Television brings the war into your home. The Circle Jerks could bring the war to your neighborhood when they play the Ventura Theatre on Friday night. No gunfire, just hordes of people slamming, er, dancing. It'll be the pits--the slam pit, actually. The forearm shiver becomes a dance step. Oh, and don't forget your combat boots, steel pot and flak jacket--it'll be just like the real thing, except that combat pay is still not authorized for punk rock concerts.
The Circle Jerks have been making people rambunctious (and bloody) for almost 11 years now with their high-powered thrash attacks. They generate enough energy to heat Anchorage, and a lot of anger. In yet another example of life imitating art, their shows become the live version of the Circle Jerks song "Beat Me Senseless."
Maybe along with the usual concert T-shirts, the band should sell concert bandages or maybe Blue Circle health insurance. In any case, the evidence will be available for all to see--the Ventura show is to be taped for a live concert film in addition to a live album, the band's first in four years. CNN's concert coverage is pending.
And as is common with punk rock, from the garage it came. This particular garage was in Hawthorne and it wasn't the Beach Boys' garage.
"We were all practicing in the garage, and then we got a couple of gigs," said original Jerk and guitarist Greg Hetson in a recent telephone interview. "Then we recorded an album and people really liked it, and here we are. We just finished a six-week tour with the Weirdos, which took us all across the United States."
Ten years ago, when the punk thing in L.A. was in full swing, there were plenty of ugly bald people swinging, often at each other.
"There used to be a lot of places to play--a lot of little places," said Hetson. "We used to play at the Starwood in L.A. a lot, but all the old places closed down because of fights or whatever reason. There's just not a lot of punk shows anymore."
Where have all the punks gone? Did they get their MBAs, join the Pepsi Generation and settle down? Does your real estate agent have a "Kill Mother" tattoo under that three-piece suit?
"We still get punks at our shows, but it's a few generations later now," said Hetson. "All the originals grew up, went to college, became brain surgeons--whatever. Besides the punk rock fans, we get a lot of heavy metal head bangers plus some college kids."
With less blood on the floor, it must be the '90s and a kinder, gentler punk rock.
"Our music is loud, aggressive and obnoxious. Oh, and fun," said Hetson. "Any race, creed, color--any animal at all--can enjoy our show. You don't even have to get into the slam pit to enjoy it; you can sort of stand off to the side. Our shows are a lot less violent than they used to be. It's a little more kinder with a lot less fights."
In addition to the action on the floor, the Circle Jerks often generate as much action, if not rumors, onstage and off. The band has broken up more times than Kelly Bundy, in "Married . . . With Children." It has come back more times than Dracula. Anyway, a national publication this very week announced the final demise of the Circle Jerks.
"Well, you can't believe everything you read," said Hetson. "But then again, maybe we will break up and you'll see four impostors on stage--we'll get Milli Vanilli to do the backing vocals."
Influenced by early thrashers such as the Germs and X, the Circle Jerks have played just about everywhere with everybody--well, almost. "Well, we haven't had our dream gig with Herb Alpert yet," said Hetson. "Our nightmare gig would probably be to play with that guy with the thing in his nose--Sebastian Bach, from Skid Row."
Don't expect a lot of slow ones (or any, for that matter)--no R.E.M. or Indigo Girls covers. Just the usual Circle Jerks standards--"Wasted," "Beverly Hills," "Love Kills" and numbers like that. Also expect the usual bizarre assortment of covers such as "Fortunate Son," "Wild In The Streets" and "Just Like Me."
None of this really matters. The band plays so fast, you won't be able to tell the difference anyway. And it's so loud that front man Keith Morris may be singing in Mongolian.