Circle Jerks / 7 Seconds / Negative Approach – Orange Peel, Asheville, NC & Masquerade, Atlanta, GA, July 20th & 22nd 2022

  • Pete Gross posted
  • Reviews

Circle Jerks / 7 Seconds / Negative Approach

Orange Peel, Asheville, NC & Masquerade, Atlanta, GA - July 20th & 22nd 2022

Hippies follow the Grateful Dead around on tour. Punks follow tours like these. And with friends offering me free tickets in both Asheville and Atlanta for the Circle Jerks, 7 Seconds and Negative Approach tour, doing a discount double take of this must-see punk event was a no-brainer. I figured between these 3 bands you could hear over 100 classic punk songs live in less than 3 hours.

Show number one saw Negative Approach open at 8:00pm sharp to an already enthusiastic Asheville crowd of about 600. This was my first punk show in Asheville and I was immediately impressed with the complete chaos-style 80’s pit that erupted. There was no order to this pit. People just losing their minds in all kinds of styles of skanking. It was 1983 calling and Negative Approach’s sound matched perfectly with the Orange Peel sound system and vibe. It was like you were in their garage or warehouse (where they undoubtably live) and it all succinctly matched. Singer John Brannon is clearly touched in the head. He stares the crowd down like he is going to throw a brick through all he hates in society and humanity. Guitarist Harry Richardson never faces the crowd. Instead he leans into his old 70’s Marshall Cabinet and summons the feedback from pre-hardcore hell. It’s an intense time travel to the early 80’s punk scene. These guys are clearly stuck in a ground hogs day-like scenario and it was just amazing to briefly jump into their loop.

The crowd surged to a nearly sold-out 1000 punk limit as 7 Seconds were set to take the stage. And this is where things went sideways. The crowd and bands could tolerate the heat and humidity on hand this Wednesday night, however the sound system of the historic Orange Peel could not. The sound became very muddy. The only place the sound was decent was directly in front of the stage close-up. Like you had to be in the pit for it to sound ok. Keith Morris’s microphone was going out and had to be replaced. The Wednesday night crowd that drove from parts all across North and South Carolina was enthusiastic and the bands played well, but let’s just move onto Atlanta.

As I entered the Atlanta show in the Heaven room at The Masquerade, Kevin Seconds was greeting everyone just within the front doors. Shocking, as this tour was originally scheduled for April, however was postponed when literally all the bands caught Covid. Upon meeting Kevin Seconds I was left speechless. I almost couldn’t get words out of my mouth to say to him. I think I told him how much I loved him and how much of an influence he has been on my life, but who knows. And I think I told him that I saw him back in 86 at the Cameo Theater in Miami Beach to which he let out a huge gracious smile. I was truly star struck. I have met, hung out and smoked out with many punk heroes and huge rock stars. But in this moment I was floored. How could I possibly express in a just one minute exchange how much hope, positivity, inspiration, strength and fun this wonderful person, I love so much, and hold so dear, has given to my life. I got the selfie with him and walked away on cloud 9 in total shock.

Negative Approach took that garage sound and had it pumped through the massive Masquerade sound system. It was huge, powerful and sent the Atlanta crowd into their customary circle pit. Songs like Ready to Fight, Dead Stop, Nothing and the Iggy Pop and the Stooges cover I Got a Right all sent the crowd into an early 80’s frenzy. I’d also have to say the song Evacuate live is about as bad-ass as any punk song I’ve ever heard at any show ever. Youtube it now. At one point NA played 4 songs in less than 2 minutes. John Brannon never spoke to the crowd. He just stared at the crowd like he was staring into an abyss of mayhem that he would forever be doomed to dwell. Bass player Ron Sakowski looks like he was swiped at knife-point from Swedish vikings Amon Amarth. It’s all very imposing and I want to get my ass boot-stomped into the gutter like this again.

7 Seconds took the stage in front of a nearly sold out 1000+ crowd of all ages punks. Kevin Seconds voice is simply phenomenal at this point. All these years of singing acoustic folk songs on IG has served him well. He nailed every note with passion. Steve Youth is arguably still the best bass player in Punk: lightning riffs, climbs and incredible rhythmic feel. His energy is unmatched. And The Masquerade sound system was flexing its’ muscles and kissing its’ biceps in the face of the historic Orange Peel.

7 Seconds’ drummer Troy Mowat could not make this tour so fill-in drummer Sammy Siegler from Youth of Today/Judge had huge Chuck Taylor sneakers to fill. Troy Mowat is one of the best punk drummers of all time. Troy’s drumming has so much feel to it. The exact nuance of the openings and closings of his hi hats is almost impossible for any drummer to nail. They would literally had to be playing 7 Seconds cover songs or been in a fast paced punk band for 20 years to be able to pull it off. That being said, Sammy Siegler is that man, was amazing and nailed it. His hi hat skills were dead on. His drum rolls were tight and kicked back into the beats with the same flash-like dead-on timing as Troy’s. His volume control and feel during fast parts and tempo changing riffs were exactly where they should have been. #HighPraise.

Older songs like It’s Not Just Girls Fun, We’re Gonna Fight, Walk Together Rock Together and I’m Gonna Stay Young Till I Die, all whipped the Atlanta crowd into circular disorder. The melodic songs like New Wind, Tied Up, Keep a Light On and Somebody Help Me Scream all sounded full of emotion. Bobby Adams’ big and joyous guitar parts roared out along with Kevin’s passionate singing. Each song had me holding back tears while singing along. 

At one point Kevin Seconds said he loved living in the U.S.A. however he was not happy with our Supreme Court. The band launched into Regress No Way and the red-state crowd went full on blue-state nuts. This was, surprisingly to me, the only political banter put forth by any band on both nights. 7 Seconds ended their hardcore-defining set with the all-too currently topical cover of Nena‘s 99 Red Balloons. The entire crowd went so bonkers, when the song’s break-down drum beat kicks in after the first verse, that the 61-year old Kevin Seconds forgot the lyrics to the next verse. I’ve only seen this level of lyrical forgetfulness once before. **Story below. I wouldn’t keep you hanging!

Next, Keith Morris strolls out onto stage, like he just walked into your living room, and starts casually talking to the crowd about Circle Jerks history and personal business. It will be interesting to see if Keith keeps things personal and introspective during their upcoming European leg of this punk-as-fuck tour. Keith’s banter is almost as important to a CJ show as the music is. Again, like Kevin Seconds, Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Dick Lucas (Subhumans), Keith Morris is one of the most influential people on my life. Witnessing him live is witnessing not only musical but societal history. His voice is as intact and relevant as ever. 

Circle Jerks set is almost all Group Sex and Wild in the Streets as they are celebrating the 42 and 40 anniversaries of both albums. Which I owned both by 1983 when I was 13 years old. Songs like Beverly Hills, Wild in the Streets, World Up My Ass, I Just Want Some Skank all sounded fierce, mean. Current drummer Joey C. (Queens of the Stone Age/Wasted Youth/The Bronx/Danzig) like John Brannon is clearly touched in the head. His hard hitting, angst-as-fuck, precise drumming is in stark contrast to all the jazz-based CJ drumming that has come before it. Bombastic, pit-inducing, it couldn’t be better. Particularly,  Back Against the Wall, really benefited from Joey’s drumming. *I have a personal Joey C. story myself at the end of this concert review.

Only one track, I and I, was played from my favorite CJ album, 1985’s Wonderful. Greg Hetson’s guitar muting technique on this song is so infectious, so tight, so crunchy yet  smooth. It sends me into a trance. Make no mistake Greg Hetson and Brian Baker are the two best punk guitarists in punk rock today and of all-time (along with Dr. Know of Bad Brains, the late Todd Youth of Murphy’s Law and a couple of other axemen). Watching Greg Hetson live is witnessing guitar history. He plays his Gibson SG with an unmatched punk rock mastery that has driven an entire movement. His iconic punk rock jumps are still there. He is a living legend to be celebrated live.

After CJ’s set I was able to thank bassist, Zander Schloss, for his continued patience with Keith Morris. He laughed, said “yeah right!”, and I snapped a covid-safe selfie with him. At that point I started to think about the fact that if the singer’s voice can still belt out the lyrics and the band’s drummer can still keep the pace, these punk bands can keep going into their old, older and oldest ages. This was overall a 5-star 2-show Punk Rock experience! Now CJ, please do a Wonderful anniversary tour in 2025!

*circa 1985/1986, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Fireman’s Hall, I had the honor of meeting Joey “C” Castillo while putting on a Wasted Youth show (for which Joey C. played drums). I was 15 or 16 years old and promoting national punk shows with my friend John Kennedy. About 500 people had already gathered when my band opened. Our singer, Clinton Brannan, who must be distantly related to Negative Approach’s John Brannon because he was equally as crazy, caused a riot to ensue. The cops chased everyone from the venue. WY did not get to play.

We met up with Wasted Youth at an Irish Pub in Ft. Lauderdale and boarded their small tour bus. It was like a small school or community bus if I remember correctly. I paid them $700. It was more than their guarantee I believe. They agreed to play the show the next day at someone’s house in the town of Davie. We moved the P.A. system to the house and alerted the scene. The next morning the show went off as a matinee and punks were moshing in the living room and stage diving off a rope and tire swing in the back yard. Joey C. played his mother-fucking ass off in that grimy little house. He and the whole Wasted Youth band were gracious to me and the South Florida scene that weekend. Unfortunately the next day the rented P.A. system was stolen and my 16-year-old ass was in big trouble.

**The only other time I’ve seen a singer completely blank on his lyrics was at the Cameo Theater,Miami Beach,1986. After ingesting giant lines of cocaine back stage off of a cheap folding table, singer Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) forgot the words to his penultimate song Peace Sells! Dave just stared out into the sold-out crowd as they chanted all the lyrics for him.