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Singer Gary Heffern is on a visit from Finland for a Penetrators reunion show. As stalwarts of the San Diego music scene fill the Casbah, an air of expectancy hangs heavy. Have they still got it?

At 11 p.m., Heffern, Chris Sullivan (bass), Chris Davies (guitar), and Joel Kmak (drums) deliver the answer. They don't so much hit the stage as knock it flat out with the Talking Heads–style funk of “Sensitive Boy”; “Untamed Youth,” a punk-pop anthem; “Walk the Beat” has Davies’s guitar surfing over the waves of rumbling bass and a sea of ride cymbals. On "Vengeance," Heffern sings, "You walk into that room and you feel those stares, and everybody wishes that you weren't there." The set concluded with the jiving, rockabilly strut of encore “I-5 and Bop.”

The rhythm section of Kmak and native New Yorker Sullivan (who makes playing with a toothpick in his mouth look the epitome of cool) nailed down the sound, with Davies's guitar and Heffern's vocal interplaying up front and personal.

Back in the day, the Clash, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Eddie Vedder and a young Bono all saw the Penetrators. While the San Diego band never achieved the same heights of success as certain members of their audience, the fact that they sell out the club more than 30 years after their first show is testament to their legacy.

  • Concert: Penetrators
  • Date: April 3
  • Venue: Casbah
  • Seats: GA
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