Concert Review: Agent Orange at The Grog Shop
Written by Scott McMaster on March 10, 2017
My buddy Brandon and I show up to the Grog Shop after slurping down vegan milkshakes at Tommy’s down the street. I’m a bit skeptical of any show that happens on a Tuesday, but there’s a line of people outside the venue which promises a decent sized crowd. I get to the door and witness a room packed with people, mostly high school punk kids and middle aged men, as well as some of the regular bar/punk crowd. As I’m conversing with the door guy (who honestly couldn’t have been nicer) about whether or not I’m on the guest list, The Atom Age has already taken the stage.
I assume at first that The Atom Age must be local support, but later find out that they are part of the four band tour that is being showcased, and they’ll be opening up every show on this six week long tour. As their set continues, I find that they are the perfect band for the job, warming up the audience with their catchy blend of melodic punk and powerpop. Unique instrumentation is partially responsible for the depth of their sound, with two vocalists, standard bass, guitar, drums, as well as the less common organ and saxophone players. Talking with Peter Niven (one of the frontmen of The Atom Age) after their set, I was unsurprised when he told me that he’s a record collector and music nerd, like myself. He credits bands like Iggy Pop and the Stooges and Murder City Devils for inspiring him to experiment with different sounds, such as psychedelic, surf and reverb heavy punk. Each of these influences shines through at different points throughout their overall solid set.
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Up next is Guttermouth, a band that I know very little about besides that they apparently had a song on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 soundtrack. They take to the stage and their singer, Mark Adkins, who is roughly twenty years older than the rest of the band, instantly begins with hilarious banter. It’s clear that he’s taking real pleasure in interacting with members of the crowd, who he is antagonizing with a devilish smile as he takes sips from one girl’s drink. The music starts and the smile stays plastered on Adkins’ face as he jumps around the stage with great ferociousness and awkward energy. His band mates laugh at his antics and showmanship, as they play fast, simple, 90’s west coast style punk rock. From previous show experiences, I tend to deem a mosh pit as doomed if it doesn’t pick up to over ten people or so after the first song. However, with Guttermouth, their energy builds and builds throughout their set until at some point halfway through things go totally off the wall! The songs get faster and Adkins’ performance becomes even more impish, and at times, somewhat sexually provocative. What’s funniest to me is that throughout the set he’s sarcastically talking about how “punk” everyone in the audience is, calling out fans with comments like “sick leather jacket, you look way more punk than me,” and proclaiming, “Wow, that was really punk,” when somebody throws a beer can at the stage. He’s like a walking, breathing, Hard Time’s article. Guttermouth’s recorded music isn’t exactly my thing, but they are an incredibly engaging, hilarious, and fun band to see whether you’re a fan or not. The energy of their performance goes unmatched for the rest of the night.
Guttermouth plays The Grog Shop. Photo by: Brandon Emmert
Next up is the Queers, an old pop-punk band from New Hampshire. They are similar to Guttermouth in the sense that they have one old dude in the band and a couple young guys backing him up, but otherwise have very little in common. My main point of interest in the Queers is that they were the first punk rock show I had ever seen, back when I was a naive fourteen year old snot faced punk kid living in Youngstown, Ohio. It was a night that felt incredibly important as it was happening. However, my interest in the band has drifted to the point of a total lack of interest based on their music style as well as Joe Queer’s atrocious political views and general grossness. Watching the band set up, I wonder if I will have anything new and exciting to write about the Queers, like maybe Joe would have a freak out and spout some racist or homophobic crap into his microphone. However, their set goes relatively smoothly. If you are a fan of the Queers’ style of mid-tempo pop-punk (not quite as rockin’ as the Ramones and not as fast, fun, or hard as the Descendents) then you would enjoy seeing them live. However, I find myself overall unimpressed with the band musically, with every song more or less fading into the next without any real division or differentiation. Vocally, Joe is more or less mumbling in comparison to his usually snotty vocal style. A high point is that the band played tight and seemed overall professional, and they were respectful to the audience. They tear down as effortlessly as they had set up, and people start to crowd back around the stage for Agent Orange.
Agent Orange hits the stage with their dark take on California Surf Punk, ripping as hard and as tight as they do on record. My mind has trouble comprehending how they pack so much sound into a 3 person band. Mike Palm seems to effortlessly riff on his guitar, leaving no fret or string untouched. The crowd is feeling the power of this set and going completely wild. Even when the band plays one of their slower instrumental songs, the energy doesn’t waver much. Their sound is incredibly tight and precise, and even when they have to throw together an improvised song because some kid snags Mike’s setlist, their mini jam session sounds like it could fit effortlessly on their 1981 release, Living in Darkness. Before their set is half over, Mike promises, “No more slow songs!” to the crowd, and they take off into some good ol’ fashion 80’s hardcore action. I’m really feeling their set, but it is disrupted with what seems to be an ironic sales pitch by the band about buying merch. Mike lists off every single one of their merch items like he’s selling cars, and after a few minutes, the joke is kind of over and I just feel like I’m having Agent Orange skate decks (which are undeniably pretty damn cool) shoved down my throat. Finally, the pitch ends with a chuckle from the band, and they jump back into their set. It’s late on a Tuesday, and the crowd is obviously starting to fade, but the band finishes their set strong. Of all the bands, Agent Orange brought a sort of relaxed but urgent nature to the stage that felt natural. They had an Overall great set.
Agent Orange plays The Grog Shop. Photo by: Brandon Emmert