Published on February 2nd, 2022

Agent Orange by John Leach

New York birthed gritty punk bands that might be doing nefarious things in alleyways under sputtering street lamps. While that era and those groups were vital and diverse in sound, they were most definitely a product of the Big Apple. How would that concept fly on a West Coast bathed in sunlight, around precincts within spitting distance of the American dream factories of Hollywood?

It wouldn’t, and from the sparks of that realization a whole new scene was founded. California punk has always been a stylish bunch, and the amalgamation of genres that sprang from the underbelly of that cinematically propagated dream — you know, like when the dream dies. As such, bands including X, Black Flag, FEAR and Agent Orange illustrate the artistic act of defiance that is living in the ashes of a once vibrant future.

One of the first surf punk bands, Agent Orange broke through as a trio in the opening frame of the ‘80s with tracks like “Bloodstains,” “Too Young to Die,” and “A Cry for Help in a World Gone Mad” that packed plaintiveness and fury into two-minute (or less) sonic missiles.

Co-founder Mike Palm has seen a lot of colleagues come and go. Agent Orange alumni seeded or joined legendary bands including The Adolescents, Social Distortion, D.I., the Plugz, Dick Dale, the Ghastly Ones, the Seeds and the Sonics.

The group have had some hard years, too, losing bassists Steve Soto, James Levesque and Brent Liles and drummer Charlie Quintana. Palm is the only original member extant, carrying on with a charging surf punk sound that became such a resonant and specific thing it bred a spat with fellow Orange County products Offspring regarding riff pilferage. That’s the curse of defining a genre; everyone is pinching from the first band to do it. But 43 years along Agent Orange are still out there defending their legacy and keeping the sound of dreams dissolving alive.

Agent Orange with Killed by Florida, 1983 and Hunting With Dick Cheney play 8pm Saturday, February 19 at Propaganda in Lake Worth, $17. ~ Tim Moffatt