(Stage) Diving In the High Desert: TSOL Brings Out A Big Crowd

Written by on July 21, 2011 in July 21, 2011, Live Reviews - Comments Off on (Stage) Diving In the High Desert: TSOL Brings Out A Big Crowd

Photo by RadChad Reynolds

TSOL  frontman/lead vocalist,  Jack Grisham

I have often stated that the primary reason I moved to Southern California in the mid ‘80’s (1989 to be exact) was because of my fondness for the early SoCal punk scene, which included such famous/infamous bands as Black Flag, Circle Jerks, X, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and many more. Also part of the aforementioned was the band TSOL (acronym for ‘True Sounds of Liberty’), one of the few bands of that genre and era that I cannot recall having ever seen live.

So when I learned that TSOL was going to perform in the area I now call home (the High Desert), this became a “don’t-miss” gig. After the awesome show they and two other bands put on recently , I’m glad I followed my instincts!

The all-ages show was presented by a High Desert-based concert company called Heart Attack Promotions (can’t tell you much more about them or shows they are doing; they did hook me up with review tickets for this show but have not replied to subsequent post-show emails). The event – also featuring High Desert bands Gutter Poets and Banned 4 Life – took place at the Pioneer Events Center, a huge gymnasium in the heart of Lancaster (that’s in the Antelope Valley off the 14 Freeway for those of you who have never been up that way. It’s also where the legendary Frank Zappa originally hailed from).


Photo by Doug Deutsch

Gutter Poets

The show kind of started slowly, with many of those in attendance (I’m guessing the average age to have been in the 16-25-ish range) choosing to remain out in the parking lot and do what people generally do at concerts (hang out, drink, skate, et al) while a tight local band called Gutter Poets played a satisfying opening set. The room begin to fill up a little bit more during a set by another local band, Banned 4 Life; but after an intermission, the room quickly swelled with the presence of TSOL. Formed in 1979 in Long Beach, three of the orginal members (guitarist Ron Emory; bassist Mike Roche; and frontman Grisham) remain from the original lineup. Dressed in the unlikely combination of a long red plaid kilt and sportjacket (hey, this is punk rock, right?!), Grisham and TSOL hit the stage as the mosh pit started to work itself into a frenzy. Next thing you knew, stage divers – one after the other, both sexes, in all ages and sizes – were launching off the makeshift stage, to the obvious delight of Grisham, who we were about five feet away from. A cool moment was when Grisham brought his teen daughter out from the rear of the stage area and disclosed that she, too wanted to dive off the stage into the audience’s waiting arms (she didn’t; probably just dad just wisely playing it safe). Grisham was  a terrific presence – don’t ask me what songs they sang because I really don’t know the band’s catalog – and to his credit, he didn’t make a single mention of his recently-released book, “An American Demon.” By the last song of the close to hour-long set – I think it was called “Code Blue” –approximately twenty to thirty fans had hopped onstage and were singing along with Grisham. This is something you never see at a show in Hollywood anymore, that much I do know! I can also guarantee anyone that went to that show will likely never forget it.

On a related note, another promoter doing great independent rock shows (and comedy events too) in the High Desert is Cory Bailey and his company, Slappy Grind (www.slappygrind.com). He recently did a great hard rock benefit with Distortedfate and others. Check him out, this guy is a comer in the business.