Music News & Reviews

Four Sacramento punk shows for anti-establishment types

The Dead Milkmen as they looked 27 years ago, in 1988.
The Dead Milkmen as they looked 27 years ago, in 1988.

Sacramento is a great place to be this week if slam dancing is your preferred form of stress release, or if uptempo anthems and wry lyrics are an ideal evening of entertainment.

The Capital City is hosting a string of shows that provide plenty of variety for punk rockers young and old. The action starts Sunday as Agent Orange, the legendary skate punk band from Southern California, headlines Harlow’s. That same night, it’s a blast from New York City’s hardcore past as Reagan Youth plays the Blue Lamp.

But that’s just the beginning. The Dead Milkmen, the sardonic songsters behind “Punk Rock Girl,” perform at Harlow’s on Tuesday. The Knockoffs, now in their second decade on Sacramento’s punk scene, wrap up this rush of gigs on Wednesday with Ramones-style rock ’n’ roll at Blue Lamp.

Danny Reynoso, better known as guitarist Danny Secretion from The Knockoffs, says the shows speak to Sacramento’s irrepressible punk rock scene.

“We’re definitely on an upswing,” Reynoso said. “It’s not just with touring acts, but local bands (as well). There’s such a wide array of punk rock in this town, everything from pop punk to the more hardcore scene, the thrash and metal. It’s evident in the fact that touring bands like Agent Orange are coming through. They’re coming to Sacramento because there’s definitely a scene here.”

Sacramento traditionally has been a solid place for punk rock. Government towns have a way of breeding anti-establishment music. And like Orange County, Sacramento hosts acre after acre of suburbs, all fertile grounds for angsty young people who want to raise a fist in a garage band.

The city has spawned plenty of great punk rock bands with national followings over the past three decades, be it Groovie Ghoulies, Yah Mos, Hoods and Trash Talk. A documentary is currently being filmed about Tales of Terror, the late-great Sacramento band that also was an influence for key musicians in Seattle’s grunge scene, including Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. The movie, “These Are the Tales of Terror,” includes interviews with Mark Arm (Mudhoney/Green River) and Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam/Green River).

While it’s tempting to wax nostalgic about Club Minimal, ground zero for Sacramento’s punk scene in the 1980s, or the Cattle Club, which hosted bands such as Green Day before they were big, sentimentality rarely goes well with punk rock. It’s better to just get out there, live in the moment and enjoy a show.

“People have always longed for a venue that was only open for a couple of years,” Reynoso said. “You can either sit on your couch and say how everything was better back then, or see how good things are now.”

Sunday

▪ Agent Orange at Harlow’s (8 p.m.; 2708 J St., Sacramento; $10 advance, $12 day of show): If your preferred method of transportation in the 1980s was a skateboard, there’s a good chance that Agent Orange got much play during those sessions at the ramp. The Southern California band is a pivotal skate-punk band, releasing a skateboard deck through Vision and featuring pool skating scenes in its video for “Bloodstains,” an Agent Orange anthem. While many of its SoCal contemporaries took more of a thrash-and-burn approach to its music, Agent Orange infused its tunes with surf influences.

“I always look forward to Agent Orange,” Reynoso said. “They’re great ambassadors for fun punk rock, and people are excited about that show for a reason.”

▪ Reagan Youth at Blue Lamp (7 p.m.; 1400 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento; $12 advance, $15 day of show): The week’s burliest pit will probably be found at this gig. Reagan Youth were among the pioneering bands in New York City’s hardcore scene of the 1980s, with an in-your-face political stance and breakneck tempos. The current version of the band bears little resemblance to Reagan Youth from days of yore. Singer and co-founder Dave Rubinstein committed suicide in 1993, but guitarist Paul Bakija carries on the group’s thrashy traditions with a crew that includes former members of Dead Kennedys and Dr. Know.

Tuesday

▪ The Dead Milkmen at Harlow’s (9 p.m.; $22.50 advance, $25 day of show): And for those who prefer a more satirical and silly side of punk, The Dead Milkmen have you covered with such classics as “Bitchin’ Camaro” and “Punk Rock Girl,” a staple from MTV’s “120 Minutes.” The band broke up just a few years after flirting with the mainstream (including a deal with Hollywood Records) and went on hiatus for more than a decade. But the band has been back since 2008, and tickling funny bones as audiences sing along.

“If anyone goes to that show with their arms crossed, get over yourselves and have a good time,” Reynoso said. “I saw them a few years ago at a festival and they were amazing. People had the biggest smiles on stage and off.”

Wednesday

▪ The Knockoffs at Blue Lamp (8 p.m.; $5): The Knockoffs have specialized in a Ramones styled “Hey ho, let’s go!” approach to punk that’s served the band well since the early 1990s. The group is working on a new album, and when not rehearsing and recording, Reynoso also helps book the Friday Night Concerts in the Park at Cesar Chavez Plaza.

One of those free gigs includes a June 19 show with Mr. T Experience, the great punk band synonymous with Berkeley’s Gilman Street punk scene.

“For me, punk rock’s about making your own fun,” Reynoso said. “It’s nice that we have this history (in Sacramento), but if you want to go out, shows are still happening.”

Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.

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