Last Night: Agent Orange at Churchill's Pub

Ben Thacker

SoCal surf-punk band Agent Orange rocked Churchill's Pub Saturday night. Click here to view the full slideshow.

Agent Orange with To Be Hated and O.P.S.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Churchill's Pub, Miami

SoCal surf/skatepunk legends Agent Orange gave an all-out performance last night to a packed crowd at the colorful Churchill's Pub in Little Haiti. The trio of forty-something-year-olds came on at around 1 a.m. and kept the party rocking like it was 1989 after solid sets by local punk bands To Be Hated, O.P.S. and surf guitarist Laramie Dean.

I missed the first act To Be Hated but caught the second half of O.P.S.’ fists-in-the-air, sing-along, circle-pit-inducing madness. The crowd loved these guys. Frontman Nestor kept it live, spitting and stage-diving into the swarm of sweaty bodies, while the rest of the band -- and random members of the audience -- chugged through break-neck beats and backing vocals like a runaway train.

Laramie Dean, the self-proclaimed surf-punk machine, disciple of surf-guitar god Dick Dale, came on next with his (louder) brand of classic surf rock. Though Dean’s set was a bit removed from the harder gutter punk bands that played before him, his virtuosity definitely kept the crowd’s attention, while providing a great segue to the main act.

Agent Orange, though old enough to have fathered most of the audience, showed no signs of slowing down. Lead singer and guitarist Mike Palm had a smile on his face the entire time, as he led the band through countless classics including "Everything turns Gray," "Bloodstains," "Pipeline," "Too Young to Die," and finishing the night off with punk-rock anthem "The Last Goodbye." Bass player Perry Giordano and drummer Dusty Watson, both showing impressive energy levels to say the least, played tighter than ever as they bounced and twitched their approvals to the swirling mass of beer-drenched “dancers.” Watson’s playing was truly impressive -- not only his lightning speed and stamina, but also his John Bonham-esque drum solos between songs; an athlete and a scholar.

Despite decades of touring, Agent Orange keeps a D.Y.I. attitude, wearing the various hats of tour bus driver, merch salesman, roadie/sound tech, legendary songwriter and world-class performer.

A punk show at Churchill's is always an experience, from avoiding the crackhead parking lot supervisors, to dodging fists and spikes in the pit. You leave stinking like sweat, smoke, beer and possibly vomit, and with a serious ringing in your ears. But you go home with a sense of camaraderie toward your fellow man, a feeling of having taken part in something real. Seeing a band like Agent Orange play there adds a kind of historic relevancy, a connection with the past—back to the days when punk kids were doing pretty much the same thing they are today, paving the way for future generations of noise and filth and fun.

-- Ben Thacker

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Ben Thacker