At T.S.O.L.‘s concert at Velvet Jones on Sunday night, singer Jack Grisham joked, “I go to Career Day at school, and they ask, ‘What does your dad do?’ My daughter goes, ‘He hates the government, and he doesn’t work.’”
Such hatred comes through in songs such as “Abolish Government/Silent Majority,” a set highlight from the early 1980s when T.S.O.L. and Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Social Distortion were at the forefront of the L.A. hard-core punk movement.
Although Grisham’s views on government are more nuanced these days — he recognizes that the government is “good for some things,” such as building roads and keeping the power on — let’s remember that he ran for governor of California (along with 134 others) in the 2003 recall election. The old anti-government message still resonated with the punks of today.
T.S.O.L., which stands for True Sounds Of Liberty, thrashed their way through other early old-school, hard-core classics: “World War III,” “Superficial Love” and “Property Is Theft.” There was also a lot of material from their first full-length album, 1981’s goth punk masterwork Dance With Me: “Sounds of Laughter,” “Dance With Me,” “I’m Tired of My Life,” “Love Story,” “The Triangle” with a drum solo from the mohawked Tiny Bubz — whose purported resemblance to Shrek netted Grisham a Shrek wristwatch from a fan in a midconcert trade for a T.S.O.L. T-shirt — and perhaps the catchiest song to ever celebrate necrophilia, “Code Blue.”
But they didn’t just live in the past. Their less familiar newer material (“Sodomy,” “In My Head,” “Terrible People,” “Serious” and “F*** You Tough Guy”) kicks it up much like their early stuff.
It must be said that, as is often the case at punk shows, it was more fun to watch the mosh pit than the band. I stayed out this time. After spraining my ankle while in the mosh pit on reviewing duty at the Dead Kennedys show in Ventura a little more than a year ago, I’m keeping my moshing on the inside.
Fortunately this allowed me, as a pit spectator for T.S.O.L. plus the cool opening acts Surly Temple and Relapse Party, to reflect on the different classes of moshers. Said moshers might be young or old, men or women, and they often switch between these classes multiple times in a single two-minute song.
So, behold the Rosetta Stone of moshers. There are the Happy-Go-Luckies, who are happy to run into, or be run into by, seemingly anyone at any time. There are the Pushers, who stand on the edge and push people back into the pit, sometimes a tad too violently. These are distinct from the Targets, who also stand on the edge but just get smashed into over and over.
The Spurters wait at the edge and jump into the pit for one or two circuits before zipping back out, while the Energizers just keep going and going, oblivious to exhaustion. Punk Fashionistas, or stylin’ punk girls, are usually either Happy-Go-Luckies, Spurters or Targets, although a few are Energizers.
Then there are the Deathwishers, who seem to pick the most intimidating guy in the crowd and continue to smash into him. Deathwishers are always male. Dynamic Duos lock together, and are usually spinning out of control. And the Peacemakers try to keep the chaos under control, picking up fallen comrades and getting in the face of others if they are getting too rowdy.
Oh, wait, there are also the Sweatbombs, which is kind of self-explanatory. Sweatbombs have the power to turn Happy-Go-Luckies into Spurters or Pushers.
OK, now that you know the sociology of moshing, you can go on with your day.
But first, I note that Grisham said T.S.O.L. has “been coming and playing in this town for 31 f***ing years.” He continued by saying that they “don’t have anywhere else to go. It’s not like we picked good career options.” I have a feeling that they’ll be back to our town soon, and the mosh pit will again be a happenin’, government-hating, glorious mess.
World War III
In My Head
Sounds of Laughter
Dance With Me
I’m Tired of My Life
Abolish Government/Silent Majority
F*** You Tough Guy
Property Is Theft
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.