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Music is such a universally traded commodity. Recommending music and trading CDs/Vinyls with friends to show them amazing artists that you have come across. In the modern era we now have Spotify to listen to everything on and handing your friend a physical copy of music is mostly long gone. Now when a friend tells you of a band that you need to listen to, some of us let that fall on depth ears because we don’t want to search for them. Yet, when our friends know they are recommending a band they know we’ll love, they will be persistent until we give it a chance. And we realized we have been sitting on this amazing artist. This exchange occurred to me with a band called The Damned. My friend has been recommending them for years, and I regret not looking them up sooner. But I knew when The Damned came to the House of Blues in Anaheim with The Dictators, I finally had to cave to my friend and go see them. And I am so glad I did.

Opening the night was a band more tenured than I had thought. The Dictators from New York I shortly learned have been bringing punk rock to the masses since the 70s. Recently getting back together in only the past couple years after a twelve year hiatus, I was ready to rock with them. Original members Ross “The Boss” Friedman on guitar, and Andy Shernoff on bass are the support beam that keeps this band rocking. Friedman brings some gritty guitar riffs and stand out solos to the crowd, while Shernoff plucks away on some powerful bass lines. Keith Roth has stepped in on vocals and rhythm guitar and brings a bit more clean harmonies to his lead vocals that still bring the ruckus sound The Dictators are known for. Stepping in on drums is a cowbell master, original Blue Oyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard. Who lays into his kit with dynamics that bring tenacity and finesse. The Dictators played a solid set including songs like “New York, New York,” “Avenue A,” “Let’s Get the Band Back Together,” “Dominance and Submission,” “What Goes On,” “Pussy and Money,” “Faster and Louder,” and ending with “Stay With Me.” The Dictators are a legacy band that still knows how to get the crowd moving.

After a 30 minute set change, I was ready to see what The Damned were all about, and why my friend who not stop recommending them. Guitarist Captain Sensible walked on stage wearing a bright red beret and a red striped shirt. Not what you think of when you think punk band. But as the opening to their first song “Street of Dreams” built, you could feel the energy in the House of Blues building to a point ready to explode. Vocalist Dave Vanian stepped on stage with a slick black suit and fedora and a vibe that felt creepy and mysterious like Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  As Vanian’s baritone voice echoed through the venue, we were all drawn in deeper to The Damned’s sound. Keyboardist Monty Taylor wearing a skeleton head fitting suit, was the charismatic wild card of the band. Bassist Paul Gray knows how to drive a bassline and sync up with drummer Will Taylor to create a powerful low end that got the moshers to open the pit up! Now, I have been to the House of Blues many times, to see some of the heaviest bands in modern metal today. Those shows could not touch how big of a mosh pit The Damned opened up, as it nearly crossed the entire floor of the venue. The Damned played a set lasting an hour and forty five minutes, with 22 songs like “The Invisible Man,” “Bad Weather Girl,“ “You’re Gonna Realise,” “Beware the Clown,” “Wake the Dead,” “Motorcycle Man,” “Born to Kill,” “Love Song,” “Standing at the Edge of Tomorrow,” and “Neat Neat Neat.” We were also graced with not one, but two encored consisting of “Eloise” and “Smash it Up” for the first encore, and “Girl I’ll Stop at Nothing” and “New Rose” for the final encore.

Before heading into the final song, Captain Sensible made a comment that The Damned doesn’t get much media coverage, and that it is the fans that truly let them play these kinds of shows. For one of the original punk/goth bands from the UK, fans truly show up to The Damned shows with passion. Across the house of Blues fans came dressed in punk attire, classic gothic fashion, and rockabilly stylings. The mosh pit ebbed and flowed between people circle pitting and just flat out dancing. The love that people have for The Damned could be felt in energy of the room. I now see why my friend would not stop recommend this band to me. I must formerly apologize to The Damned for sitting on them for so long, as they should not be glossed 

Matt Martinez

Editor - Orange County

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