“What an ultimate collection of misfits and weirdos,” Bl’ast! vocalist Clifford Dinsmore said early on during the almost-three-hour debut show by Teenage Time Killers, the loose collective of punk and heavy-metal icons headed by Corrosion of Conformity drummer Reed Mullin and My Ruin guitarist Mick Murphy, and named after a song by U.K. underground institution Rudimentary Peni. Dinsmore’s assessment was dead-on: Nowhere else could you find a collection of all-star artists so genuinely fired up for a marathon performance of many of the songs they first loved as teenagers.
Saturday’s gig at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles was the only live show scheduled so far for Teenage Time Killers, who released their cheekily titled debut, Greatest Hits Vol. 1, in July. While the show was billed as a one-off, you have to wonder if Mullin, Murphy and their cronies were testing the waters to see if it’s feasible to bring this sweaty underground circus on the road.
The show, which never lagged despite its lengthy run time, was rooted in nostalgia for Eighties metal and punk. As both genres have aged into the 21st century, it’s become increasingly common for musicians — even those that strayed from their heavy beginnings — not just to honor their roots but to relive them or record with their old heroes. On the 2002 compilation Rise Above, Henry Rollins celebrated his former band Black Flag with the help of future Teenage Time Killers participants Neil Fallon (Clutch) and Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour). And in 2004, Dave Grohl, who played bass on roughly half of the tracks on Greatest Hits Vol. 1, released his own love letter to the underground, Probot. Grohl, currently touring with the Foo Fighters, couldn’t attend Saturday night’s show, though many of his earliest inspirations took his place.
The night played out like a jam session with a top-notch house band, as a rotating cast of guest vocalists roared their way through roughly 50 songs, including both Teenage Time Killers originals and covers representing every generation of heavy music, including songs by punk and metal pioneers such as Bad Brains, Celtic Frost, Misfits and Cro-Mags. Articles of Faith frontman Vic Bondi removed his glasses and stalked the stage as he sung a raucous rendition of the Stooges’ “TV Eye”; Fallon starred in a speedier version of MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams”; and My Ruin’s Tairrie B. Murphy led the charge on a visceral cover of Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick.”
Pete Stahl, of golden-age hardcore act Scream (which formerly featured Grohl on drums), jumped into the audience and demanded that the band replay the TTK song “Plank Walk” when the crowd didn’t respond with enough energy. Tony Foresta, of Richmond thrash revivalists Municipal Waste, was the ideal choice to cover “Ignorant People” and “Time To Die” by legendary D.C. hardcore band Void — staccato classics now viewed as benchmarks in the punk-metal union known as crossover. Foresta worked the crowd into a near-frenzy when the band played the opening minute of Slayer’s “Raining Blood.”
The Fonda, a 1920s-era venue nestled in the heart of Hollywood, might have felt like an unlikely setting for a celebration for music bred in basements, garages and all-ages clubs. Yet in other ways, it was the perfect location for Teenage Time Killers’ live emergence. Hollywood was the place where metal fought for its turf in the late Eighties, when glam bands ruled the strip and the underground grew out of both cities and suburbs. Judging by the crowd gathered to hear these old classics in 2015, the victor was clear: The underground won.
So the gig was somewhat of a delayed victory lap that brought together multiple generations. Trenton Rogers of Chaotic Justice joked that he was “the teenager in Teenage Time Killers,” after playing a bristling cover of Agent Orange’s “Bloodstains,” which sounded extra ferocious with a thick rhythm-section foundation. Later, 65-year-old Lee Ving of Fear, one of the musicians featured in the landmark underground documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, showed that age can be an asset when it comes to aggressive music. Playing a set largely comprised of Fear originals, Ving defied the unspoken belief that heavy music is a young man’s game.
The evening’s best performance came from Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe, who expended a full show’s worth of energy in about 10 minutes. His take on Black Flag’s “My War” honored the original with rawness and emotional intensity, yet added his gravelly voice and invective drawl. Blythe sounded almost hoarse as he shouted the song’s “You’re one of them!” refrain.
Slipknot’s Taylor closed the evening with a set combining TTK track “Egobomb” with covers of songs by the Weirdos, Black Flag (“Rise Above”) and Misfits (“Where Eagles Dare”). Many of the previously featured vocalists returned to the stage for a rousing performance of the latter two songs. But it was Ving who had provided the perfect send-off earlier when he said: “I want to say goodnight to all my fellow teenagers.” Adolescent angst — and the music it birthed — remains timeless.