A blast of punk before it went pop

Special to The Times

Joe Strummer was a rocker mostly, but one who was committed to exploring and exposing the darker corners of international conflict, corporate power, class warfare and the content of his own soul. Just as important, the late Clash leader confronted the status quo while somehow reaching the masses.

That legacy was celebrated Sunday at Fais Do Do by a gathering of Los Angeles bands who make punk rock in the classic mold, ill-tempered and personal, rather than in the modern era’s lucrative pop-punk formula. The four-hour show was a benefit for Future Forest, an environmental awareness group favored by Strummer.

The top-billed Humpers and the Leaving Trains don’t make the kind of music that gets played much on the radio. They linger far below the mainstream radar, commercially ignored but still thriving creatively in their corner of agitated punk.

The five-piece Humpers mixed originals with Clash songs, including “1977,” which was frantic and abrasive.


Closing the night was Harry the Dog, which performed the raw, explosive “White Riot” with a dull roar.

Most memorable were the Leaving Trains, who played an hour of Clash songs and original tunes deeply inspired by Strummer’s music. “Clash City Rockers” and “I’m So Bored With the U.S.A.” were razor-sharp and subversively simple.

Singer-guitarist Falling James delivered meandering commentary between songs, rambling about his distrust of Walter Cronkite and Captain Kangaroo (hardly contemporary figures) and his convoluted support for U.S. troops in Iraq.

Then one fan yelled, “Shut up and play!” Which was good advice. The music communicated enough. Loud, stupid, smart, inspired. We need more.