Cinco de Mayo has always been a good excuse to throw a fiesta, pound back some drinks, and most importantly Manic Hispanic’s yearly Cinco de Manic. This show was on tres de mayo, or May 3 for the gringo,s at The OC Observatory in Santa Ana. Sometimes the quality of a show is rated on how much beer is thrown around and if that is the measure, the night was top notch. This was one crazy night for fans, of not only Manic Hispanic, but also Swingin’ Utters, The Gears and Des and The Cendents.
If you haven’t figured it out, Des and The Cendents cover tracks by old school punkers The Decedents with more than just a puny twist. This energetic female fronted cover band got the night to a great start. The three females up front bring that iconic punk sound with short dresses and all kinds of attitude. Their only male member rounded out the group on drums. The girls really brought their own fun style to Decedents Anthems like “Suburban Home,” “Clean Sheets,” and “Hope,” but the old school homage didn’t stop there.
Long time rockers The Gears were next on the bill, and frontman Axxel G. Reese brought both theatrics and fun to the stage. He appeared with a bandana covering his face but quickly threw it side stage and broke into the fast paced punk/surfabilly songs the band is known for. The Gears got their start back in 1978 and still hang on to original members Axxel G. Reese on vocals and Kidd Spike on guitar and vocals. They are now are joined by Sean Sift on drums and vocals and Mike Manifold on Bass. The band’s distant origins became most evident when they hit the song “Don’t Be Afraid to Pogo,” and asked the crowd to follow their lead and pogo. Sadly most of the crowd weren’t around during the pogo era and had no idea what the former concert essential jumping looked like. Moshing has endured, pogoing, not so much in SoCal.
San Francisco based Swingin’ Utters added their 25+ years of punk to the bill. The 5 piece veteran group fronted by Johnny “Peebucks” Bonnel got the crowd moshing with favorites such as “Five Lessons Learned” and “Pills and Smoke.” The set was powerful and included bizarre moshing fans. A person made his way around the circle pit in full handstand, a guy wobbled along with a beer cup balancing on top of his head. These additions were weird but entertaining and made the set stand out.
When Manic Hispanic hit the stage there was a mad dash to the pit for some serious moshing. The OC based band has a huge following and these fans were out in full force at this local (pre) Cinco de Mayo celebration. For over 20 years the Mexican punk band has been switching the lyrics to popular punk songs and giving them a Chicano flavor. One of the night’s hits was “Rudy Cholo” a parody of Rancid’s “Ruby Soho.” The tongue in cheek lyrics and banter between members of the band, similar to punk rock idols NOFX, make the show fun for even those not attempting to mosh. Other crowd favorites were “If the Vatos are United” and “Mommy’s Little Cholo.” Even first timers can enjoy Manic’s songs because they are familiar with the original versions and certainly recognize the humor in the lyrics twisted and re-written by this band.
Mike Gamborno (Cadillac Tramps) and Steve Soto (The Adolescents, Agent Orange, 22 Jacks, etc) along with other members of Cadillac Tramps, The Grabbers and more take on pseudonyms such as Jefe and El Hoakie Loco, Oso, and Tio as part of the Manic Hispanic act. This crazy bunch provides a fitting tribute to Mexican culture on America’s favorite Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo. The beer flows freely and sometimes is hurled into the crowd from the stage throughout the evening’s celebration. The band continuously interacts with the crowd, especially the “crazy white chicks” they call out. The band even takes time to call out and criticize any undesirable behavior the witnessed in the crowd. The band’s constant interaction with the fans made for one engaging and interesting night, but after the members came out for an encore their banter became more of just rambling to kill time. Cinco De Manic certainly had its high points, but the encore hit a low.
Despite the few lulls Cinco de Manic packed hilarious jokes, kegs of beer, and loads of punk rock history into the OC Observatory witch can always be applauded. Take your Cinco de Mayo plans to new heights next year when Manic Hispanic will undoubtedly return for their annual festivities and antics.