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POPBEAT

An Original Crowd of Punkers Reunites

November 19, 1987

Do we look old?

--Drummer Dennis Walsh, 29 Of course we do. We ARE old.

--Bassist Jay Decker, 27

Punk rock--you know, bleached-blond hair standing up in spikes, torn jeans, leather jackets, safety pins in the ears, bashed-out three-chord songs all about fury, attitude and stiff little fingers--is now 11 years old, which means that all the original punk rockers are 11 years older.

Take, for instance, the Crowd, one of Huntington Beach's first and finest punk rock bands. Formed about 1978 by brothers Jim and Jay Decker and crack-speed guitarist Jim Kaa, later joined by drummer and former Flesheater/Flyboy Dennis Walsh, the Crowd was mighty popular with Orange County surf types, the ones with the dayglo sneakers.

Then in '82, because of what the members say was boredom and bad timing, the band broke up. But last month, they got together again at the urging of a friend, who persuaded them to play a reunion gig at Night Moves in Huntington Beach. The gig was so successful that the band members decided to make the reunion permanent.

The guys are thinking of changing their name to Five Years After. But crammed into their basement for a practice session, complete with equipment and onlookers, they still look like a Crowd: singer Jim Decker, in green and red Dr. Denton hightop shoes and blond dreadlocks (a far cry from his young-turk days, when he had inch-long brown hair); brother Jay, wearing red bunny slippers--just like those on 5-year-old Austin Kaa, who was sitting at his dad's feet; and all the while, Walsh kept the loud-fast beat, occasionally letting it drop into a reggae lope.

The band whipped through 45 minutes of their old songs: "Living in Madrid" and "Executive Life," which appeared on the 1982 "Beach Blvd." surf-punk compilation album; "New Crew," which Jay Decker recalled writing in high school English class, and others.

Said Jim Decker: "It's funny, we've been playing the exact same set we did five years ago, but it goes over a lot better now."

Added Jim Kaa, remembering the band's breakup: "Our music had changed and the audience didn't.

"When we started out, we played kind of hardcore punk and there was no audience for it. Then the Circle Jerks and Black Flag hit big, but by then we'd sort of changed . . . become 'post-punks,' if you will. We sort of miss-timed things."

Jim Decker chimed in: "It seems like nowadays everything is more acceptable. The Beastie Boys are No. 1, R.E.M. are in the Top 10 . . . audiences can cope with all different types of music in a way they couldn't five years ago. Everything we play sounds fresher and more contemporary to people now than it did at the time."

The band crashed into "Right Time," which Kaa said is all about not being in the right place at the right time. "Like when you get to your friend's house five minutes after he's left for what turns out to be the coolest party of the year."

The Crowd has yet to write any new songs. Halfway through the practice session, they started jamming on a riff from the Clash's "Clash City Rockers" and turned over the mike to Austin Kaa and let him extemporize. "Go brush your teeth and don't forget to wash your hands," the 5-year-old sang (he later dubbed the tune "Broken Eggs"). The members of the Crowd all solemnly swore that they would take his advice.

"There's your rock superstar of 1999," father Jim said fondly as the band got back to practicing, helping keep the spirit of punk rock alive for all sorts of new generations.

The Crowd will play at Big John's, 807 E. Orangethorpe, Anaheim, Saturday at 9 p.m. along with El Grupo Sexo and the Mutts. Tickets: $5. Information: (714) 870-0850.

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