Punk Invasion 2K17 | Concert Review | The Observatory – Santa Ana, CA

Gloria Skulls

On July 29th 2017 Concrete Jungle Entertainment hosted one of the biggest Punk festivals for a second year in a row in the heart of Orange County California. Punk Invasion 2K17 and 2K16 are probably the biggest punk festivals allowed in Southern  California since British Invasion 2K6 (2006). British Invasion 2k6 Riot is a memorable event in the Punk community because that’s what caused the end of Punk Festivals for Southern California for a long time. 10 years later Concrete Jungle Entertainment brought us what we were all waiting for, and for a second year in a row they keep thriving with a successful event that offered over 20 punk bands and big names like the English pioneers Special Duties, and  Lower Class Brats, Toxic Holocaust, The Virus, Peter & The Test Tube Babies and many many more. It was a punk music paradise. It brought individuals together from all over California and some even came out from out of state to witness this phenomenon take place. Some of the concert-goers traveled from Arizona, Colorado, NY and of course the bands that traveled from across the globe to share the same room with us even if it was just for one night, that night we were all united by our passion and love for punk music. 

The doors at The Observatory opened at 2pm for the concert-goers, there was an out door stage and an inside stage. The outdoor stage was kind of secluded with a small patio space and it felt very intimate almost like a private show. The stage was very close to the ground it gave me a “backyard show” feeling to it, which to me was perfect! Growing up as punk kid I spent most of my weekends at backyard shows with friends enjoying each others bands on small stage like the one at The Observatory. The inside stage was spacious with a second floor with a seating area where you can take a break from all the moshing that literally went on all day! 

The Pioneers

Special Duties are a Punk Rock band from Colchester England, created in 1977 by school friends Steve Green (Steve Arrogant) and Steve Norris (Steve Duty) and Nigel Baker. In 1980 Bart Povah joined the band and soon after they recruited drummer Stuart Bray (Stu) then many years later Dave Sadler joined Special Duties in 2012.

First time I had the pleasure of meeting Special Duties in person was 2016 at a show in my hometown CA. Special Duties was one of the first punk bands that I discovered during my teenage punk years, been a fan ever since. I had the opportunity to catch up with them before they hit the stage at Punk Invasion 2K17, and had a chat with Steve Duty (lead singer) 

So Steve, why do you like performing in the States, I know you come out here often to perform what part of performing here do you enjoy?

Steve Duty:” The punk scene here is fresh,when we play in the U.K it’s like playing for people of our generation and even tho their movement has stayed with them, it hasn’t gone fresh so its not passed to the next generation, people are not as affected. When we come to the states its like everything we used to talk about people still hate the government, people still hate the way they are treated, there is not enough jobs for everybody, the welfare state sucks, so when we come here we think that what we used to sing about means more here than any where in the world and there is a younger generation keeping the music going and the scene alive where as in the U.K its a just bunch of guys and ladies our age who still enjoy the music and the camaraderie but its not a scene that’s going to live on and on, so when we come here its a breath of fresh air”. 

Back in 1977 when you first started the band and you where really young, did you think back then that 40 years from then you would still be touring?

Steve Duty: “No, not at all. We never thought we would tour. When we first did it, we did it because we thought we had something to say and we got the opportunity to write some lyrics and stand in front of people and tell everybody what we thought of the fucked up world, that’s what we did. (Steve paused) No body thought that we would still be doing it and we still cant believe that were still doing it. Stuart our drummer has never been to California before hes like an exited child, hes been to the East Coast but never to California and he absolutely loves it, he cant believe how friendly the people are and how much they know about the music and how much they know about us, how informed they are and how much we mean to them. Bart (the guitarist) and I were saying how delighted we are for Stuart, hes been a friend of mine for 38 years and were delighted that hes here to see what we saw last year and how much it meant to everyone last year that’s why were here this year. We can’t believe it, that’s a simple answer, No, were amazed that there’s still an interest in what we do”.      

If you weren’t touring and you no longer had the band, what do you think you would be doing?

Steve Duty: “We would be regular old guys, you know doing regular old things like walking the dog and cutting the lawn and, And drinking some tea? Steve Duty : (laughs) And having some English tea on a Sunday out on the lawn and just walking on the park just regular things that English people do, so yeah I think we all thought we would just grow old. But….. yeah punk always pulls out something else about you. All of us have gotten to much going on and for us this is just the coolest hobby in the whole world and we all love it for that, and that’s why we all promised each other that we would never stop doing it until people don’t come, because this is just the coolest hobby we all have and its just great”.

The Special Duties, how did you come across that name for the band?

Steve Duty: “When we first started we were called X-pelled, Steve (Steve Arrogant) and I. I got thrown out of school, I got thrown out of two schools and lasted one day in one school that was a record, I actually got turned around at the gate by the head master on the second day because I was so bad, I was 10 years old, Oh my gosh really?  Yeah, yeah I was a horrible child I just used to fight everybody, You were a horror child! Yeah I was a horror child and so I thought X-pelled was the perfect name. And then I got taken away into care for a couple of years and then I was allowed home again back with my parents at age 12. Then I met Steve (Arrogant), Steve and I loved the music and we found this bond, we were the weird kids, we were the nasty kids that nobody liked and it was just us a couple of kids that dressed weird and thankfully I learned to look after myself so I used to look after Steve, we used to fight anyone that wanted to fight us, we would fight the jocks as you guys called them here. Then we got to ’77 so we said come on lets do this, lets form the band we called ourselves X-pelled it was like the right thing to do and then a friend of ours who is no longer with us, he got killed. He happened to find himself one day inside a school, I cant say anything more than that but he happened to find himself inside the school and they had these guys at school that where like monitors or special guys, the guys that were responsible. So the guys that were responsible always had to wear a badge and those badges said Special Duties on them and so our friend Paddy, God rest his soul, happened to come by these badges. There was a couple of hundred badges and we thought that’s cool! We got two hundred badges lets change the name of the band from X-pelled to Special Duties, and so we changed the name of the band over night to Special Duties. We took those badges and went around going “Were in a band, were called Special Duties” and we made everyone wear them, so all these punks locally were wearing a badge that said Special Duties and about two hundred people turned out to our gig like “Special Duties who are they?!” “Their a cool band you need to come and watch” and all these guys turned up with Special Duties badges on them, it was hilarious! Do you have any of those badges left? No, but you know what, honestly if anybody had one, I would love to see it because they are just the rarest thing ever”. 

You know a lot of people say “Punk is dead” its never coming back, do you feel that way? I mean you been in the industry for many many years. 

Steve Duty: “No, no, bigger and better than ever. I really do, I think coming here is an injection for you to make you realize that Punk is not dead. Because the people that are here, are much younger I mean there are people here who are 19, 20. Probably even younger than that. Yes exactly so the punk scene for me will never die, I think its just handed across, people getting other people involved and its such a screwed up world that people are just saying Yeah you know what, I was the weird kid at school that everybody really didn’t like, I was the smelly kid, I was the nasty kid, or had problems at home or parent abuse, but what ever it was… You found home? Yeah! I found a home in punk and that’s a really, you know I never thought of it like that but it was my salvation, it was the thing that kept me straight and this, with the friends that I made kept me… A lot of my friends thought I would end up in prison and this kept me off that track for sure a lot of my friends that just kept me straight and that’s important. So yeah I found a home in punk, I never thought about it like that, that’s a really good way of putting it, Yeah, I found a home in punk all the affected kids yeah everybody finds themselves here that’s a good way to think about it. Stuart our drummer and I have had a lot of similarities in our life, we ended up in a children’s home, he got taken away from his parents same as I did we lived similar life’s so when we fist got together when he became our drummer and we started talking about our life, they were so similar, we were on the different paths but the paths where the same and he could have gone really some where far off the rails and I think through coming together and working together and being friends for almost 40 years it kept us straight so its a good way to think of it, I like that”.

So my last question, I don’t want to take all your time, Steve Duty: I’m delighted to talk to you. Thank you, so what advice would you give any new upcoming bands that are trying to make it in punk?

Steve Duty: “Those people that look at us and say “Wow Special Duties are my heroes” Were regular guys, I’ve told you a lot about my life, yeah, in fact were some Special guys in some aspects but were still put our trousers one leg at a time, we don’t do anything unusual and we were the band that no body listened to, we were the band that came on first, we were the band that nobody liked, we were the band that couldn’t play our instruments, and eventually you start to say, you know what, we got a little bit of a following and then one or two more people and then we get a little bit of radio play and then we get our first single out that we paid to have out then some one likes it, you just need to be consistent, put on a good show if one person turns up put on a great show, if a thousand people turn up, they get the same show, doesn’t matter anyone who pays their money to come and watch you, put on a good show for them it doesn’t matter, leave your ego home, come and do a great show, get people to talk about you and once people say “their really nice guys, they do really good shows” then more people will come. So yeah we all been the first band playing in an empty room while everybody is in the parking lot, we’ve all done it. So its important to know that we all start at the bottom”.

Steve, I want to thank you for the interview, and I’m glad to see you again.

 Steve Duty: “My pleasure and great to see you too”.

After the interview we hung out for a while with Steve and the guys ( Bart, Stu, Dave) we said our good byes and headed inside for The Lower Class Brats set. Lower Class Brats always puts out a great show, the energy on stage and the interaction with the crowd is amazing. Never disappointed when we see LCB. Some songs performed were Ultra Violence, Just Like Clock Work, I’m A Mess, Shot Up, Shot Down, and many other classics. 

The Special Duties came on stage around 11:50 pm to close out Punk Invasion 2K17. They did warn me that the first two songs where a surprise, they have not performed those songs in about 30 years. But that night was the perfect night to open the show with I Think Of You, followed by S.P.G.  It was perfect, the crowd was hipped and exited to see these guys onstage. They ended the show with Violent Society, a crowd favorite. 

Punk Invasion 2K17 was a success, and we hope to see it come back next year, and years after that.


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All photos are © 2017 Jasmin Foster.