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Notes From the Underground
By Arwen Curry

Punks De Leon:
Codgers and toddlers drink from the rock fountain of youth

WHILE AGING AMERICANS STRUGGLE with "anti-aging" techniques in vain attempts to reverse the wheel of time, a show like Youth Brigade's in Monterey last Saturday reveals that the key to longevity and youthful energy is much closer at hand--don't stop listening to rock & roll. Better yet, listen to punk rock & roll and jump around like crazy. Cosmetic technicians may mock the method. Medical doctors certainly will (and do) shake their heads in chagrin when told "It felt fine till I did that double back-flip off the stage"--but after one look at the Youth Brigade's veteran Stern brothers' miraculous perseverance, the lyrics "I'm gonna stay young until I die" have new significance.

The early '80s SoCal group, unlike many others of its time, has continued to play (with predictable changes to its anthemic hard-core sound) and run BYO Records--an independent outfit--since 1981. Remaining indie isn't easy and has cost them--the rights to the punk documentary Another State of Mind to the major label manager of Social Distortion, among other things. Maybe it's selling out that makes you grow old. Seen Henry Rollins in a commercial recently?

Tiny and the Mexicans proved a stellar opener for the show, with its high-energy goofy recklessness. The lead singer unabashedly danced around like a pigeon on amphetamines, flapping his arms and inspiring a horde of teenage boys like himself to drop their skateboards and form a self-conscious red-light/green-light pit. The sound at the Skate Station, I noted, surpassed its usual tendency to reflect off the sides of the half-pipe/stage and broadcast directly to the stars, but the feeling of punk-rock camaraderie took a blow when no one working at the door could tell me who was playing, besides "just the opening band" (God forbid). While stalling for the headliner, SC's Chances Are and the Amazing Royal Crown rocked after Tiny and his pals.

Youth Brigade always aims to please the elders with, ironically, its old songs about youthful idealism. The band kicked in with "Sink with Kalifornia" a few minutes into the set, scattering other favorites between newer songs. After a classic sing-along session, the signature groovy backbone of its music lapsed into a drawn-out dance session that befuddled the kids and led the older punks into a slow-motion mosh-dance party.

Finally convinced it was worth the drive, I was sorry (but not surprised) to hear from Matt Andy Christ--who publicized the show and does promotional graphics in the area--that it was the Skate Station's last. If those kids hope to preserve their youth the way their parents do, I certainly hope they can set up a new spot soon. Someday, we may put Oil of Olay out of business.


On Saturday, No Use for a Name, Crack, The Other and The Forgotten play at the Cactus Club in San Jose (8:30pm, $7, 16 and up). On August 21, see Team Dresch, Rattlecake, the Gashers, the Satyrs and spoken word at the Vets Hall (7:30pm, $5 donation, all ages).

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From the August 14-20, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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