OFF! All-ages, after-hours, and free at The Echoplex!

OFF! All-ages, after-hours, and free at The Echoplex!

I wasn't panning to attend, but… On Friday night, my friend Ben invited me to be his plus-one at a super-exclusive, secret show by an all-star band at a fancy gallery. After taking the scenic route in the Town Car though yet another starry night in Hollywood and arriving fashionably late, we still manage to see the local band take its way-too-long opening set over the top with a classic-rock version of a Superchunk song.

Not really. It was more like serious rain prevented OFF! from playing its $5 show in the tiny parking lot behind Subliminal Projects following the opening of the totally rad punk rock photo show, Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die, but the folks at The Echoplex and Lou Barlow were cool enough to open up the stage after the scheduled Sebadoh show. I thought we'd be standing outside the doors getting drenched since we arrived before the announced midnight start, but we walked just before “Brand New Love.” I thought it was cool. Sebadoh plays music nothing like OFF! and I'd like to imagine that the bands are bound by pride in the local scene and shared punk rock roots. Actually, it was nice that not all of the fans overlap, since I got to walk straight up to the barricade after the official headliners left the stage.

How many times can you see a band play the same 16 songs in the span of a few months? I don't know and unlike the Tootsie Pops owl, I'm willing to find out the hard way. At first exposure, the band seems to play spastic eruptions of anger led by Keith Morris' paranoid ranting, not trigged by nostalgia but loss. Nothing wrong with that. But after a few listens, the music slows down, melodies emerge, and the words actually make sense and burn into your brain. You'd expect no less from a band whose fliers would read “with members of Redd Kross, Earthless, ex-Black Flag, ex-Circle Jerks, ex-Rocket From The Crypt, ex-411, ex-Clickitat Ikatowi, ex-Hot Snakes…” if fliers still existed.

Lost in the name-dropping is axeman Dimitri Coats. Although the Burning Brides leader doesn't have the punk rock pedigree as his bandmates, his effortless metal chops are a key part of the band's sound nonetheless. Coats co-wrote the band's album with Morris, so he probably knew he was going to be in the shadows, but probably not threefold. Totally tight and riffy like Thin Lizzy on speed.

What can I say. Each of OFF!'s shows is interesting and inspiring: warehouses, in-stores, fests, secret shows. The audience goes apeshit every time and the band never disappoints. Keith stomping, jumping, and pointing as if the template that he created has never been used while the other guys play raw and hard–not because that's the only way they know how but because they are originators. This was the first time for me to see the band in a “real” club and it didn't make the show any less compelling. Of course, all-ages, after-midnight, and free to everyone who dared to brave the late hours and cold, wet weather didn't hurt. And neither did the bonus of seeing Raymond Pettibon's creepy and rollicking band close… Who was that masked man?

I was actually bummed when it was announced that OFF! would be going on tour. Crap! I felt like the band was just another cool thing about L.A. that I didn't want to share. But in the end, more people need to see this band play live. If Black Flag moved you when you were a kid… OFF! will give you a kick in the ass, and remind you to keep moving–but in new ways.