Agent Orange returns with The Queers, Guttermouth, and The Atom Age

While Agent Orange was dominating the West Coast in the '80s, The Queers were fusing a style of their own on the East Coast

click to enlarge Agent Orange - JOHN LEACH
John Leach
Agent Orange

IT'S A punk rock bill for the ages.

Agent Orange, The Queers and Guttermouth have all performed in Savannah individually over the years, but the stacked touring bill is a first for our area.

Agent Orange came onto the scene in Fullerton, California in the late 1970s. Formed by vocalist/guitarist Mike Palm, bassist James Levesque, and drummer Scott Miller, the band fused punk rock with surf influences and shades of heavy metal.

The trio broke out with “Bloodstains,” a tightly-wound throat punch of a song. With a surf rock drum beat, Ventures-style guitar riffage, and a chorus built for cheering along—“Bloodstains! Speed kills! Fast cars! Cheap thrills! Rich girls! Fine wine!”—it would become the band’s definitive track.

“Bloodstains” appeared on Agent Orange’s self-released 7” debut in 1980 and eventually landed in the hands of Rodney Bingenheimer, a DJ at KROQ-FM. The influential disc jockey added the track to his 1980 compilation album Rodney on the ROQ, released on Posh Boy Records. Released among SoCal’s bustling hardcore scene, Agent Orange became a local favorite among skater punks.

That’s just how The Jinx’s Gil Cruz, who booked the show, discovered the band.

“I think I first heard them because they came free with a Thrasher Magazine subscription—they used to put out cassette tapes,” he remembers. “Growing up, I wasn’t really into punk rock, but one day me and my buddy were skating and listening to Mötley Crüe. This dude comes up and is like, ‘Listen to this.’ He gave us that tape. One side was Minor Threat and the other side was Agent Orange.”

click to enlarge Guttermouth

It was a gateway drug into punk rock for Cruz, who now books punk, rock ‘n’ roll, and metal bands for a living.

“That was probably my downfall, for sure!” he jokes.

While Agent Orange was dominating the West Coast in the ‘80s, The Queers were fusing a style of their own on the East Coast. Born out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Joe King (Joe Queer), Scott Gildersleeve (Tulu) and Jack Hayes (Wimpy Rutherford) and Keith Hages honed a Ramones-influenced style of melodic pop-punk (so heavily influenced that the band covered the seminal Ramones album Rocket to Russia in full and released it in 1998) that found vocal inspiration in the melodies and harmonies of The Beach Boys.

The band’s gone through a couple of breakups and lineup changes—currently, King is the only remaining original member—but still dishes out hits like “Punk Rock Girls” and “Fuck the World” on the road.

Of the four bands on the bill, Guttermouth has most recently released new material. The California band, formed in 1988 by vocalist Mark “Mercury” Adkins, guitarists Derek Davis and Scott Sheldon, bassist Clint Weinrich (later replaced by Stever Rapp), and drummer Captain James T. Nunn, released their first recordings in 10 years in 2016: “Got It Made” and “New Car Smell.” The sounds may be new, but they hearken the ‘90s sound the skate-punk goofballs solidified 20 years ago.

The Atom Age
The Atom Age

Rounding out the bill is The Atom Age, representing a new generation of Cali punk rock. Formed in 2008 in Oakland, the band found early influence in 1960s rock ‘n’ roll and R&B.

After years of touring and signing to iconic DIY ska/punk label Asian Man Records, The Atom Age has honed a rollicking sound with a six-member strong show. With two guitars, saxophone, organ, bass, and drums, it’s a dynamic performance that’s earned them a well-deserved spot on a touring bill of seasoned pros.

“I’m really excited for The Atom Age,” Cruz says. “They’re like Rocket From The Crypt. And they wear eyepatches on stage!”

For Cruz, being a fan and booking agent has its perks.

“Three of my favorite punk bands are playing The Jinx!” he grins. “For me, I used to have to drive to Atlanta or Jacksonville to see bands like Agent Orange. Now, we can book them at The Jinx. It’s a very fortunate job to have. It used to be there was no music in Savannah...[Jinx owner] Susanne [Guest Warnekros] and I used to make road trips for show, and now, it’s just a six dollar cab ride.”

Whether you’re a seasoned fan or have never seen the bands, Cruz encourages Savannahians of all stripes to attend.

“Agent Orange, those dudes still shred, from the first time I ever saw them in my whole entire life to now,” he says. “It’s very rare that Savannah gets to see something this awesome.”


About The Author

Anna Chandler

Connect Savannah Former Arts & Entertainment Editor Anna Chandler started writing about music after growing hoarse from talking about it nonstop. Born in Tennessee and raised in South Carolina, she has been a proud Savannahian for 8 years. She sings & plays guitar & accordion in COEDS and Lovely Locks.
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