Words by Matthew Hutchison | Photos by Brendon Crigler Photography
“As rock historians, we always love coming back to the cradle of so much important stuff. Plus, there’s so much talent in LA, so naturally, we feel right at home. By the way: wanna read my script?” – Happy Tom (Turbonegro)
May 26th, 2018
(Downtown Los Angeles – 6:20 p.m.)
Walking outside The Regent’s dark corridors while Against Me! concludes sound check, the red glow of the sun’s dusk descent hits us three like sand in the eyes as we step on Main Street. “Alright man, I’ll see you later,” says a guy named Gianni, by his all-black attire and dark glasses, likely he’s with one of the bands. The other man present is Gabe, a heavily tattooed gentleman with a slender figure and jet black hair dressed like he too is going to a dead man’s party and speaks with an accent I’m unfamiliar with at the moment. He and I turn towards 5th St, eyeing The Rosslyn Hotel’s corridors lit up from the glowing sun’s reflection and walk towards the intersection to head three blocks north to Hill and 4th.
We met almost a year ago at an Om gig at the same venue. I must have been wearing a Turbojugend shirt, he approached me off that subject and expressed interest in joining the Los Angeles chapter. The guy’s cool and carries a good vibe, a few e-mail exchanges occur, and here we are walking to meet the club plus other chapters at La Cita for a pre-gig get-together. Along the way, small talk happens to break the ice a bit more.
“Are you from here originally? Noticed the accent but having a hard time making out its origin,” I ask as we trek on.
“Nah, I’m from Brazil actually,” Gabe says, his brow grimacing from the sun’s direct hit. “I came here some years back, based out of Hollywood these days.”
“Cool, you surf by any chance? I know a guy from Brazil who surfs all over Orange County, random question but came to mind.”
“Never have before, you?” Gabe shoots back.
“It’s on the bucket list, never have done it but want to.”
Our conversation touches on other feelers. In the end, we met due to a mutual liking of the group Turbonegro, a good icebreaker in their own right.
(La Cita Bar – 6:30 p.m.)
The sky gets surprisingly dark for the 10 minutes it took us to get to reach our destination, the commotion of people migrating in and out of Grand Central Market going on in front of us as we hang a right on Hill St. We approach La Cita, and the water buffalo that is the security guard takes one look at us, reads my sweatshirt, and glances at our IDs. “They’re all in El Patio,” he states casually.
El Patio is a 10-second trek across the hall of the main bar room. The inside bar on the right is neon red lit with locals conversing over the blaring mariachi music from a live DJ, to our left couples taking advantage of a dance floor. The scene changes as we emerge from the hall to the sound of The Gun Club’s “Fire of Love” being blasted on the outdoor PA and a sea of denim and tattooed punks in our field of vision. A giant crowd of people in Turbojugend jackets (or kuttes as they’re referred to) with bottom rockers donning territories such as San Luis Obispo, Long Beach, Solag, Outcast, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Chubby Dudes, New Orleans, Dixie Darkness, and tons more are everywhere, walking around the perimeter with booze in hand and hugs being exchanged. It’s a different scene and the sound of conversation and laughter heard is deafening. This event put together by Turbojugend Los Angeles chapter president, Prince of the Barrio, apparently is a success.
Time to get some Modelos and get native.
The unique thing about this event is we’re catching up with people we rarely see or meeting new people for the first time, and given how big and spread out the Southern California chapters are, this helps. Descending the stairway, a Los Angeles member called Pancho Pantera, a burly and bearded Latino donning a vest kutte and a big smile approaches us and goes in for the hug.
“How you been man, been a while.” the smiling Pantera says.
“What’s up Frank, its been a minute for sure. I want to introduce to Gabe; he’s interested in joining TJLA. Gabe, meet Frank, Frank meet Gabe.” I reply.
The two chat a bit, and I head towards the far corner of the bar only to catch eye of the thick, crusty dreadlocks of Atlanta’s headman, Captain Action Jackson as he emerges from the corner, tequila in hand and gin blossoms on his face, with a bellow “BRAH! Good to see ya, what’s up?” The same exchange occurs with various other chapter members bearing hilarious warrior names (do your own research here for this) like Dick Parker, The Man, Mr. Gnarly, Jane Dough, Darth Smalls, Big Swig, Hugh Jardon, Scarlett O’Horror, and tons more encompassing us. For the next few hours, we catch up, Gabe meets and greets various people, and everyone loosens up a bit (okay, a lot!) before congregating back to the venue.
(The Regent Theatre – 11:15 p.m.)
No joke, The Regent feels like an overheated sauna. Then again, it’s a sold-out gig. +/- 1,000 humans absorbing each other’s body heat, people breathing in their neighbor’s liquor-soaked breath, their bodies rubbing up on each other like a Thai whore engaged in a seduction dance with a green-minded virgin foreign exchange student on the verge of accepting their services for an uber-premium rate.
Against Me! is well into their set at this time, respect goes to the Gainesville quartet still going strong after 20 years of crisscrossing the world under the banner. Earlier today, a discussion was overhead about the unlikely touring pair of Turbonegro and Against Me!, when in reality, it’s not an unusual pairing. They’re from the same genre and doing the same thing, just in their unique ways, and it’s obvious there’s mutual respect for each other amongst the camps. The last time Turbonegro and Against Me! shared a local billing was for the 2012 FYF event held two miles down the road at Los Angeles’s State Historic Park. A group called A Giant Dog is on the road with these two, Euroboy’s guitar tech said good things about them earlier in the day while at the venue.
Against Me! ends their set, the house lights emerge and a what sounds like a New Bomb Turks song plays over the PA as changeover commences between the two camps. It takes 15-20 minutes to pull the gear off, reveal the stage setup and get the Rock n’ Roll Machine banner hung; everything looks the same from the past gigs, the only noticeable difference is the reinstatement of the keys, a position since vacated by longtime keys/guitar manimal, Pal Pot Pamparius. This night will mark Turbonegro’s return to LA proper since their 2013 headlining gig at the El-Rey Theatre over in the Mid-Wilshire area. Los Angeles has always been great to the travelling Scandinavians throughout the years dating back to the new millennium with packed, sweaty, and highly memorable gigs occurring at the Troubadour, the old Palace Theatre (now The Avalon), the City Hall area not far from where we are as part of LA Weekly’s Detour Fest, Henry Fonda Theatre, and of course the old House of Blues in West Hollywood.
At this point during the gig, it’s easy to see who is here for what band, all the Against Me! fans have left the building.
(The Regent Theatre – 11:50 p.m.)
Lights dim and blue faders immerse the stage in an icy blue wash briefly before being killed. The crowd roars as a single spotlight lights up the eye illustration of the backdrop as “Chrome Ozone Creation,” the 80’s rock intro on the new album, Rock n’ Roll Machine, plays. Five men emerge from stage right and with sheer confidence, stride to their respective positions. The cheering grows and silences momentarily as Happy Tom, the face of the band delivers an opening monologue which is quickly followed by Rune Rebellion’s chainsaw opening riff to “Well Hello.”
For the next hour and a half, the Alpha Motherfuckers level the house with a commanding, clinic-like performance.
The front three: Happy Tom (bass), Tony Sylvester (vocals), and Euroboy (lead guitar) are the ones that first command your attention. It’s a Village People complex between the three with Tom’s LAPD uniform, Euroboy’s glitter laden Mick Ronson space oddity era jumpsuit, and Sylvester looks which crosses the aesthetics of an Olivia Newton John workout video and a typecast character straight out of the fictional BDSM club, The Rectum, from the movie Irréversible. Behind them manning the helm is the anchor, Rune Rebellion (rhythm guitar), Tommy Manboy (battery), and recently christened keys man, Crown Prince Haakon- Marius. Together, they blast the room into a berserker-like frenzy with mostly material rounding out Rock n’ Roll Machine (9/11 tracks) and a handful of cuts from their classic records dating from Ass Cobra up to Party Animals. Their set is an escape from grinding reality for the crowd as bodies in front crawl over each other like war-torn cockroaches, screaming the words on cuts like “Hurry Up and Die”, “Get It On”, “I Got Erection”, “All My Friends Are Dead”, Just Flesh”, Sell Your Body (To The Night)”, and the timeless “Age of Pamparius.” Of all the times I’ve seen these guy throughout the years, this gig will go down as one of the best they’ve done here. Tonight they owned this room, unquestionably. The new record has received mixed reactions within the community but all aside, the new songs sound the same live as they do on record, fucking fantastic. They took a risk with this album’s direction and expanded their comfort zone, the songwriting itself is solid. Did you ever expect this group to ever write something like “John Carpenter Powder Ballad?” Of course not, then again they accomplished their goal by having you and I aware of its existence regardless of opinion.
Turbonegro is a hell of an icebreaker, the audience gathered in La Cita and The Regent are testimonials to this. The Turbojugend will expand by the end of the night and all throughout the weekend when they take this performance to Punk Rock Bowling.
At the end of the night, I run into Gabe closing out the back bar of the venue, “Dude, that was beyond what I was expecting” is his response, I have to agree with him.
Around the block corner, King Eddy’s Saloon awaits us all. End transmission.
1. “Well Hello”
2. “Rock n’ Roll Machine”
3. “Hurry Up & Die”
4. “Skinhead Rock n’ Roll”
5. “On the Rag”
6. “Sell Your Body (To the Night)”
7. “Hot For Nietzsche”
8. “All My Friends Are Dead”
9. “Fist City”
10. “Wasted Again”
11. “John Carpenter Powder Ballad”
12. “Just Flesh”
13. “Get it On”
14. “Special Education”
15. “Age of Pamparius”
16. “Self Destructo Bust”
17. “I Got Erection”