Punk is not dead, in fact it not only alive but it is thriving! What a night! Four great punk bands, a killer crowd, and one of the most iconic local venues in So Cal. The powerhouse punk ladies of Bad Cop Bad Cop headlined the Palentine’s Day gig at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach. If you have never been to a show at Alex’s Bar, you are missing out. Countless greats have graced the stage at the paradigmatic Alex’s Bar, which touts itself as “turning down the suck for 20 years.” This show lineup up most certainly helped prove this out.
The first opening act was a new band calling itself “Not”. The band is made up of front man Davey Warsop formerly of Sharp/Shock, Beat Union, and Suedehead, guitarist Brendan Scholz and bassist Jarred Cooper of Mercy Music, and drummer Kyle Whitmore. Now, before I cover their set, I must tell you the crazy story that was almost too much to believe but 100% true. As the band took the stage, Warsop tells the crowd that the band was formed not long ago, and they had not played together in person prior to this show! Wait, what?? In chatting with Warsop following the show he said the band “was only ever gonna be a studio project.” Warsop went on to say, “I produced and engineered bands, so I tracked all the songs we had written with just our old drummer and myself in my studio. Months later Jarred and Brendan came in and laid down the guitar and bass…But then Kat Perry at Crawl Space booking and Bad Cop Bad Cop said we had to open for them. So, we couldn’t say no, could we? So, we all met in Long Beach a few hours before the show and practiced for the first time ever!” Warsop described their style as “ALL! NOT ALL!” with influence coming from punk bands such as ALL and Descendants. Back on stage, the band absolutely crushed it! Now, I am always skeptical of first openers…I was even more skeptical when they said they had never played together, but holy crap, they killed it! If you told me this band had played together for years, I would have absolutely believed you. They brought high energy punk stylings that immediately had the crowd moving in from the corners of the bar and the outside patio and they filled up the dance floor. Within two songs the crowd was completely behind Not and giving them rousing applause and cheers. The set list included “Hella”, “Stop the World”, “If Only”, “Hyperactive”, “Living on the Moon”, “Alien”, “Settle Down”, “Sorry Sometimes”, “Unfuck the World”, “Anxiety”, and “Don’t Make Sense”. Scholz is a monster on the guitar and had the stage presence to back it up. Cooper is an imposing figure on bass with high kicks and a smirk that fit in perfect with his powerhouse stylings. Kyle Whitmore’s perfect timing and driving rhythm provide the heartbeat of the band. Warsop is a phenomenal front man with great crowd interactions, tons of energy, and a charisma that sucks the crowd in and doesn’t let them go. The set was absolutely one I will never forget. Let’s hope that Not takes the show and reception as a giant sign that they need to get back on the stage time and again and build that fan base!
Next up is a band that my son Ian and I absolutely love; One Less Zero. We first saw One Less Zero in 2017 at a tiny little surf shop in San Diego and now we go see them every chance we get, and you should too! One Less Zero is fronted by the effervescent and luminous Sara Rose Wright. This amazing woman is a mother, professional photographer, and as soft spoken and sweet as they come…until she takes the stage. On stage, Wright transforms into a punk rock goddess and an absolutely dynamic and compelling front person! She owns the place, never stops moving, and leaves everything on the stage! The backbone of the band is drummer Mike Spasbo, who is a phenomenal tattoo artist, and always brings the pounding beats and infectious smile. Two guitar players grace the band: Luis Aguilar and skate legend and hall of famer Allen Losi. The pairing plays off each other flawlessly and bring a heavy punk sound easily consumable even for those with less refined punk tastes. On bass is enigmatic Allen Buglione towers over the stage and provides the complex bass lines that help make One Less Zero an awesome punk band. The set list included most of the One Less Zero catalog including “Origami” (one of my favs), “Go Play Outside”, “Hope”, “Caution”, “Hypocritimus”, “Bonita”, and “Carolina”. One of the highlights of the set was their cover of the Misfits classic “Astrozombies”. They absolutely slay this song, and Wright blew the roof off Alex’s when she leaned down and had several fans join in to sing with her. During the set, Wright announced two birthdays in the band for Aguilar and Spasbo and proclaimed “Surprise! We threw you a party!” which brought laughs and smiles from the band and the crowd. To close out their set Wright jumped off stage and into the crowd, spinning and dancing, at one point grabbing and dancing with Stacey Dee from Bad Cop Bad Cop. One Less Zero does not play too often, but when they do they put on one hell of a great punk show, and they give everything to the fans. You can check them out on social media @onelesszero and hear their music on all of the streaming services. By all means, when they play a gig near you, go see them! Go support this awesome band and hopefully we will get a new album from them sometime soon!
Next up was my first chance to see San Diego’s own Urethane. A classic punk band, “Urethane’s music emphasizes catchy choruses and melodic hooks that range from mid-tempo anthemic ballads to aggressively fast bangers reminiscent of legends No Use for a Name, Bad Religion and NOFX. Lyrically, the songs are a roller coaster of themes that touch on personal struggles, failures and disappointments that deal with emotional and spiritual identities as well as addressing environmental and societal destruction.” The band is fronted by Tim Fennelly from War Fever, bassist Chad Ruiz from Skipjack, drummer Dylan Wade formerly of the Bombpops, and skate legend Steve Caballero on guitar. Formed in 2021, Urethane brought its hard driving power punk stylings to Alex’s with a sense of nostalgia of classic punk bands from the 80s and early 90s. Both Caballero and Ruiz bring so much personality to the stage and seek out a connection with the audience, which becomes instantly obvious. They debuted a couple of new songs during their set. One new song included the incredibly talented Brenna Red from The Last Gang. Her vocal stylings, raw talent, and charisma are truly mesmerizing! Urethane was a truly pleasant surprise for me. Having never seen them live I was not sure what to expect, but they brought back a vibe from my early years as a punker, and I was so completely stoked for that. I will for sure go see Urethane again.
Bringing the house down was the headliner, Bad Cop Bad Cop. What can I say about these incredible ladies that has not been said by every other reviewer? They are bad ass women and freaking awesome punk rockers. Every show they put on is as high energy as it gets. I have never seen them play and walked away thinking “meh, they weren’t as good as the last time.” Yes, they are just that damn good. The energy they bring to the stage is infectious and it draws the crowd in tight, commands their hands in the air, and raises their voices together with Dee and Le from start to finish. Fronting the band is a shared gig between Stacey Dee and Linh Le on vocals, guitar, and bass respectively. Myra Gallarza brings it on drums with combined precision and reckless abandonment. Joining the ladies on stage to play guitar this night was the very talented Alex Williams. She absolutely killed it on the guitar and was right at home filling in for Jennie Cotterill. Bad Cop Bad Cop is not just another punk band, they are a band of strong and empowered women looking to use their voices to make the world a better place for all. They share their views openly and proudly, and they do not pull punches when it comes to telling it the way they see it. They support equality, ending homelessness, racism, xenophobia, and sexism. On this night, the ladies brought along their friends from The Sidewalk Project an organization that uses art, music, and community organization for social action and empowering the houseless population around the world. The describe themselves as a mobile harm reduction team providing case management, medical care, housing linkages, and system navigation services. Dee and Le took time during the set to promote the organization and talk about the amazing work they do. They talked about the importance of being human and not judging others based on their circumstances or lifestyles. As for the music, the pure high energy set list included a journey through the Bad Cop Bad Cop catalog of songs. From 2015’s Not Sorry, to the politically charged protest music from the album Warrior to the latest LP The Ride, the ladies brought it. The songs included “Retrograde”, “I’m Done”, “Originators”, “Pursuit of Liberty”, “Warriors”, “Community”, “Shattered”, “Certain Kind of Monster”, “Simple Girl”, “Sugarcane”, and “Support”. The highlights of the night for me included the empathy charged song “Breastless”, an emotional song about breast cancer and survival. If you know anyone who has fought the monster and won or lost, then this song will move you. The biggest reaction from the crowd came during Broken and the closing song, “Womanarchist”. The crowd went absolutely crazy during these two songs, though admittedly they were going crazy the entire time. There was an awesome pit that started early on and never really stopped, but it went off during these two songs in particular. Bad Cop Bad Cop is not just another run of the mill punk band. They are truly original, true to their music, and true to themselves. They are group of empowered bad ass musicians who known how to bring a message and entertain a crowd passionately. They tour often, so go rock out with these ladies!
The Palentine’s Day celebration show at Alex’s bar was one I loved and will not forget any time soon. It will be a show that I measure the next several shows against.