Modern Fix

Christmas Formal: Vandals, Ataris, Aquabats & Assorted Jellybeans – by Mike Moriatis


Oi! to Anaheim and everyone wins. Three days before Christmas and just in time for The Vandals Christmas Formal. Too bad if you missed it, it was one of the best shows of 2000. The venue was the immaculate Sun Theater in Anaheim. An unusual place for a punk show, but I wasn’t complaining. As soon as you walked through the door you were greeted with a fully stocked bar with a few hotties behind the counter. Clean bathrooms, great lighting, awesome sound system; I am at a punk show, right?

Fourteen dollars and two scotches later I heard The Ataris take stage. They are from my home town, Santa Barbara, and were definitely a crowd favorite tonight. The songs of the Ataris are artfully put together works of punk. If there were such a thing as a professional punk band, the Ataris would be it. They rolled through each song with amazing precision. They ended the set with, “San Dimas Highscool Football Rules” and invited an audience member to come up and play Kris’s lead on guitar. That song always rocks for closing a set.

The perennial Aquabats came one next. Even though one doesn’t like their style of music, you can’t help but enjoy their live show. I have been a fan of the zany on-stage antics for a few years. The crowd quickly absorbed the high energy that the crew exuded on stage as the Aqua-pits were reportedly being formed. They mixed up the set with some songs off of their new release, “Myths, Legends, and Other Amazing Adventures Vol. 2” on Fearless Records. At one point they had a Dominos pizza guy come on stage with food for the kids. The Aquabats always have fun whenever they play. I am sad to report that this was lead guitarist Chainsaw’s last appearance as an Aquabat. He has contracted a social disease (he will be attending college). The fans bid a fond farewell with a huge banner that expressed their sadness that he was leaving.

Three bands down and the highlight of the evening was soon to appear. I had seen a Vandals Christmas show a few years ago in Irvine and so far this show, by far, exceeded that one. With the lights dimmed and the curtains opening, I expected the Vandals to blast onto the stage. Warren Fitzgerald, dressed sharply in a Tux, calmly walked onto the stage with his guitar and took a seat center stage.

“I want to sing you all a song”.

He started strumming the guitar and I could immediately tell he was playing “Christmas is Hell” from their ‘Christmas’ album. Warren was so sincere in this depressing take on Christmas that one had to cry. Drummer Josh Freese’s dad helped out on Tuba. Okay, the depressing song was over and now it was time for the Vandals to kick ass. “Grandpa’s last Christmas” was the first song to erupt on stage. They went off the Christmas album for the first 5 songs before a track was played from the new album “Look what I almost stepped in”. They played a few more classics and then finished off songs from the Christmas album. I was disappointed that they didn’t play more songs off the new album, but hey, this was a Christmas Formal and you play Christmas songs at this time of year. The last song of the night was, my favorite, “I have a date” which was memorably performed by Warren. He finished the song by throwing out presents to the crowd and launching himself off the drum kit.

This writer truly enjoyed this show and have the photos prove it. Vandals shows are always an event to be remembered.