Happy 2010! It's my hope, my wish that this decade is filled with more peace, less fear mongering, less war, and less stupidity than , what we'll just call the "the OH's".
Rang in the New Year with the Classic L.A. band X. I always have mixed feelings about going to see old classic punk bands, punk bands are best seen at the height of when they are actually relevant, and the venue was SLIMS in San Francisco, Not the worst place to see bands, but I've seen enough Punk bands and performers go down hard there ( Penelope Houston, Rollins, HR from Bad Brains) to kind of consider it the Elephant's Graveyard of punk rock, where bands go to die with premium reserved Seating dinner tickets available for you to watch.
I taped "Under the Big Black Sun" onto a Certron Cassette off the local college radio station when it came out - they used to play LP's in their entirety I think mainly so you could do this, this was the same time - or shortly after- In the late 70's or early 80's when the U.S. was experimenting with Record rental shops where, like a video store, you could rent an LP, bring it home and tape it, return it for a few bucks. Unlike filesharing, this was largely squashed under the thumb of the then monolithic record industry, but without song titles and with endless repeat listens, this LP really ingrained itself into my 13 year old being. It wasn't until years later when I rediscovered the album on vinyl years later that I realized How many times I had listened to it, and how well I knew the record. Sure they're desperate, but Considering my teenage freeloading, the $50 new years gouge pricing for this show was fair enough, for the enjoyment I've gotten from the band's music over the years, I probably should've bought a shirt too. ( Make ones with the Cursive X, Giant silver on black. That's it, no "the band", nothing else on it, secret club style, will buy).
X isn't a band that people in the DIY punk circuit really pay much heed these days- (I got in a bit of grumbling online when kids a few years ago would loudly declare "GORILLA ANGREB are so much better than X"- which was just, well silly, gorilla angreb were a good band, but are largely honored by the consideration of the comparison). It's Kind of like how DEAD KENNEDY'S have tarnished in favor of harder bands that are more concurrent to where the DIY scene evolved to. With X and the DK's bands the guitar playing is paramount to the entire thing, and kinda seems like what both bands were doing was taking rockabilly Chuck Berry / Duane Eddy ( in billy Zoom's case) Link Wray / Dick Dale Surf ( in East Bay Rays case) 50's and 60's rock guitar, dredging it up out of the muck of '70's rock and the mounting backlash of the increasing insipidness of Disco. In the face of something like THIS X or the RAMONES, or the DEAD KENNEDY'S are musical atomic bomb, levelling the playing field so anyone can pick up a guitar , start a band and not have to save up for a MOOG, flare legged pantsuit and their producer's coke bill.
But that guitar sound and those aren't cultural touchstones for a younger generation of kids, there's not back ground in early Rock'n'roll that was laid by it's nostalgic revival in the early '70's and now You can hear "blitzkreig bop" over the loudspeaker at the supermarket, but as it happened, as it was pulled out of the ether and created, these things were like magic because the mainstream hadn't splintered into it's kaliedoscope of possibilities. Unheard music, Indeed.
Even the KBD- record collector circuit sometimes have an ambivalent attitude towards X, besides the ALLEY CATS and BLACK RANDY , were the only "dangerhouse" era band to make LP's ( not later collections like the recent BAGS, DILS and 80's AVENGERS collections - and oh yeah, wait "This album leaves exit wounds." ) while Active, and X is the only band to deliver multiple LP's ( and stunningly several good ones). maybe not an obscure enough discovery, maybe not distilled down to a handful of classic tracks that leave the promise of what could have been, or maybe that the band crossover into mainstream rock and rockabilly burnishes the raw edge. The late 70's Punk scene in Los Angeles remains one of the greatest punk scenes of all time for it's vibrancy, diversity, it's cleverness , you can spend a long time pondering where all the smarts went..
But it's not like X lacks fans -It's always kind of odd when I walk into a show and the crowd is my age or older. It only seems to happen when I see an old band, as Most crust and punk shows I go to, I'm usually in the upper stratosphere of geezer-dom with whoever else from Maximum Rock'n'roll decides to show up. San Francisco's transformation in the 1960's from a shipyard, industrial city to Hippie mecca has always colored the city in both many wonderful but also some negative ways. The 1960's soft San Francisco rock tradition that it rests on , well, largely sucks ( well maybe that's a bit harsh, but compared to THIS, yeah, it does) but it's always regaled as "You don't know, you weren't there, you wouldn't understand" capturing the broader arrogance - or at least perceived arrogance of that generation = something I never want to be in my realationship to a younger generation of punk and music fans, handing out an instant set of rules and guidelines to rebel against. Bite the upper lip, I own all the Gorilla Angreb records in multiple pressings.
X took a lot of criticism for inviting Ray Manzarek of the Doors to produce and Play on their first few LP's ( like this one I found online: "X’s Los Angeles would be the single finest rock and roll album ever crafted in the annals of history if Ray Manzareck had stayed in the production booth and off of the god damned organ." ) Though Oddly I found myself MISSING the organ when they played those songs live last night, that's how I know the songs.... It always stuns me that punk was so ANTI-Hippie less than decade after happened-But nothing has ever come to counter punk thirty odd years on in the same way - maybe the development of rave and revival of basically disco culture was, or maybe punk never reached the same critical mass or relevance in the U.S. TO garner such a strong counter reaction. That said, I'm a mixed bag on nostalgia and I look forward to the generation - it's probably the one that's about ten years old right now that will LOATHE the 80's, as it has nothing to do with them and they'll be free to create something new from the ruins. though, In all honesty, Maybe that generation is already here and I'm too blinded by perceptions and tastes of how and when I grew up discovering and formulating opinions about music to find an appreciation of it.
But The mixed bag I have towards Nostaliga, still brought me to see one of my favorite bands play some of my favorite songs.I had never seen X perform live, and watching Youtube kind of scared me off going a year or two back. It's not what it was, nor could it ever be, vocal chords are harsher and being sung from a different place in life. X Now, largely look like they should bouncing grandkids on their knees as opposed to touring, but it's a gift that they still do, as their strengths - Billy Zoom's ability to so effortlessly play guitar ( yes, he does, indeed deserve his own signature guitar), the skill of the drummer DJ Bonebrake, who must be in his 50's still has playing, and the songwriting of the first four records, where their set was largely culled, propelled this to be a pretty memorable way to ring in '10. I think John Doe must've been playing the same bass since the start of the band as the paint job was completely worn to the wood of the bass. People Yelled " I love you exene" between songs and I wanted to shout " I love you Billy Zoom!" . I love all the wonderful freaks, miscreants, and in his case, uber talented weirdos that created this culture. I often wonder where such extravagant, talented people went - and I guess now, you can just blog your pain or have actual alternatives for your talent than were offered in the late 70's. I could do without the christmas covers, but it was at least one set up for Zoom to solo. Mildest "pit" more like a seed at best, Moderate, largely greying crowd, but it's also the first show I brought my night driving glasses to to see better, so it happens to all of us. We showed up right before X started with enough time to order a drink and get to the front of the stage, and in lieu of Auld Lang Syne- or maybe more appropriately to the spirit of THAT song, bask in "World's a Mess it's in my Kiss"- what it was, what it remarkably still is and welcome the new year. Bravo and all the best to everyone for 2010.