With Christmas behind us and the New Year just around the corner, it’s beginning to look a lot like “X-Mas.” Pioneering L.A. punk band X, brought the final leg of its annual “X-mas” tour into the legendary Hollywood nightclub, the Roxy on December 28th, for the first of four consecutive nights, celebrating 40 years of X music. The band is not only celebrating 40 years of its own music, but is sharing that celebration with bands who at different times, accompanied them on their musical journey. The 20 date tour encompassing dates in Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego, each for a four night stint, and Portland, Sacramento, San Jose and Fresno for one night engagements, has seen them sharing the stage with Skating Polly, Visqueen, The Small Wigs, Tripwires, LP3 & The Tragedy, The Blasters, Chris Shiflett (Foo Fighters) and Mike Watt and the Secondmen.
Night one of the stand at the Roxy sees Mike Watt and the Secondmen, a power punk trio fronted by Mike Watt, former bassist of L.A. punk bands Minutemen and Firehose warming up the crowd. Warm up the crowd, they did. Their 45 minute set consisted of an illegible (due to its being upside down) set list that was two standard pages taped together, with an estimated 10 songs per page. Do the math on that. The performance was paced by the drumming of Jerry Trebotic, who provided the intro to most of the songs in a rapid fire style, which was quickly joined by the other members. Watt supplies bass like a lead guitarist, mixing bottom range with a complimentary melodic concoction, resulting in what sounds like more than one instrument. The sound of an organ, not keyboards, but an organ, completes the unique sound of the Secondmen, furnished by the key pounding and sweeping of Pete Mazich. Watt and Mazich share
alternating vocal duties. The aforementioned math leaves one with the possible interpretation, that the Secondmen, is based on the time between each song. However, that might be an erroneous assumption, because, there may not have been even one second between the end of one song and the beginning of the next. With approximately two breaks in the set, one of which was for Watt to introduce the band, they jammed about as much bang for the buck as could possibly be expected. Trebotic probably had to ice his arms like a major league pitcher after this set, and one wonders if he could have even played any longer, based on the continuous machine gun like, rhythmic pounding he executed.
When the curtain rises for the main event, we find all the original members of X, ready to please the sold-out crowd, packed shoulder to shoulder in front of the stage. They begin an 80 minute trip down memory lane with Beyond And Back, a mid tempo rockabilly punk number, with vocals wailed by Exene Cervenka at center stage. Guitarist Billy Zoom, strums out the galloping guitar riff, while seated on a stool on the right side of the stage. Zoom would sit through the entire set with the exception of the few times he rose to treat the crowd by playing the saxophone. They roll into another rockabilly tune, sung by bassist and vocalist, John Doe, entitled In This House That I Call Home. D.J. Bonebreak, drums, keeps the second tune trotting along with a double time march beat on the snare. Next is The Once Over Twice, followed by Adult Books, on which Zoom’s guitar work, exquisitely harkens back to the late 1950’s, that coupled with Doe’s Orbison-esque vocal stylings, captivates the resurrection of the clean, early rock and roll sound that they helped to re popularize.
The group continues their celebration with punk tunes like We’re Desperate and True Love. Then it’s back to the Doo Wop inspired Come Back To Me. Year 1, Hungry Wolf, World’s A Mess, Poor Girl, Unheard Music and I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts all ensue. To this point in the show, X has taken its audience on a sojourn through their more mellow songs, with sometimes haunting lyrics.
The last six numbers begin the culmination of a crescendo of a hard driving, punk mini concert which slowly begins to build the fervor of the crowd, intensifying with each tune. This last third of the concert, that begins with the iconic song Los Angeles, a fast paced driving tune, is more representative of the punk aspect of their catalog. Next is Your Phone’s Off The Hook But You’re Not followed by the slower and harder edged, angst tune Nausea. This piece features Cervenka raging against overindulgence in something or general anger at the world, and is steered with a catchy, raunchy riff from Zoom, that sounds like it could be the framework of a Joan Jett tune. Next is Johny Hit And Run Pauline, which by now has the sardine packed mob bouncing and slamming into each other. Motel Room In My Bed is the penultimate number of the primary set. The finale is Soul Kitchen, which has a
Ramones feel to it, at the end of which, Cervenka comes to the edge of the stage, crouches down and sings to a young male audience member, to whom she would later hand a set list at the completion of the show. The band vacates the stage to return by demand with three more numbers, the first is the 50’s inspired Dancing With Tears In My Eyes, that accentuates Zoom’s rich guitar tone, and Cervenka’s melodic side. Because I Do and Devil Doll forcibly drive the last two nails into the coffin of this show and the crowd seems more than happy to be interred.
CLICK HERE to view more pics from the show.