SAN FRANCISCO Twenty years ago, Southern California punk
trailblazers True Sounds of Liberty (TSOL) earned a reputation for giving
some of the most frenzied, chaotic live shows around.
Now they're back as the Original TSOL, and judging by the sweaty crowd
at the Covered Wagon Saloon here Thursday, they can still pound out the
loud-and-fast stuff with ease.
With the exception of new drummer Danny Westerman, current members Jack
Grisham (vocals), Ron Emory (guitar) and Mike Roche (bass) were all on
hand when TSOL prowled the emerging California punk scene in the late
"Back then, you were lucky to even have a record out," Roche said of the
group's early days. "Now you play a show, and with the Internet, the kids
know about it instantly. We're just flattered that people remember us."
On Thursday night the band revived its signature combination of raw,
speedy punk and creepy horror-movie aesthetics for a rowdy, stagediving
crowd of about 200 at Stinky's Peepshow, a weekly club-gathering at the
Covered Wagon that pairs punk bands with such trash-culture sideshows as
the "Large and Lovely Go-Go Dancers."
As the band blasted through such early songs as the politically oriented
"Abolish Government/Silent Majority" (RealAudio
excerpt), Grisham hardly needed to sing at all; the surging crowd
in front of the stage screamed into the mic for him just as loudly
as Roche screamed at them.
At one point, Grisham offered the crowd a few caring words with
tongue firmly in cheek about the stifling heat: "Would anyone like
something cold to drink? Because your comfort and safety are of utmost
Dropping notions of comfort and safety, the band proceeded to pummel the
audience with the crazed confessional "Sounds of Laughter" (RealAudio
excerpt) and other fast numbers. They slowed down only occasionally,
as on the thoughtful, question-and-answer commentary of "I'm Tired of
excerpt): "Just one voice screaming/ Not really a point/ Just
one in a million/ A little speck of flesh/ Who's gonna hear it?/ Scream
till you die/ Who's gonna know it?/ Your conscience, your mind/ Who even
cares?/ No one but yourself/ It's hopeless ... you're hopeless."
The crowd heard it, and they cared. E.J. Bowers, 36, of Saratoga, Calif.,
vowed to see TSOL again the next night in nearby Santa Cruz. "It's great
to see this, these guys coming back. When I think of TSOL I think of all
that great early L.A. stuff, the Weirdos, the Adolescents," Bowers said.
Grisham, too, waxed nostalgic after the show. "We liked being creepy,"
he said. "I grew up in a suburban neighborhood ... that's what made it
scary: Mom and Dad have the friends over, and the kids are building
tombstones in the backyard. Early on there just weren't many punks," he
recalled. "If you saw someone else with green hair, you'd pull over and
say, 'Hey, what bands are you into?' "