Thirty years ago in Orange County, you couldn’t smash a beer bottle without the broken pieces hitting one kid in three different punk bands. Super groups were everywhere, friends joining friends on stage and in side projects until the OC punk scene could be drawn as a veritable web. The Adolescents took part for a brief but powerful and unrelenting period, with core links to Agent Orange and Social Distortion and a revolving door of members over the decades who’d later pop up in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, among other outfits. The kids -- they were still in high school when the band formed in 1980 -- have grown up, their teen angst refocused to the eyes of adults. Now with San Diego in sight, the Adolescents storm the Casbah on Friday, April 4.
Though producing only one great record during that time -- others came in later years, far less influential and more, say, under the influence -- their self-titled debut was seminal, capturing the attitude of the moment and preserving it for future generations. Steve Soto (bass), one of OC’s great hardcore collaborators, and Tony Cadena (vocals) led the pack, and through three reunions remain the only original Adolescents still playing. In the wide-mouthed-frog style of the time, Cadena spits gnarled lyrics over quick tempos, while punk-rock drums overlay with metal guitar riffs and condemning bass lines, culminating in a heart-racing indulgence of skanking, pogoing, and puncturing each beat with an aggressive air punch.
The Blue Album, as it became known due to the cover art, rightfully solidified the Adolescents’ place in punk rock history. The familiar group-chant chorus in “Amoeba” remains the mosh pits’ battle cry; the genre-breaking length of “Kids of the Black Hole,” once an ode to the punker meet-up that was Social D frontman Mike Ness’ decaying house, still rings as a call to come home. No matter how old they are now, how much they’ve grown, when Soto and Cadena take the stage this Friday night, they will jump generations, becoming Adolescents once again.
Hannah Lott-Schwartz, a San Diego native, recently moved back to the area after working the magazine-publishing scene in Boston. Now she’s straight trolling SD for all the music she missed while away. Want to help? Hit her up with just about anything at all over on Twitter, where -- though not always work-appropriate -- she means well.