Red Rockers rule, OK? Live in NOLA. (Photo by Lew Dewalt)
By Lew Dewalt
"Condition Red" ranks in my Top 5 punk albums of all time and as high as #2 recently behind the legendary Descendents "Milo Goes to College" LP. I still remember the day that I bought the record in a store in the Lehigh Valley Mall. I think I was in 6th or 7th grade. I grew up in a town where it seemed like everyone listened to punk rock. Quite rare especially since we had less than 500 kids in our high school in a town of less than 5,000 people. It seemed like I was the only one who owned the album and made cassette copies for everyone. Never in a million years did I think I would get to see the Red Rockers play those songs.
Well, here we are in 2023 and the band puts out a beautiful reissue of the album on red vinyl to celebrate the 40th anniversary. Thanks to Daghouse friend JGJR who gave me the heads up on this so I could pre-order the vinyl and the CD both of which have bonus tracks that were not on the original album. You will have to buy a copy (rumor has it the red vinyl first press is sold out and black vinyl will be coming out next). There is a great story in the multi-page liner notes about how the band recovered the master tapes they used to remix and remaster the album for this 40th anniversary version.
Whoa, my buddy, Earthdog (another friend from Daghouse), sends me a text that the Red Rockers are playing in New Orleans. Within 48 hours, I buy a ticket to the show while I am on vacation with my wife in Tampa. Next, I had to devise a way to get there and find a place to stay.
I find out a few days before the show (from Earthdog again) that the Red Rockers are doing a record signing at the Louisiana Music Factory record store in New Orleans on the Friday night before their show. I get into NOLA, drop off my bags at the hotel, and Uber over to the store. I buy 3rd copies of the album and the CD and have the three original members of the band autograph both of them. I can't believe this happened. The band was blown away when I show them a picture of the original album hanging on my wall next to punk classic by The Clash, The Ramones, The Damned and the Sex Pistols.
Finally, after four breweries in the 24 hours between meeting the band and getting to the historical venue (and some sleep in between), Tipitina's, my dreams are about to come true. I am going to get to see the Red Rockers play "Condition Red" in its entirety. However, I had to wade through 45 minutes of Bruiser Broussard Trio playing surf instrumentals. Twenty minutes would have been plenty of that for me. They did manage to get the crowd engaged.
The Red Rockers walk onto the stage to a recording of children speaking the Pledge of Allegiance, and then a Don Pardo Saturday Night Live introduction. I am ready for them to kick into "Guns of Revolution." But, what? They fool me and the roughly 1,000 people packed into the venue and play a cover of The Clash's "I'm So Bored with the USA." OK, that was their favorite band and many have said that the "Condition Red" version of the Red Rockers was the USA version of The Clash musically and political lyrically, too.
Now, I am ready for them to rip through the roughly 40-minute album. After three songs, they fool me again and play "Nothing to Lose." A few more from the album and then we get "United We Stand," a song I never heard before the reissue. Holy hell! They play their MTV hit song "China," but in what they call the demo version at a sped-up tempo and shortened versus the hit version. "Folsom Prison Blues"! Another surprise...they break into "My Generation" by The Who in the middle of the title track, "Condition Red." Before they end, we get two other non-LP tracks in "Missing in Action" and "Voice of America." What an incredible night.
Wait! They're back! This time they play cover songs that influenced them and have local artists from '80s NOLA handling vocals - "The Wait" (Pretenders), "Helter Skelter" (Beatles), "New Rose" (The Damned), "Cherry Bomb" (Runaways) and "Almost Ready" (NOLA's The Normals). Quite an unexpected treat!
MORE!!! They finish the night with a second playing of "Guns of Revolution"!
The evening felt and looked like an '80s high school reunion. I could not believe the amount of people that were hugging friends they probably have not seen in 20-40 years. Less than 48 hours after arriving in NOLA, I am back on a plane home with a smile on my face. I'm still singing Red Rockers songs 4 days later. Probably the best fuck-it-I-am-going-to-this-show decision I have made in my life. I WAS THERE!!!
P.S. Thanks, Creature (another Daghouse friend), for letting me tell my happy story on this blog. You and Cat need to keep up the good work, too!