ROCKTOBERFEST 2014: Agent Orange Brings A Tidal Wave of Punk Goodness

CHICAGO: THE DOUBLE DOOR:  Chicago – Agent Orange – the poster read and underneath were big bold white lettering that said – “At The Double Door”. That is hypnotic – especially if you like punk music. The California based Agent Orange were the first punk band to integrate the surf sound back in 1979. They are legends in the pop culture crowd and I have been lucky enough to see them twice before so I figured one more time would be just about right. I had seen them in Detroit back in 1988 and they put on one hell of a show at Bookie’s. That was a rough crowd too. I actually remember seeing a 8 year old kid being served a pitcher of beer by some chick with a 2 foot red Mohawk. I remember the bassist having spurs on his boots which kind of freaked me out because the overall effect was so brutal.

It’s been years now. It’s 2014 but I got those fond memories of sonic punk precision peppered with madness. We’re all older now and yet – seeing that poster really drew me in closer. I like I said I was hypnotized by the notion of seeing them perform again.

The original member Mike Palm, or Agent Orange Mike as he’s known, was on stage and raring to go. There was a VIP version of the ticket and that got you in the door with some nice merch. There was a big banner on the back of the stage which had the Agent Orange logo and a stellar looking orange see-through orange drum kit that caught my eye. It was amped up and very loud. AO is still a trio and they really took off at a fantastic pace with a cover of, “Miserlou”.  This set the tone for the thrashing surf punk sound.

They sounded great and it was exciting to be butted up right against the front of the stage. Me and few other fans sort of stood there and awe. I took my usually spot stage left and managed to grab some nice shots of the band in action. There was a mosh pit with some rowdy types jumping around just for fun. Things didn’t get out of hand and the fans were in fairly good behavior. If things got a little much in the pit there was a balcony loft in the back of the club outfitted with couches and chairs. There wasn’t really a bad seat in the house .

The bar was well stocked and I opted for the Brooklyn Ale. This club looked a bit darker than what I remembered since I was there ten or eleven years ago. There was a downstairs club too which  was roped off.

Now there isn’t an official set list posted yet on this particular show but I was able to find one that was from around the same time. To the best of my memory these songs were performed. The surprise of the night for me was watching Agent Orange take on the Dead Kennedy’s classic, “Police Truck”.

  1. Miserlou 
  2. Everything Turns Grey 
  3. Tearing Me Apart 
  4. America 
  5. Secret Agent Man (Johnny Rivers cover)
  6. Breakdown 
  7. No Such Thing 
  8. Whistling Past the Graveyard 
  9. A Cry for Help in a World Gone Mad 
  10. I Kill Spies 
  11. El Dorado 
  12. Police Truck (Dead Kennedys cover)
  13. Too Young to Die 
  14. Mr. Moto (The Bel-Airs cover)
  15. Living in Darkness 
  16. Pipeline (Dick Dale cover)
  17. Bloodstains 
  18. The Last Goodbye 

The songs came whipping by super fast and there was very little banter in between songs. They didn’t take any breaks but I wasn’t complaining. They tore right into, “Tearing Me Apart” which is a song I adore. Agent Orange Mike just couldn’t stop grinning as he ripped into one song after another. This was clearly fan appreciation night.

 The T-shirts were stellar and I noticed some great CD’s and even a coffee mug, (Agent Mike said you will regret it on Sunday morning if you didn’t pick up one) and they looked pretty cool.

Supporting talent:   The Architects, Dummy and the Ridgelands


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“A VISUAL ASSAULT: REM Dissected Scene By Scene

The bottom video was shot in 1989 and is the closest thing I could find to what the original show opener was like in 1987. This was a departure for REM as much as it was for the audience. Just when you thought you knew the band they changed on you in a new and exciting way. It would take some time to recognize them once again. In the case of, “Document” the album had to grow on me. I noticed this sort of thing happening with the Smiths too.

There was one sequence in the video, not shown in this edition, when the words – “Want” and “Need” come on screen. The words flipped interchangeably and morphed into a strobe that said, “Need Weed” and I remember the crowd going a bit wild over that. This was Ann Arbor after all. There is some talk about the set list being accurate. I do not believe, “Orange Crush” or “Pop Song 89” was performed in 1987. Those songs were released after REM went to Warner Brothers. “Document” was the last album created under the I.R.S. Records label.

There is another version of, “The One I Love” done on the live tour. Stipe starts out with a slow intro and for a minute I thought the whole song would be done slow. It then kicks into the tempo we all know. The stage was also bathed in an eerie red light. How this song got perceived as a love song I’ll never know. It was about a sick love obsession.

Over the years I hear the young kids go, “Oh who cares about that stuff, REM was long before my time.” Trust me, you wish you were there. This show was nothing but historic.


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