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"The trip made me realize how much I miss my friends in San Diego,” says Penetrators singer Gary Heffern, now back home in Finland after a January 24 reunion performance at the Casbah. “Playing with the band again…they mean more to me than they’ll ever know. I know it sounds foolish, but when I hear their sound, it just gets to me.… You know, it’s just punk rock, but man, I loved it so much.”

Onstage and off, the room contained 30-plus years of top local talent, from David J of Bauhaus to Ugly Things publisher Mike Stax, Robert “El Vez” Lopez (the Zeros), Mario Escovedo (the Dragons), Ted Olson (Battalion of Saints), the reunited Manual Scan, Andrew McKeag (UJBOD, the Presidents of the United States of America), Skid Roper, and (somewhat inexplicably) comedian Rob Schneider.

“Trying to remember the [Penetrators] lyrics was a bit difficult, so, yeah, mistakes were made,” says Heffern. “I’m hoping people will remember us with kindness and not just with the jealous and shallow notion that we ‘made it.’ Did we ever really make it? I would hope that people realize the answer was no. And we knew that all along. It’s easy for people to confuse passion for what you do with self-importance.… We just wanted to make music.”

Heffern says this was the final reunion for the aging punkers, who split in 1984 and whose garage-band fame came posthumously. “The death of [Cramps singer] Lux Interior last week hit me hard. I’m not getting any younger, and I know for most folks it would be hard to understand just what makes a person my age let themselves get abandoned in the music. There’s no real answer for it. It’s just…it’s just that thing.”

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