Second to actually being there, the Live From the Masque cds (3 cds in all, the first one is reviewed here) are the best and one of the only live audio documents for a chaotic time in the punk rock scene of late 1970s California.
Volume One compiles the blistering, sneering, sets of 4 of the great punk rock bands, The Weirdos, The Bags, The Germs and The Skulls on February 24 & 25, 1978. The concerts were a benefit to help with legal costs for the owners of the Masque, a hangout for all of the punks bands, and which was getting shutdown because of building code violations. Recorded on a 4-track, this is definitely an audio document like a bootleg and not a first rate high budget recording. But what an incredible audio document it is.
The cd starts with the blast that is the Weirdos, who never really were captured in such a raw state in the recording studio. It seems that a lot of the lead vocals are buried and they are still trying to get the recording mikes in the right place during their set, but none of their energy or amazing songs get too lost in the mix. From the New York Dolls glam punk of Teenage and the trash rock of Life Of Crime; from the revved up Solitary Confinement which I'm sure the New Bomb Turks have listened to 100 times, and the crunch of Destroy All Music - ending on the tour de force performance of Neutron Bomb. I don't think anyone will be complaining about sound quality - they will be wanting more of The Weirdos. Well you'll have to get their studio recordings if you want more because there are only 7 Weirdos songs.
Next up is the brazen stomp of the all female band, The Bags. If abrasive women is your thing than check out The Bags (and I mean that sincerely). Musically they remind me of the mid-90s when this kind of sound came back briefly in the UK, with bands like Delicate Vomit and International Strikeforce - very cool, but something you need to be in the mood for. There are 5 songs by The Bags here all worth checking out called TV Dinner, Violent Girl, Animal Call, Chainsaw and Survive.
Next we get the chaos and mayhem that was The Germs recorded live. Probably the sloppiest band here, you might even be hard pressed to recognize some of their songs if you compared them to the studio versions. But these live Germs songs would liven up any punk rock radio show and that's what matters. Personal favorites are the versions of David Bowie's Hang On To Yourself and the classic Germ's song Forming.
We end with the more basic but still exciting punk band The Skulls. Eventually there was a whole school of bands that sounded like The Skulls but there really isn't anything wrong with hearing them pound through a few songs. The Skulls do a frenetic cover version of Eddie Cochran's Nervous Breakdown and a what can only be a classic punk anthem by now Kill Me Kill Me Kill.
I picked up this cd back around when it came out in 1996, and it was definitely great to give it another listen after all of these years because you not only get a raw look at some great music - it's always great to check out a scene as it was happening.