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Punk vets still pack a punch

Germs, Fear challenge raucous young fans at Olympic's 'Waking the Dead' showcase.

October 31, 2005|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times

Punk nostalgia is nothing new, but its audience is definitely not limited to aging misfits. Observe the "Waking the Dead" concert Saturday at the Grand Olympic Auditorium, where first-wave punk veterans played to a crowd heavy with young fans in black leather and T-shirts championing such ancients as the Clash and Public Image.

Many were barely in their teens, embracing a sound as distant to them as the rock of the 1950s and '60s. One thing hasn't changed: The Olympic sound is as terrible as you remember.

The night's strangest set came from the reunited Germs, the seminal local punk act that self-destructed in 1980 after the suicide of singer Darby Crash. At the Olympic, his role was filled by actor Shane West, who portrays Crash in the upcoming film "What We Do Is Secret" -- not unlike having Val Kilmer sing with the Doors.

West bore a passing resemblance to Crash and pulled off reasonable takes on "Lexicon Devil" and other songs, though he lacked the original's slobbering charm and utter disaffection. Fans threw bottles and insults, but West seemed to enjoy the challenge.

What might the Germs have accomplished if young Darby had lived? No one found out at the Olympic.

Earlier, Fear thrashed through "Let's Have a War" and "More Beer." Marky Ramone's set was mainly an excuse to hear some great Ramones songs from an adequate cover band. And San Francisco's Flipper opened with dark, brooding original-recipe punk.

Closing the night was Suicidal Tendencies, a generation younger than the first punks. A spasm of violence in the crowd nearly delayed its hourlong set, but singer Mike Muir looked like the world's happiest hard-core frontman, bouncing and grinning across the stage.

He also seemed to sum up the shared worldview of fans when he declared: "History is a beautiful thing, but this ain't no story. This is a way of life."

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