|Somewhere beyond Mayberry|
That is one side of the Tony Brandenburg story. Here is another one. For New Year's Eve myself and my family went to a party that is put on each year by Mary Brandenburg, Tony's wife, mostly for the friends of their three children. Since Tony is almost always on tour New Year's week with his band, the world famed Southern California punk rock outfit The Adolescents, Mary holds these parties as much for the neighborhood kids as she does their parents, most of whom have parties of their own to attend and are grateful to have a safe place for the kids to go and have fun as well.
Not everything was good that night, however. Tony, scheduled to play a sold-out and much anticipated New Year's Eve show in Houston, had been sent to a hospital emergency room for what was apparently a pretty serious condition. Tony had recently been operated upon here in Southern California, and while given a grudging clean bill of health by those in the know, had developed a serious infection half-way through the tour. At the insistence of Tony's concerned bandmates, who had driven him to a hospital without his being exactly told about where he was being taken, he was checked in and underwent an emergency medical procedure designed to both alleviate his considerable pain while also checking a rapidly spreading infection.
All of which pretty much dominated the adult conversation at Mary's New Year's party. She had been on the phone several times with Tony, and most of us wise souls here on the Sierra Madre side of those calls were all for canceling the show. Signed contracts and unhappy club owners are one thing, but risking your health and more is quite another. There would be other shows and other opportunities.
But none of us get to be Tony Brandenburg. At the last possible minute Tony checked out of whatever hospital he was in, went to the club where this midnight shindig was taking place, and put on what apparently was one hell of a rock 'n roll show.
Considering what you now know about what went down before he hit the stage, the following review of that performance is even more remarkable than it would have been otherwise. This from the Houston Press (click here):
To end 2012 on a note of anti-apocalypse, in which the forces of vitality outmaneuver destruction and oblivion, Willow Villarreal of Hank Productions -- who has survived through the thick and thin of a fickle Houston music scene for more than a decade -- presented two iconic bearers of seminal Southern California punk, Youth Brigade and the Adolescents, bolstered by local heroes The American Heist and Molotov Compromise.
Undoubtedly, the foment of the Adolescents remains alive and well, as proven by the crowd's raucous and riotous reception. Still-buzzing songs like "Amoeba" and "No Way" literally unleashed a sweat-swishing, knee-crunching whirlwind at Fitzgerald's. Even the band seemed surprised by the mustered mayhem, exclaiming the gig as the best and last (tomorrow they play post-midnight in Austin) set of their taut Texas jaunt, exceeding brethren in Dallas and San Antonio.
The Adolescents' early tunes remain endemic to punk's timeless musical fabric of disaffected, disenchanted America, but their 2005 comeback album OC Confidential and 2011 follow-up The Fastest Kid Alive, whose songs they offered with bite and bile, proved their politics are still fiercely focused in their middle-age years, too. Sure, young turks try to steal the limelight, but few come close to the trenchant, brash staying power and melodic prowess of this unrepentant unit who can uncover pain in both dirty basements and geopolitical maneuvers.
Singer Tony Brandenburg is a barbed poet, lethal and witty, while the Adolescents' music is a surging, unbottled force. Taking no prisoners, they unleashed their vehemence at America's darker tendencies, such as backfiring foreign policy ("Operation FTW"), floundering ideals ("Democracy"), rampant angst and alienation ("Wrecking Crew," "Who Is Who"), fakery and fashion ("L.A. Girl") and senseless violence ("Rip It Up"). Each felt pregnant with pummeling power.
With tuneful tenacity, the Adolescents combine surf-punk prowess with vetted, tried and true, bona fide punk nerves that transcend Ronald Reagan's era because they don't dwell on any one blundering administration or espouse simple-minded diatribes. Instead, they observed the human condition and faulty systems with an unyielding eye, capturing the tenor and spirit with metaphors and allegories that speak to recalcitrant renegades. Their barrage never weakens, their flag never tatters.
Sure, they cautioned stage-divers weighing more than 115 pounds to be mindful of those underneath their flaying, awkwardly stretched-out, catapulting bodies, but the Adolescents never berated the audience, never demeaned the frenzy.
During one of their last refrains, the tumultuous "Kids of the Black Hole," they poignantly called out to their friend Larry, a newcomer to Houston actually affiliated with the famed Black Hole residence in Orange County that helped give birth to Social Distortion and Agent Orange.
The song's refrain, "House of destruction where lurkers roamed/ House that belonged to all the homeless kids," rang out in cross-generation clarity, bridging the worlds of kids separated by decades and thousands of nervous miles. It was the news that stays news, an avatar of angst for tens of thousands, and a brutal memoir that keeps speaking.
For a second, they seem to veer on the verge of ending with "I Got a Right," their Iggy and the Stooges staple, but instead jolted the crowd with a fiery rendition of "Sonic Reducer," which proved even more bruising and behemoth than the one unlocked by Jerry Anomie of Legionaire's Disease and Doomsday Massacre at last month's Island Reunion. It amounted to a deft and deeply burrowed nod to a common musical ancestry, like desperado days made anew.
Tony, I'm proud to know you.