LAPD Issued Tactical Alert For Long Beach’s Punk Band Wacko Known As ‘The Traveling Riot’

By Briana Mutlu
brianamutlu@gmail.com
info@campnova.biz
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Long Beach punk band, Wacko, smoking out of a bong.
Long Beach punk band Wacko is making an impactful statement with their freedom of expression, art, music, cannabis use and lifestyle.
Photo Credit: Briana Mutlu/CampNova

They’re a band of wackos. But to the Los Angeles Police Department, they’re “The Traveling Riot.” And after shutting down a Denny’s in Santa Ana, Calif. in December 2019, Long Beach, Calif.-based punk band, Wacko, went viral.

Wacko Live at Denny’s before the pandemic.

Through their music, they created an intoxicating allure that amassed an eclectic collection of fans into a rambunctious trance — inspired by the freedom and acceptance that the rainbow-colored, gender fluid, non-discriminant band exudes with ease.

All The World Loves A Clown

Maybe this is a band of weirdos to some. And while they do don the most outlandish ensembles and makeup in likeness to the harlequin clowns, the ragtag crew at heart is the essence of punk culture, drowned out by the image of chaos that pervades punks in the media. 

 

“I’ve kinda just fallen into a new family,” Matthew Robinson, 24, Wacko’s lead guitarist said.“I see Wacko as home to all the weirdos of the world.”

 

According to Zaine Jakeem, Wacko’s lead vocalist, fans dress as clowns for a number of reasons. Perhaps his favorite reason, “It makes people happy,” he said. 

 

“We were always clowns, it just took certain experiences in our lives that led us to understand that about ourselves,” Jakeem also said about his alley of clowns. “You can’t work and play unless you’re a clown. [And everyone knows] clowns know where the best parties are at.” 

Wacko’s fans are often seen dressed as colorful and mischievous clowns at their underground shows.
Photo Credit: Briana Mutlu/CampNova

In Long Beach, the punk community offers a home, a family and a culture to the many who simply don’t fit into the “nine to five” — Netflix watching, born to breed, more of a machine than a human lifestyle that society encourages, according to Jakeem.

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The Traveling Riot

Wacko at its core is a beating force of the scene of Southern California’s punk rock political martyrs. And sure, they got half of the Los Angeles Police Department called on them for playing a show underneath the 110 freeway in May. In fact, there were 2000 people reported in attendance at the underground show, deemed “illegal.” The LAPD issued a “Tactical Alert” and shot rubber bullets and tear gas before the band could play. Following the shots, according to a report by the LA Times, a number of concert attendees disrupted oncoming traffic when they spilled out into the freeway.

 

Since the May show, the band’s collective has been nicknamed by the LAPD and a number of news publications — “The Traveling Riot.” 

 

The Traveling Riot nickname, since, gave the band more fuel and heightened Wacko into a sensation with a deeper appeal to their following. The Traveling Riot’s effect is so life-altering, people have moved across the state or even quit their jobs just to come to Long Beach and be a part of the scene. 

 

Who Is Wacko?

Photo of all of the main members of Wacko.
Wacko includes five members, Matthew Robinson, left, Andrew Lane, Jon Hanson, Zaine Jakeem and Luc Robitaille.
Photo Credit: Briana Mutlu/CampNova

Before one of Wacko’s first tours, they needed another person to pitch in for gas money, Jakeem and Luc Robitaille, the band’s bassist, spotted Jon “Jon Boi” Hanson at all of their shows and although they didn’t know him very well, the band asked him to come along the tour. Without hesitation, Hanson quit his job and dropped out of college to go on tour with Wacko and hasn’t looked back ever since. 

 

The band itself is composed of Jakeem, 28, known as an LBC punk veteran. Jakeem, aside from being the lead vocalist, is also the rhythm guitarist who is on a psychedelic-fueled quest to become the wide-eyed yogi of the underground.

Video Credit: Alex Lucas/CampNova

The band’s bassist, Robitaille, 28, is considered the “actual human embodiment” of a beam of light. Jakeem and Robitaille mark the longest-standing members in the band from the original lineup that formed on New Year’s Eve, 2019. 

 

Robinson, 24, is the lead guitarist whose stoic disposition and irony-filled jokes often leave his audience wondering whether a joke has actually been made. Then there’s Andrew “Droozie” Lane, 29, the drummer who is very kind but secretly crazy; and crazy is a prerequisite to be in the band. Lane has also been organizing and playing in punk bands for over 10 years.  

 

There are also key honorary members which include — Michael “Papa Michael” Robitaille, 73. Papa Micahel is Wacko’s mascot, announcer and Luc’s dad. He is a  former member of the CARE organization, the End Hunger Network and an organizer for the 1985 Live AIDS concert. 

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The guy in the pink helmet, that’s Hanson, 28. Before Hanson, the late Chaz, famed the pink helmet but since his death in 2020, Hanson became wearer of the helmet and the guardian of the community who will “personally stomp out any racist, rapist or otherwise morally fucked person” he comes across.  But Wacko is incomplete without their large entourage that comprises their massive collective that has gotten a reputation for their shenanigans — The Traveling Riot. 

 

“There’s not much distinction between the band and the audience, there’s no us and them anymore. We’re all together,” Papa Michael explained.

 

The Traveling Riot is composed of about 30 plus people who may be spotted throughout Eastside Long Beach. They’re the ones dressed as clowns, wearing leather, sporting neon hair and always in raucous fun. Although harmless, The Traveling Riot is always busted by the police wherever they may settle.

 

In addition, The Traveling Riot Collective, as they now formally call themselves on Instagram, @traveling.riot.collective is the collection of all of Wacko’s alley of clowns and fans alike. They’re the ones that attend the shows, even the ones in the sewers and secret locations. How they find out the location of the shows — no one really knows. But according to Jakeem, they always find Wacko and the band is always ready to perform. 

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The LBC Wake and Bake with Broccoli Brands and Heavy Grass Cannabis

CampNova along with Heavy Grass met with Wacko at Granada Beach in Long Beach at 9:30 a.m. on June 24, the day of their most recent show. Armed with spliffs and hard seltzers, Wacko wiped the sleep from their eyes and hopped inside Axel Roads, the suped-up 1970s-1990s inspired tour van designed by Heavy Grass, to talk about cannabis, music and their message.

Zaine Jakeem piled up all of the Heavy Grass and Broccoli Brands cannabis on his lap before he rolled spliffs for his bandmates, Wacko.
Photo Credit: Briana Mutlu/CampNova

While having a smoke sesh in Heavy Grass’ tour van, Axel Roads, Wacko’s bassist, Luc Robitaille, played an acoustic version of the band’s “Stoner’s Love Song (Smoke With Me).

Video Credit: Alex Lucas/CampNova

Before one of Wacko’s first tours, they needed another person to pitch in for gas money, Jakeem and Luc Robitaille, the band’s bassist, spotted Jon “Jon Boi” Hanson at all of their shows and although they didn’t know him very well, the band asked him to come along the tour. Without hesitation, Hanson quit his job and dropped out of college to go on tour with Wacko and hasn’t looked back ever since. 

 

The band itself is composed of Jakeem, 28, known as an LBC punk veteran. Jakeem, aside from being the lead vocalist, is also the rhythm guitarist who is on a psychedelic-fueled quest to become the wide-eyed yogi of the underground.

So Stoned, You’re Going To Need A Wheelchair

The band, who has grown accustomed to smoking cheap weed, savored the high quality that Broccoli Brands’ Sunset OG and Trainwreck offered, which they immediately followed with more spliffs they rolled with Heavy Grass’ premium sativa, hybrid and even threw in some indica into the mix. 

The band was properly really fucking stoned

After a short interview, the band went into giggle fits and reminiscences. They were so stoned that as Jakeem tried to hop out of the van in Rick and Morty slippers, which lived up to their name, caused the red and blue-haired singer to slip and roll his ankle, binding him to a wheelchair and crutches for the two weeks. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the band laid around the grass in a high daydream-like state or more like a weed-induced coma.

Jon Boi Hansen, left, laid out, high, next to Zaine Jakeem after smoking a fusion of Broccoli Brands and Heavy Grass cannabis spliffs and joints.
Jon Boi Hansen, left, laid out, high, next to Zaine Jakeem after smoking a fusion of Broccoli Brands and Heavy Grass cannabis spliffs and joints.
Photo Credit: Briana Mutlu/CampNova

Eventually, the band picked themselves up and went over to a friend’s house in West Long Beach to practice before their show in Los Angeles hosted by Rarehouse. There they caught up with other collective members of The Traveling Riot. Wacko was scheduled to go on at 12:30 a.m. — plenty of time to smoke more weed, eat and perhaps take a stoned nap.

Practice Makes Perfect

High, the riot squad napped in various corners of the West Long Beach communal house while some of Wacko’s band members practiced.  Papa Micheal pondered the uniqueness of Wacko and the newfound allure of punk that the band and its community lead.

“[Wacko] is the future.” Papa Michael said, “The day of the celebrity is dead. They don’t suffer the pains of inequities that the rest of us do.” 

 

During practice, the band played their songs several times to work out all the kinks. In an abrupt pause which is a trademark of the band’s semi-unpredictable rhythms, Lane dropped a stick, his tired eyes widened in disbelief that he just played that fast with two sticks and in horror that he was going back in a milliseconds notice with one. 

Busted Before They Could Even Perform

The venue, Rarehouse, Wacko was scheduled to play that night got busted before the show would even start. They had to change venues four times before finding a final spot at the Catch One Club in the Wilshire district of Los Angeles. 

 

Rumors circulated that heightened police activity around Wacko is caused by the LAPD who is in cahoots with larger music venues in Los Angeles who felt skimped and entitled for some payback once underground shows began gathering thousands and those venue owners weren’t getting a piece of the action. 

 

“[Some] venue owners in L.A. are putting eyes on the internet to find out where shows without permits or generator shows are happening,” Jakeem said. “and one of the bands they’re watching is us.”

 

Since COVID-19 regulations have been lifted and live music is allowed again, Wacko is yet to finish a full set, except on two occasions, because they have gotten stopped by police. The heat reached an ugly culmination on May 8,  when approximately two thousand punks attended a concert underneath the 110 freeway that Wacko was scheduled to play, but as they were police sprayed the crowd with pepper spray and rubber bullets. 

 

“Anyone that is willing to overstep the boundaries of the narrow space,” Lane said. “They’ve been destined to walk with their heads down and will be met with the elite grunts’ immediate arrival, echoing their demands which are of course entirely influenced by lobbying, personal gain and the fear of public uproar and outcry in mass numbers.” 

 

“It’s not just the militarized cops who hate the chaos,” Lane continued to explain. “that shows sprung from DIY culture and Wacko bring. It’s the ones who’ve written the laws that they’re enforcing and their beneficiaries who despise it most.”

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Are They Breaking The Law Or Expressing Art?

Although the band really doesn’t break any laws, except maybe the occasional public drinking, they are advocates for what they consider victimless crimes.  

“I would like to tell all of the people who enjoy this musical and/or artistic expression that they should let their passion for that guide them,” Luc said. 

The way Luc sees it, it’s all “harmless, unlawful and victimless crime stunts.”

“Make a big painting and/or poetry, wheat paste it onto billboards or a Jack in the Box sign or something,” Luc said. “There is always a possibility of an eye-catching stunt that gets your art a lot of exposure and brings many people who may otherwise not be exposed to it the pleasure of enjoying it.”

Luc’s perspective is also the band’s ethos of breaking free from certain oppressive constraints of society. Wacko encourages rebellion, but in favor of open-mindedness and freedom for all. 

The band’s song, Nü Religion, offers a blatant criticism of Western, particularly Judeo-Christian, a religion that has been the catalyst for war, the erasure of culture, and justification of femicide, according to Wacko. 

“Deprogram yourselves of the Judeo-Christian infection and know that heaven and hell are already up in you,” read the song’s description on Wacko’s Bandcamp. 

It’s Almost Showtime

 

The sun slipped away without notice from the band or the clowns and with the help of spliffs and copious kombucha beers. The riot squad traded acoustic guitars and played folk songs in a beer-can-ridden garage until they had to pack up. 

By 11:30 p.m., everyone except the drivers’ was steadily drunk and it made the packing process a bit scattered as the band struggled to stuff amps, drum pieces, people into various cars and also find Papa Michael’s hat, which he cannot leave without. 

Time To Clown

 

After the to be expected, somewhat, hellish time trying to unload gear from a parking spot in the red to the venue, The Traveling Riot came together, each carrying one piece of a drum or guitar or even just a stick to get at least 10 people who didn’t purchase a ticket inside. 

 

One of the main clowns, Ooze, led the small circus up to the front where the bouncer looked at the colorful crew and said, “You’re all in the band?” with no effort to hide his obvious doubt. 

 

Fifteen weirdos echoed in unison, “Yes,” and lined up to get their bags checked. The bouncer didn’t have much luck, The Traveling Riot was inside. 

 

The club had an impressive set up of lights causing an enjoyable epileptic experience that was induced by the heavy veil of blues and reds that moved like spears through the smoke-laden air. 

 

At 1:45 a.m. the band got on stage and hit the first discordant sounds of guitars, bass and drums, sending the crowd into a wild flurry of body gyration, yelling and indiscernible flailing of limbs that feebly attempted to keep in time with the band’s trademark fast as fuckness. 

It Is Going To Be Catastrophic In A Beautiful Way

 

Robinson describes being on stage with the band as, “A ball of energy exploding inside my body.” 

 

People in the crowd freaked out before anyone even touched their instruments. Since the show at Denny’s, the band coined this thing where they said, “Hey it’s gonna be crazy every time we play.” 

 

Even though the band has never said that outright, everyone who comes to the shows expects it to be catastrophic in a really beautiful way. Three songs later, the band was shut down. At about 1:53 a.m. Wacko packed again to go back to LBC. Though they had practiced their set twice over, to only play a fraction of their set, it didn’t matter.

Wacko’s performance was abruptly interrupted and the band performed for less than 15-minutes.

VIDEO CREDIT: Briana Mutlu/CampNova

It didn’t matter because in those less than 10 minutes it felt as though time was irrelevant, the music and the boundless joy that it gave the band and crowd belonged to the infinite. 

 

In those brief minutes where a purple hue drowned the venue and its inhabitants, The Traveling Riot forgot the menial demands they are presented in every other minute of our waking lives. They could dance, look silly, yell, shove people and pick them back up again  — they lived freely, however brief. 

 

When the band left the venue, they were tired, hungry, no richer than when they got there but had a quiet feeling of success. 

 

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The Post-Apocalypse Tour

There’s no telling where this alley of clowns and The Traveling Riot collective will perform — the sewers, old abandoned buildings, a random skate park, or an actual venue. But Wacko is heading tour throughout August for their Post-Apocalypse Tour.

Post-Apocalypse Tour 

8/14- Whittier, Calif.

8/18-Fresno Calif.

8/18-Sacramento, Calif.

8/19-San Francisco

8/20-Oakland, Calif.

8/21-Arcata, Calif

8/22-Portland, Organ.

8/23- Seattle, Wash.

8/25- San Jose, Calif. 

8/26-Reno, Calif.

8/27- Long Beach, Calif.

8/28-Las Vegas

8/29- Los Angeles

For exact times and locations, concert-goers have to stay tuned to Wacko’s Instagram as all of the locations secret and not announced until the day of the show.

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