Ten Best Performances of Its Not Dead (a review) 

These performances from It’s Not Dead 2 would make our latest punk compilation 

By MICHELLE MILLS | mjmills@scng.com | San Gabriel Valley Tribune 

PUBLISHED: August 27, 2017 at 12:29 pm | UPDATED: August 28, 2017 at 8:42 am 

Looking over the crowd at “It’s Not Dead 2” at Glen Helen Amphitheater in Devore Saturday, Aug. 26, there was a mixed sea of ages, ethnicities and fashions. It seemed as if more people had turned out because of the popularity of festivals than of punk. 

The stage names were probably lost on the bulk of the audience, too, as the smaller stages referenced now-defunct iconic Southern California punk venues — Cuckoo’s Nest (Costa Mesa), Fenders (Ballroom, in Long Beach) and Olympic (as in Auditorium, Los Angeles). The main stage honored Gary Tovar, who founded Goldenvoice to promote punk shows long before it was a national festival juggernaut, and the late Mike “Gabby” Gaborno, the lead singer of the Cadillac Tramps and Manic Hispanic who died in January. 

However, both punk bands and festivals are noted for putting out compilation discs, here are our picks of who and what we would put on our “It’s Not Dead 2” record. 

 

Channel 3: Their most outstanding number was “Manzanar,” a tune about the Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. “They didn’t exactly teach you that in school,” Channel 3 lead singer/guitarist Mike Magrann said of the song backstage after their performance. 

Reagan Youth: This band got together not simply to make music, but because they had something to say. And for a great example of early ‘80s political punk, “Reagan Youth,” with it’s chaotic, changeable beat makes the cut. 

The Interrupters: “It’s Not Dead 2” promoter Kevin Lyman touted this ska/punk group as “the future of punk.” As they dove into their tune, “This is the New Sound,” one young fan said she had seen The Interrupters four times and adores them because they are “upbeat and you can dance to them.” The large audience certainly had a hard time keeping still during this song. 

GBH: “Knife Edge” is the hands-down winner here. Dust was rising from the mosh pit and suddenly a man in a wheelchair appeared surfing the crowd, chair and all. Now that’s punk. 

UNIT F: The Cuckoo’s Nest consisted of a trailer stage away from everything else and was a bit hard find, but Unit F’s fans turned out and grew during their show. The best treat was “Decay” off the new album, “Ecocide: Songs of Dysfunction,” about how we are ruining the environment and ourselves. It’s a wake-you-up tune and that was met with the crowd’s approval. 

Buzzcocks: Long before Green Day brought pop into punk, there was the Buzzcocks. Their pop-punk grooves were at their height in “What Do I Get?,” a tune about longing for a lover and only losing sleep. They also got a big applause. 

The Adicts: It’s hard to pick one song with the theatrical and exciting show this group put on, but what was most impressive was the ability of lead vocalist Keith Warren’s ability to go for a laugh and pull it off with finesse. He already awed the crowd with his sparkly silver slacks and towards the end of the set donned a Chinese takeout box costume for “Chinese Takeaway.” Adding to the fun, he opened a normal sized takeout box and used chopsticks to pull streamers from it and tossed them into the pleased crowd. 

Dropkick Murphys: There was an audible “Oh!” from the audience when they announced they were going to perform “Rose Tattoo.” For this soulful song, they invited record producer Ted Hutt to join them onstage with an acoustic guitar and had the bulk of the crowd singing along, too. 

Rancid: Although at this point in the show there were several small groups of people glued to their cell phones watching the Mayweather/McGregor fight, everyone paid attention when the group dedicated “It’s Quite Alright” to Mike Gaborno. It was the most moving moment of the festival. 

Encore: Dropkick Murphys and Rancid combined forces to end the evening with a short set of cover tunes. Johnny Cash’s classic “Folsom Prison Blues” was an unexpected number that showed the true talent of the two bands and how many musical genres can shine through in punk. 

Michelle Mills 

Michelle Mills has been an entertainment and features reporter for the Southern California News Group since 1999. She has interviewed such notables as "Weird Al" Yankovic, Glen Campbell, Alice Cooper, Debbie Allen, Ernest Borgnine (during an earthquake) and Adam Young (Owl City). She was the 31st Occasional Pasadena Doo Dah Parade Queen reigning 2007-2009. She is a professional belly dancer (swordwork is her specialty) and also studies Polynesian and Tahitian dance.

 

Decay from Ecocide: Songs of Dysfunctio

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Mel Schantz-Vocals    David Costa-Guitars, Vocals    

Peter Moreno-Bass, Vocals, Andy David-Drums 

Since its inception, Unit F has been walking the fine line of socio-political consciousness and chaos with their own amalgam of dark punk, deathrock and esoteric rock.  The approach is a dynamic yet defined sound, showing an awareness of punk rock’s musical heritage and its decided trademark charge of the need for social and political change so typically absent from popular culture. 

 

 

In 2020 Unit F announced the additions of drummer Andy David and Peter Moreno on bass following the late 2019 departures of Guillermo Santacruz and Phil Moore which effectively hit the pause button on the release of its fourth full length, which is now planned for 2020 to stand alongside Ecocide: Songs of Dysfunction (2018), Comes The Day (2014) and American Shutdown (2009). The new self-produced effort signaled a return to friend and producer Jim Monroe (Adolescents, Fu Manchu, Manic Hispanic, CJ Ramone) who was responsible for previous full lengths (along with Greg Hetson), as well as the hard charging Same Ol’ Story EP (2012).    

 

 

By the summer of 2019, the recording process yielded a four song ‘single/ep’ which will be self-released in March of 2020 , along with several new music videos (Joe Gill producing). The songs include Memo (To Myself), Human Zoo, Jesus Saves, and It’s Okay. That same chemistry and the penchant for songwriting that became Ecocide, is on full display with these numbers, with a unique view of the systematic appropriation of the individual by the corporate system (Memo), a dour look at the homeless crisis witnessed first hand (Human Zoo), and a dangerously sarcastic look at the hypocrisy of the political evangelicals (Jesus Saves). The final barrage is saved for the sneering tongue in cheek It’s Okay, lamenting the everyday wasting process of our collective complacency. 

 

 

The current the lineup began will continue playing as a four piece, still led by original vocalist Mel Schantz who pens the lyrics and mans the vocals. It is a quicker if not louder, more dynamic and version of the band, with Andy David’s expressive drums, and the wall of guitar effect by Dave Costa.  Combined with Peter Moreno’s driving bass lines and backing vocals, Unit F’s sound fills up the room as well as it translates to the big stage. 

 

 

The reaction to this newer version of Unit F has been good, certainly it was strong enough to elicit the bands nomination to OC Weekly’s 2018 Readers Poll for Best Punk Rock Band.   The live shows still feature most of the classic burners that Unit F fans have come to expect; that room changing energy that has landed them shows with such bands as Bad Religion, TSOL, JFA, Agent Orange, Ill Repute, The Dickies, D.I. and too many other vaunted yet still active punk rock hall of famers. The classic song Ride is still as popular as ever, but with this lineup, the vibe is tighter, and all the new songs show more of a sonic evolution as opposed to a departure. The dynamic is unique. Maybe it is because the new material still rings in powerful lyrics delivered with distinct vocals, tempo changes, and meaty, churning riffs that make Unit F’s approach feel like classic old school. Backing vocals and sing along choruses that put the hooks in line with the gnarl. 

 

 

With live shows that have a show stopping intensity every time the band takes the stage, new songs such as Mind Wars, Human Zoo, Its Okay and Jesus Saves are pounded out with the same frenetic political intensity as Direct Action Now or any song from Same Ol’ Story. The songs from Ecocide like Berkeley Streets, Horrifying or Look Up Bro, still have the relevance of topics which span administrations and political trends with dismal ease, pointing out the steady, go nowhere march of a disoriented humanity. In that regard, at least the social and political reflections get a driving beat, a pounding bass line and a full guitar attack that makes such introspect seem like good night of rock and roll. And that….is just good punk rock protocol.