The Glass House—Pomona, CA
September 10, 2004
After traversing three hours worth of Los Angeles rush hour gridlock, I pulled my piece of crap American automobile into the Pomona Arts District, a two block, low-rent replica of a set of a Frank Capra movie that features antique shops, bad 80's karaoke bars, and taco stands. The Glass House, one of the most appealing punk rock venues in southern California, hides here, behind an average looking storefront, at the distant lonely eastern edge of Los Angeles County.
I was here at the behest of a lovely Night Times publishe, who recommended that I check out a hip, Bay Area female fronted punk band, Tsunami Bomb. It was a special performance, I was told; they were filming the show for a DVD. In my relative old age, and my lapsed rock journalist tendencies, I'd never heard of Tsunami Bomb. I find that sometimes, if you're not familiar with the band involved, going to a concert attains a sense of risk, of adventure, of exploring the unknown, and I'm always up for a good adventure.
So, upon arrival in Pomona, I unmanned my vehicle and strode into the Glass House, a surprisingly large, all ages, alcohol free, warehouse style venue, with an 11:30 curfew, filled to the brim with eager young punk rock fans. I found myself envying them--I wish that I could have gotten saved in this kind of church devoted to the holy spirit of rock and roll, when I was 15. Things didn't work out that way though; I didn't start going to shows until I was in college, and, now, I was a first-time Glass House attendee, a crusty "old" critic, hovering close to the rock and roll abyss of thirty years old.
Like most who write about rock music, I have lost faith in the collective tastes of "the kids"...not that any of us have had that much occasion, lately, to actually hang out with the kids for whom we express such contempt. Really, "the kids" don't change. They wear a lot less than they used to, and use cell phones a lot more, but their wants, their desires, and their fears are relatively the same as they've been for thousands of years. Maybe, I'm only defending them, because I find my recently attained status of the "old guy" at the rock show incredibly creepy; I used to look at the action in a mosh pit with an awestruck grin, now I just give it's crazed young denizens an occasional glance of parental concern.
These are the thoughts that floated through my head as the first band hopped onstage. They were My New Life, a San Jose trio of poppy punksters. Their songs were less clever than anything in the Descendants catalogue, certainly, but My New Life belongs in the same realm of catchy fast love songs as Green Day's "Dookie" album or early Blink 182.
They were followed by the wannabe glam band, Pipedown, who played very loudly and aggressively, inspiring a fervent reaction from the audience. For anyone who's gone to enough of these type of shows, this quintet's set was fairly predictable (Lead singer's eyeliner, a cheesy 80's cover "Rebel Yell", anti-capitalist remarks). Pipedown plays with an obvious enthusiasm, and it catches on. They're almost the perfect opening act; they're not original or distinctive enough to overshadow very many headliners, but they definitely wake up the gathered audience.
There was a delay while cameras were set up, ready to tape the anticipated performance of the evening's headliner's, Tsunami Bomb. In a fame-centered society, the presence of film crews add an extra superficial layer of excitement to any proceedings. So the crowd was primed and ready for the inevitable entrance of the punk quartet. Finally, the band emerged and started to play energetically. They play well, producing some surprisingly nice harmonies. Their music's not exactly groundbreaking; to me, they sounded like a harder and faster Letters To Cleo...of course, from what I observed at the show, very few fans of this band are old enough to have ever heard of Letters To Cleo. The musicians in the band are impressive. Mike Griffen does an impressive job handling both guitar and backing vocals.
The centerpiece of the band is the lovely, pixie-ish frontwoman, who goes by the moniker of Agent M. She prowled the stage in a torn up Smiths T-shirt that was tied like a corset. She was obviously adored by the young girls in the audience, and, even though I was unfamiliar with their music and honestly found it to be a tad derivative, I think that's great. It's always positive when young girls have a influential female to look up to that's not Ashley Simpson or Paris Hilton. It is rare for a female led band to have a following in the supposedly progressive punk rock community. If bands like Tsunami Bomb can steer the kids away from the uncreative pop, faux-rap crap that television executives and record companies consistently shove down young throats, it can only be seen as a positive development.
So, despite it all, even though the alcohol-free venue, the audience demographics, and the early curfew made me feel every year of my age, I had a decent time at the Tsunami Bomb show at the Glass House. They definitely have a lot of energy and stage presence, and a young, devoted following, and here's hoping, for the sake of the future of rock music, they take this crazy train of musical success as far as they can ride it.