While the New York club scene showed a clear (if wary) support of punk rock once the Ramones and their brethren made it apparent they weren't going away, the Los Angeles underground rock scene -- which in retrospect seems to have spawned just as many memorable bands -- was without a real home until Brendan Mullen opened the Masque (located in the basement of a porno theater) in the summer of 1977. When the L.A.P.D. closed down the Masque in early 1978 for building code violations, 19 of the city's leading punk bands held a two-day benefit to raise funds to keep the Masque open (and it says a great deal about the Masque's importance that so many musicians would be willing to play a benefit to help out a club owner). This disc (the first in a series of three) is culled from four-track recordings of the benefit shows, and if the audio defines "warts and all" (it's generally adequate, but rarely especially good), the performances offer lots of blood, sweat, and fire. While a faulty PA kills John Denny's vocals for nearly half of the Weirdos' set, what's here conforms their reputation as L.A.'s first great punk band; they're blisteringly tight, and the anthemic "Teenage" and "We've Got the Neutron Bomb" are outstanding. The Bags (with Patricia Morrison, later of the Gun Club and the Sisters of Mercy, on bass) sound sloppy but enthusiastic, and their five cuts here pack a lot more punch than their few studio recordings. The Germs' growth from initial incompetence into one of L.A.'s most curiously powerful bands should be an inspiration to rock neophytes everywhere; sadly, their set here shows they had a way to go before they would approach the rough genius of (GI), but it beats the hell out of the painful sludge of the Germicide: Live at the Whiskey cassette, thanks to the energizing presence of Weirdos' drummer Nickey Beat behind the traps. And if the Skulls were one of L.A.'s second-division punk outfits, they split the difference between Ramones-style energy and Sex Pistols-style rancor with vigor and fine ranting spirit. This is as close as we'll get to knowing what a night at the Masque could have been like, and from the sound of this disc, a great wild party was had by all.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming