The Damned w/ The Dictators at The Observatory, San Diego, California, 05/23/2023

All Photos: Patrick Dickson

“Finally!” I said to myself. Ever since The Damned announced their “farewell” tour in 1989, I’ve been on a mission to see them live. The Damned, with their undeniable influence on Punk, Goth, and Deathrock, has been a must-see for me since the day I saw them perform Nasty on The Young Ones back in the 80s. And for all the tours that have come and gone since then, I wasn’t interested in missing them for an eighth time.

Starting off the night were some stateside-based rockers back in action after a long hiatus: The Dictators (not to be confused with The Dictators NYC). This NYC proto-punk band has seen its changes since it first started in 1973, and the lineup for this night included: Andy Shernoff (bass), Ross “The Boss” Friedman (lead guitar), Keith Roth (guitar and vocals), and Blue Öyster Cult alumnus Albert Bouchard (drums).

So, after many missed opportunities, I at last get the chance to see London’s pride and joy punkers in my hometown at the good ol’ Observatory.

The band’s witty stage banter was obscured by some sound problems that were sorted out by the end of the first song. I love bands that don’t feel above a little self effacing humor. It’s even better when they know how to save a joke after it bombs. Match that with Bouchard’s habit of losing drumsticks throughout the set made for entertainment both seen and heard.

The noticeably older crowd got into it whether they were familiar with The Dictators’ oeuvre or not and a everyone seemed to be digging it.

After a cover of the Velvet Underground’s What Goes On, the band wrapped up their set with the announcement that new material has been recorded and a new Dictators album can be expected by the end of the year.

Now… what I’ve waited over 30 years for. The Damned took the stage and proceeded to live up to their reputation as a solid and fun live act.

For starters, they looked like they haven’t lost a single step since their inception in 1976. They came onstage with a mutual playfulness that showed that they are still buddies as well as bandmates. Lead singer Dave Vanian looks like he hasn’t aged a bit with more energy than even I can muster these days; stalking the stage with animation, poise, and swagger. And his voice was spot-on and polished. Captain Sensible was wearing his signature red beret when he wasn’t wearing his guitar on his head. His wit was conveyed even when I couldn’t understand his accent. Monty Oxymoron looked like a cross between a hippie and a mad scientist as he held down the keys. Laidback bassist Paul Gray and left-handed drummer Will Taylor rounded out the night’s lineup.

Selections from Darkadelic, their newest release, were featured through the first half of the show and things got progressively heavier as the night went on from the polished refinement of later albums to the snarky angst of their early punk days.

Now I see what I’ve been missing. The Damned is nonstop fun to see live. When they’re not razzing each other (while wearing red rubber noses), they bring go-go dancers from the crowd onstage. When go-go dancers aren’t twerking alongside the band, Captain Sensible is revving up the crowd; cracking jokes in his cockney accent. When the Captain is revving up the crowd, Oxymoron is dancing manically and maniacally across the stage.

The songs ran from classics like Neat Neat Neat which segued to tributes to The Doors and The Stooges. Favorites like Eloise and Smash It Up were featured, of course. They even threw in an improvised jam to open the second encore.

As the band wrapped up at last, Captain Sensible offered a parting thought with the declaration of, “We’ve still got it!”. Truer words were never spoken.

Chant & KMFDM – Live at The Observatory, San Diego, CA, 05/16/2023

“There’s going to be moshing tonight.” Such was the warning I received from a fellow concertgoer as I stood before the stage while people filed into The Observatory for my second KMFDM show ever. With a bad back and blown knees, I aged out of mosh pits several presidential administrations ago. So this little reminder was appreciated.

The Observatory is one of my preferred places to see a show in San Diego; there isn’t a bad view in the place whether on the floor or the balcony. And there’s plenty of distraction to found all along University Avenue even before you go inside, including the sushi spot across the street where I ran into Chant’s Bradley Bills. He warned me that his voice may not be everything he hoped for on this night but I remained optimistic.

By showtime, the venue was nearly full. Chant came on and started strong with the firm intention of getting the crowd’s blood flowing. To say this Austin, Texas act quickly made a strong impression would be an understatement.

I’ve seen other acts that have featured the drums as the lead instrument before, and it would have fallen flat in the hands of lesser musicians. Instead, the duo of Bills and Alvin Melivin wowed the audience in a way that could best be described as high-concept; especially when Melivin began to throw down on the cello. Between the theatricality (including a mock gunshot onstage) and the musicianship, Chant created a full experience that fully immersed the viewer. And Bradley Bills’ voice held up just fine.

As a drummer myself, I appreciated the performance for its intricacy and intensity. I have always felt that live drums should play a bigger role in industrial music. Fans of the first two Killing Joke albums know what I’m talking about; tribal drumming is both powerful and hypnotic.

New fans hooted and hollered over their discovery. One young man commented that he’s ready to forgo his guitar lessons in favor of buying a drumkit.

The set wrapped with Bills offering his sincere thanks to the audience and pointing out that this would be the 99th time that Chant and KMFDM have shared a stage.

After intermission, KMFDM came out to do their thing. There was only one guitarist this time, which differed from the dual guitar assault I witnessed the last time I saw them live. Nonetheless, the band came on loaded for bear. They wasted no time taking the already amped-up crowd to the next level. Showmanship was a constant throughout the night.

Only stopping once to say hello to the crowd, the show ran with little to no space between songs. Which makes sense; they played a LOT of songs this night. The anticipated set ran over the band’s decades-long history with later and newer songs mixed with favorite crowd pleasers. The forewarned mosh pit didn’t break out until they went into Drug Against War. Strong stage presence and a dazzling (almost blinding) light show kept a lot of folks transfixed with the stage. It’s not every band out there that are keeping it this real after four decades. And while I was hoping to hear Lucia Cifarelli bust out with Professional Killer, alas, no such luck this time.

By this point, I was dancing like a fool. But then, so was everyone around me. A sense of cameraderie permeated the crowd with everyone on their best behavior and projecting good vibes.

The encore included the gems Godlike and Paradise and the show closed with a looped outro and clever lighting.

This particular tour is a very short one, only five cities. Those of us in the Southwest were fortunate to catch a visit from a still rock solid staple industrial band and an exceptional act whose star is still on the rise.

Club Grave Beat at Til-Two, San Diego, CA, 5/12/2023

San Diego has a very respectable track record for the clubs in its dark music scene. With nights like Sabbat, Ascension, and Rapture leaving black-clad local fans spoiled for choice of nights to dance and socialize to their cold dead heart’s content, it’s nice to see there’s still room for up-and-coming club nights to carve their own unique niche.

So I was delighted to hear that Errol Fritz (of New Skeletal Faces) and DJ Grimm Beatz threw their hats into the ring with Grave Beat, an all-Deathrock night at the Til Two club.

I’m no stranger to Goth, Industrial and Post-Punk, so it was a rewarding breath of fresh air to have a night that’s dedicated to a sound that, in my opinion, still goes underrepresented in this town. I mean, how many clubs can you hear The Misfits and Fad Gadget in the same DJ set?

There’s several clubs in San Diego alone that offer that intersection between Goth, Punk, and even Metal. And even if Grave Beat shares that intersection, it’s on a different corner. The vibe was definitely unique on this night. Styles overlapped and melded in a way that seemed to have something for everyone.

The crowd was made up of faces I hadn’t seen a million times before and everyone seemed to be on the same page; dancing to tunes that have dancefloor appeal but without the usual untz-untz-untz vibe. The “snug” confines of Til Two make for a cozy (and often sweaty) sense of fellowship. Everyone seemed to be having a ball dancing to the likes of Bowie, Love & Rockets, and Ministry as well as TSOL, and – of course – Christian Death; along with lesser-known bands that make Deathrock such a fun genre.

The all-vinyl set made for some awkward segues at times, going from a frantic moshing pace to grooving slickness with eclectic abandon. But the crowd rolled with the changeups in stride as many just seemed to enjoy the musical catharsis.

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By evening’s end, I knew I wanted more. After asking around, I found out that this was Grave Beat’s inaugural and possibly sole night. With no promise of a follow-up, I managed to catch Errol Fritz and ask if Grave Beat will become a regular part of Til Two’s monthly rotation of hip events.

“Do you want it to?” He answered teasingly. I answered with a resounding yes.

Grave Beat was the kind of intimate but lively club that I enjoy, with a music selection that went deeper into the vault of bands beyond the same old same old.

With Southern California being the birthplace of Deathrock, Grave Beat would be a very welcome addition.

Pit Dunce by The Writhers

This one cracked me up. San Diego’s The Writhers are at it again, this time they’re bringing one of their live show traditions to record with Pit Dunce.

The Writhers have been releasing a series of singles since 2021 and Pit Dunce is their fourth installment.

According to their press release, “This track was originally created to accompany a tour gag that involved a member of the crowd being asked to wear the aptly named “pit dunce” cap as a fun way to call them out for not participating in the merriment of the live show. People were then instructed to dance around them “to please the gods”.”

And the gag comes complete with its own song. Pit Dunce is fun, fast and unapologetically silly.

Don’t be a pit dunce (Pit dunce, pit dunce)
Heed my advice (Pit dunce, pit dunce)
Keep the circle moving (Pit dunce, pit dunce)
Mosh or pay the price (Pit dunce, pit dunce)

The track opens with the feel of a 1950s doo-wop tune before cutting loose with the drunken singalong “Horrorpunkabillyrocknroll” craziness that The Writhers love to bring.

With Pit Dunce in the can, let’s see what The Writhers have in store for their fifth installment.


Okay, so shoot me. I lagged.

genCAB’s newest EP, EVERYTHING YOU SEE IS MINE, has been out for over a month by this point. But life has a funny way of distracting us from that which we are truly passionate. Better late than never, I say.

Regardless, this four-song collection is still worth mentioning as one of my standout favorites of 2022. Starting off with Soft, genCAB’s (short for generation CABLE) ability to seamlessly blend styles is very much on display throughout this release. This track never stays in one place long enough to get tedious, although each part is catchy in itself. With its jumpy rhythm pattern and in-your-face lyrics, I haven’t heard anything so “Grebo” since the second Pop Will Eat Itself album.

Cake has a pleasing mid-tempo beat and an atypical melodic progression which I think makes genCAB a standout among their peers.

Wasp Factory pulverizes you from the onset with its grinding metal-on-metal percussion which doesn’t take away from the articulate songwriting.

Only Skin closes the EP with an guitar-fueled epic which shows genCAB is far from a one-trick pony; being able to straddle both rock and industrial without sounding contrived. The somber piano at the end gives the listener a strong sense of closure.

Don’t let EVERYTHING YOU SEE IS MINE get lost in the shuffle among the awesome releases of 2022. genCAB’s game is legit and I, for one, am a true believer.