Surf City Blitz: Nothing Better Than Punk On The Beach
by Richard Coulter
Surf City Blitz just came and passed this year on October 27th & 28th. For those who couldn’t make it, you truly missed out on a once in a lifetime show. I went both days to the punk fest on the sands of Huntington State Beach, and it was without a doubt the best concert/festival I’ve ever attended. For a killer lineup, general admission was a steal at just under $100 for both days. Each day was stacked to the brim with incredible bands and performances, but before I dive right into them, I have to go over the scene at the event.
There were tons of band & event merch, as well as places like our very own local music and skate shop, Programme Skate. Whatever you wanted to buy, they were selling it. The art wall they had set up had beautiful surf & motocross centric pieces. The decorative choppers were gorgeous. One of my favorite sights was a van that was decked out and coated in band posters. If by some twist of fate you weren’t watching the band playing at a particular time, motocross competitions were going on throughout the day.
Now that the stage has been set, it’s time to talk about who was on it. Out of the two days, I only missed 4 out of the 18 (technically 19) total acts. For almost all of the performances, I was just behind front row in the center, next to the wall for the VIP section. The VIP section was hilarious because almost every band called them out on not getting into the music. As for specifics, the first band I saw on Saturday was Sharp Shock, a fairly standard punk rock opener that piqued my interest, so I’ll be checking them out later.
After them was Voodoo Glow Skulls, a very boisterous ska-punk band. The lead singer came out with a cape and mask on, and got the audience going with a fantastic performance. After them, the next group I saw was late 70s punk act T.S.O.L., the True Sounds Of Liberty, at 3:20. Now while you can see them roughly every other weekend at the Observatory in Santa Ana, they still were able to rile up the audience, playing their hits Code Blue and Silent Majority. Lead singer Jack Grisham said it was great to have received a cultural honor from the city that jailed him 8 or 9 times.
After T.S.O.L. finished, it was time for another classic punk band: Fear. I saw Lee Ving and the rest last April at Musink 2018 (another concert you can read my review of). They still have the same crazy energy after 40 years of playing. The audience seemed to think so as well because the mosh pit was massive and fast. I would have liked to join in, but while the sand offers a softer fall, it also means you fall a lot more often. Ving was hilarious, mocking the encore culture. After “finishing” their set, in Ving’s own words: “Now we are gonna go off stage and have a quick meeting.” After taking roughly six steps, they turned around, saying they had a good meeting and wanted to play a couple more songs.
After Fear played their final song, came probably the most energetic band of Saturday: Suicidal Tendencies. Lead singer, Mike Muir knows how to pump up a crowd, playing all their big songs of Cyco Vision, Institutionalized, and Subliminal among others. Mike’s dancing is hysterical to watch and one of the highlights of their act. He also invited roughly 10 children to come and “play” with them onstage. Nearing the end of their performance, as Moses parted the Red Sea, Mike parted the Surf City Sea of audience members. As the Wall of Death formed near the center by the VIP wall where I was, many were forced against it and even shoved over it.
Next up was the 90s punk band named after the clown in Stephen King’s IT. Pennywise kept the energy from Suicidal Tendencies going strong. Among their own songs, Pennywise fantastically covered the Beastie Boys’ Fight For Your Right. One of the most surprising parts of both days happened during their performance. At one point wanted to cover a song by Orange County punk locals, The Vandals. However, they felt they couldn’t play it well so instead they invited the Vandals, who were not billed for the event, onstage to play one of my favorite songs, Urban Struggle. To finish off their part of the show, Pennywise played one of the most iconic punk songs of all time: Bro Hymn. If you haven’t been a part of 20,000 audience members singing the “Oh’s” along with Pennywise, you haven’t truly lived. It feels so incredibly powerful to honor those we’ve loved and lost by shouting in unison with thousands of other punks.
To finish off Saturday was my all-time favorite band: The Offspring. Now I’ve seen the band from Huntington Beach 3 times as of this show, and they still know how to rock. While they’ve yet to play anything off of their first two albums, which are my favorites, they played a new song and some great works regardless. Unfortunately, they didn’t play as long as they had the first two times because of the need to fit all the other acts into the show. Still, it was amazing to see my favorite band just behind the front row, jostling around like we were some stew being stirred.
Up next was Sunday. To start off the day I bought the merch I wanted and headed over to claim a good spot in front of the stage early in the day. I then watched the 3rd of what I’d call the openers: The Wrecks. The best way to summarize their sound is that they covered Jet’s Are You Gonna Be My Girl. They were fairly entertaining, and you certainly could tell they were having fun on stage. They will definitely be another band to check out later.
Up next was a band I didn’t think would have the following and amount of fans they did: The Interrupters. This relatively new Ska Punk group consisting of triplets and Amee Interrupter on Vocals had one of the most explosive and powerful acts where everyone onstage and in the audience was having the absolute time of their life. From their original works like She’s Kerosene to their cover of Operation Ivy’s Sound System, there wasn’t a song that the audience wasn’t skanking to. I really loved them, and if it wasn’t for the last 2 acts of the night, they would have been my absolute favorite. It’s a shame their show in November at the Glass House is sold out because I would love to see them again.
After the spectacular show from the Interrupters came the absolute worst band of the entire festival: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. After finally showing up 10 minutes late, their performance was dreadful. While they were talented for sure, the audience was dead during their time onstage, and their lack of enthusiasm up there didn’t help. They didn’t fit the rest of the Surf City Blitz’s speedy punk rock. Naturally, this would be the band whose guitar pick I caught when it was flicked into the audience.
After the disappointment of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, was a thrilling, albeit conventional performance from Bad Religion. They played their expected routine with 21st Century Digital Boy and American Jesus among others. I found it funny that they credited Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 during their show when they played their song You from its soundtrack.
Once Bad Religion was done and over, my favorite act and second favorite band Rancid took the stage. It was incredibly shocking to see Tim “TimeBomb” Armstrong with a very thick beard and no mohawk. Nevertheless, the 90s Ska punk group was fantastic, playing songs from their first album up through their most recent. At one point, discussing how honored they were to play with the other bands of the festival, they played a single riff from Bro Hymn. Unfortunately for Rancid, this joke led to the audience continuing with it far more than they had intended. They then said they were never going to do that bit ever again.
To finish off the night was Fullerton legend Mike Ness and his incredible band Social Distortion. The audience knew that this was the band they wanted to see with the beach packed like sardines all the way from the stage to the beach. Everyone was shouting the lyrics right back at the band. Social D was dedicated to the fans, putting on the best show they could. Mike Ness at one point even brought out his son to help play Story of My Life. With a cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire, Social D finished off the two days of glorious punk rock.
Overall, I can say that I am ecstatic that this event is set to become an annual festival. Out of the roughly 40,000 attendees over the two days, you’d be hard pressed to find one who didn’t have a blast. I cannot recommend Surf City Blitz enough. Although I’ve been sore for almost a week afterward, the fun at the show is without a doubt worth it. I don’t know if they’ll be able to top this year’s lineup, but if they do, say hi to the guy in front donning the bright Agent Orange hat.