T.S.O.L.

Ask anyone to describe legendary West Coast punk outfit T.S.O.L., and along with tales of larceny and a fast, "dark punk" sound with chorused-out guitars, they'll tell you those guys were huge: Drummer Todd Barnes was the shortest at 6 feet even; guitarist Ron Emory is 6-foot-2, and bassist Mike Roche towers at 6-foot-4. Singer Jack Grisham stands 6-foot-3.

Back in the '80s, T.S.O.L. caught a lot of flak for being too good-looking for a punk band.

As Grisham says now, he much preferred being a fit surfer/skater and "pulling prom queens."

Probably the best demonstration of what Grisham can do onstage happened on January 8, 1983. At SIR Studios on L.A.'s Sunset Boulevard, T.S.O.L. were headlining a show; fellow OC punks Social Distortion and Hawthorne's Redd Kross were also on the bill.

The riot squad was outside, as per usual with punk shows back then, and they weren't happy.

But Grisham wanted to make them work for it. And so, during his band's set, instead of ordering the crowd to throw bottles and engage in general chaos (as he normally would have), he told everyone to simply sit down. That way, he thought, the police would have to take the time to drag kids out of the place one by one.

"And it was, like, on key, 2,500 punks dropped to the floor," Grisham says. "That's a lot of power. There are guys in politics that'd love that kind of power, but I didn't dig it. After that, people kept screaming, 'Jack, tell us what to do!' There was a backlash. 'Jack was God.' And 'Jack was my hero.' And I didn't want anything to do with it."

Of course, the peaceful sit-in idea didn't work for long: With Grisham's battle cry -- "Let's get 'em!" -- the crowd ended up surging into the street, and then the bottle throwing and bodily injury started.
Sun., June 26, 7 p.m., 2011

 
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