Original TSOL Return Raucously To Stage

Legendary rockers reunite, show punks can improve with age.

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

Life" (RealAudio

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?' "