Finely Aged

Posted September 2, 2010 in Music

When punk fans hear the word “youth,” chances are that the images conjured up in their heads aren’t of tween sensations like Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus, but rather from the hardcore scene that thrived during the early ’80s, including bands like Youth of Today and Wasted Youth. Bearing this in mind, it makes a bit more sense that seminal L.A. rockers Youth Brigade, a band that began playing their brand of idealistic hardcore a whole three decades ago, would stand firm and keep their name well into their later years.

“The name is not exactly age appropriate anymore, because we’re no longer ‘youth.’ Actually, we weren’t even ‘youth’ when we started,” laughs frontman Shawn Stern, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday. As would be expected, however, for a punk icon like Stern, “youth” is much more of an abstract concept.


“I just think that it’s really all about what’s up in your head and not some chronological age. My grandfather, when he was in his 70s, was a bigger kid than a lot of kids that were 12 years old [ . . . ] That sort of idealism you have when you’re a kid should never leave. What’s the point of living if you’re not having a good time?”

While having a good time is definitely an important part of the equation, even more in line with the ideals represented by Youth Brigade is the concept that the youth of any given generation has the power and the capacity to create change for themselves, a belief that largely contributed to Shawn and his brother Mark (also the drummer for Youth Brigade) forming BYO [Better Youth Organization] Records.


“You never know what day is gonna be your last day, so you might as well enjoy life to the fullest. But at the same time, have the idealism that you can change things and be a part of the solution and not the problem, and not just be a consumer and not just be force-fed crap from the mass media that tries to tell you to get married, go to school, have kids, be a consumer, conform, conform, conform,” says Stern.

One can always count on a large portion of youth to stay politically active, but at the same time, Stern cites a growing number of distractions, especially in the digital age of today, in contributing to the dangers of potential stagnation and apathy.

“I think punk rock wouldn’t exist if there weren’t young people that are politically committed, but I also think that back in my day, we had disco, and these days, you’ve got electronic music and the advent of video games . . . and there’s nothing wrong with video games, they’re fun to play, but they’re pretty addicting. I think that games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero and the advent of digital technology is making it so easy for people to lose themselves and amuse themselves.

All that stuff combined makes it real easy for people to just escape and not take responsibility for what’s going on around them and say, ‘Hey, I’m just one person, what can I do? I’m just gonna go to a party and enjoy myself and go to raves or play video games or get wasted,’ and that’s fine, but if that’s all you do instead of trying to fix the problems you see in the world or give a shit or try to be a part of the solution, then . . . I don’t know. What’s the point of your life?”

It could be easy for an everyday 50-year-old to stay cynical and pessimistic, to say that kids today are too busy taking drugs or playing video games to take a stand. But for somebody like Shawn Stern, somebody in a band like Youth Brigade, that would be missing the point. Fans who want to see Youth Brigade live (and they can do so this Saturday at The Glass House) can look forward to a more uplifting, optimistic atmosphere.

“Really, it’s just a chance to go out, have a drink with your friends and have a good time. See some bands, realize there are like-minded people in the world trying to make things better. I think it sort of gives you inspiration. That’s what we would hope for.”


Youth Brigade w/Krum Bums, All or Nothing HC and Destruct at The Glass House, 200 W. 2nd St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802;, Sat, Sept. 4. Doors open 7PM. $10 advance, $12 at the door. All ages.


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