be in there, and celebrate rebellion, and celebrate life.

“I know that sounds stupid, but it’s true. I felt even back then that punks were the new hippies, but we could do it with more aggression and without the peaceful, flower-power thing that obviously didn’t work. But basically, it was all about rock ’n’ roll.”

Agnew played in Social Distortion in 1978 through 1979. Through the years, Agnew has had his own struggles with addiction; however, Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness was in trouble long before Agnew. Agnew confirmed that Ness was, indeed, once a wild man.

“(A wild reputation) would be putting it lightly,” Agnew said. “I’m so happy for him being majorly successful now, because he was in the lowest of the lows back then. We used to do a betting pool as to which month he was going to die.”

After leaving Social Distortion, Agnew joined the Adolescents in 1980 and played with them until he was fired from the band in 1981. Agnew then made a rather unusual turn: He joined the lineup of the gothic/death-rock band Christian Death.

“I had a feeling I was going to be kicked out of the Adolescents at the time,” Agnew said. “(Christian Death) opened a show for us in Pomona, and it was interesting, and I was like, ‘What the hell?’ They played, and it sounded like a raw Black Sabbath. Rozz, the frontman, made me think, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’ I fell in love with it, and I talked to the guys afterward, and a couple of weeks later, I got kicked out of the Adolescents, and the first thing I did was call them. At that point, I was so hurt by being kicked out of the Adolescents that I thought, ‘I want to join this band and be so anti-punk and piss off punks’—go all fem instead of buff, and do anything to make them hate us and piss them off. What ended up happening is a whole cult following came out of it.”

He added that Christian Death’s legacy might be understated today. “It was pretty amazing. There was a lot of wild stuff that went on with it. Any suspicions or legendary stories about what we were dabbling in are probably under-exaggerated. It was something different.”

In the years since, Agnew has gotten sober and even participated in an Adolescents reunion. He now does production work.

“The studio is a whole different medium,” Agnew said. “It’s fun, because you can do certain things in the studio that you can’t do live. … I like it because of its creative process. You can really go to different places with it. I like to produce other bands, because when I’m producing them, I get an idea in my head that an artist can disapprove of or that they think is cool. It’s basically sculpting—that’s what it is.”

Agnew is happy to still be performing today after once being close to death due to addiction.

“It has its ups and downs,” Agnew said. “Some nights, it feels like I want to be in the background, but I’m enjoying it more and more every day, especially now with a clear mind and body. “

He has connections to the Joshua Tree area and has plenty of friends there. He talked about what can be expected during his performance at the Bat Country Labor Day Blast.

“We’re going to do some of my solo stuff, a few Christian Death songs, along with some D.I. and Adolescents. I don’t think we’re going to do anything from Social Distortion though,” he said with a laugh.

The Bat Country Labor Day Blast, featuring the Rikk Angew Band, takes place at 6 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 31, at the Palms Restaurant, 83131 Amboy Road, in Twentynine Palms. Admission is $10; a limited number of advance tickets are available at  (Full disclosure: The Independent is sponsoring the show.) For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Published in Previews