Before starting his set, Keith Morris explained why OFF! wanted to have its eponymous LP release show at the Whisky. Even though the Sunset Strip landmark is now a cheesy venue that seems more concerned with selling drinks to poseurs and T-shirts to tourists than rad shows, it is a symbol of L.A.’s matchless musical history from psychedelic rock like the Doors and Love to first-generation punks the Germs and X to more recent metal shows that even I saw like Guns ‘n’ Roses and Michael Monroe (not to mention touring bands like SNFU, Scream, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, NOFX, and Green Day, as well as the first Descendents reunion shows…). Add to that OFF!
Openers Spider Fever seemed to soak up some of the venue’s psychedelic past with the elevated stage and high-end light system actually adding some unintentional-yet-not-inappropriate flair to their tweaked take on garage rock ‘n’ roll. I saw OFF! drummer Mario Rubalcaba front the band with his upside-down guitar and no-nonsense singing before playing with Hot Snakes not long ago, but this show seemed even tighter and actually more fun. After seeing the band a few times, it almost seems like the meeting point of many of Mario’s bands: the balls-out rock of RFTC, psychedelic aspects of Earthless, rawness of Clikatat Ikatowi, and energy of OFF! I was stoked to pick up the band’s amazing full-length LP, and you should get it, too.
FIDLAR is an acronym for “Fuck It Dog, Life’s a Risk” and the band lets it rip accordingly with short, catchy, and dangerous blasts of energy about dope, fun, and zero regrets. Even though the band seemed a little out of place at the Whisky (with front guy Zac Carper seemingly trying to get physically lower to the ground and the audience by crouching, sprawling, or laying down on the stage that has absorbed the bodily fluids of Jim Morrison, Eddie Van Halen, Mick Mars, and so on) they shredded 100 percent. Can’t wait to see them again. Hopefully soon–before they implode, hurt themselves, or grow up.
What can I say about OFF! The same way that the Whisky encapsulates a lot of what’s rad about L.A., so does the current project of Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Black Flag), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Steven McDonald (Redd Kross), and Mario Rubalcaba (Hot Snakes, 411, Spider Fever). It has punk, metal, and the pure darkness, aggression, vitriol, and smarts that seep through every Pettibon illustration or Chandler novel. Still blasting songs at roughly a minute each with huge amounts of chops and pent-up energy, there’s no room for the falseness that outsiders associate with L.A. Every OFF! show seems like a true event with planets aligning, tides rising, and crowds about to take the streets. Exhilarating and awesome to experience, and I’m a little resentful that they have been taking their show on the road instead of letting us Bogart their radness. The members of OFF! have lived long, long live OFF!
On Sunday, I saw some other legends of L.A. punk. Los Lobos hosted a special Cinco De Mayo show at the Greek, and when my calendar opened up that afternoon I picked up some fourth row seats on StubHub for less than list price that afternoon. Chido! Mariachi El Bronx did a nice job warming up the stage with its punk-flavored-yet-respectful-take on the Mexican music form, but it was X that really kicked things off.
X is and always will be the pride and pinnacle of Los Angeles’ music scene. Equal parts punk, roots, and poetry, they have rocked out with brains, art, and style like no other for 35 years, and this compressed 45-minute set showed that their attitude and appeal haven’t diminished one iota. And maybe it’s their folk side, as seen in the Knitters side project as well as the more recent acoustic partnership between singers John Doe and Exene Cervenka, that allows them to step down from headliner status to play last December’s Goldenvoice gala before Social Distortion or open for their friends Los Lobos at the Greek. They’re rock gods, but humble, human ones that need to be appreciated a little more while they are still playing their asses off. This particular set included just about all the hits from the first two albums plus “Breathless.”
Los Lobos were headlining the upscale-venue, sit-down, career-spanning concert by the Pride of East L.A., but the tone was more like a party with friends dropping in and jamming. Having Neko Case (above) and Alejandro Escovedo (below) play some songs showed their lasting relevance and roots, with one of today’s most respected singer-songwriters paying her tribute to the masters as well as a peer from original country punkers Rank & File.
It was already like a Slash Records reunion with the presence of X, Los Lobos, and Rank & File before Dave Alvin came out to sing “Fourth of July.” Interestingly, he played the song he wrote and played with X after introduced by David Hidalgo as a member of The Blasters, whom Los Lobos wouldn’t have existed without. After that Dave’s older brother and Blaster singer Phil came out to sing “Marie Marie” in Spanish. Whoa. I hadn’t seen them play together since the Blasters opened for The Go-Go’s on the Prime Time Tour! What a trip and what a reminder of how lucky we are in the City of Angels, which Bob Forrest repeatedly calls the music capital of the universe on his L.A.-centric radio show.
One more show, just because I want to say that you don’t have to go to fancy venues or rely on Ticketmaster, LiveNation, TicketWeb, or whatever to check out cool music and be inspired. I saw my friend Ben’s band Junghaus play their fourth show at Pehrspace a couple of Fridays ago. They rocked the fuck out on the floor with minimal PA and maybe a dozen friends. Sweet!
Upcoming shows: Maybe Devo at Hollywood Park, definitely Dum Dum Girls at the Getty.