at Sunset Junction street fair, August 26
As the precursors to virtually every glam/bubblegum/power pop/punk rock band of the last 20 years, Redd Kross loom so large in our L.A. legend that any live performance is bound to be met with unrealistic expectations. But this warm-up for their big return to action (an October appearance at the L.A. Weekly Detour fest downtown and a new album in ’07) gave ample proof that the Kross have not shot their wad.
This was one of Redd Kross’ “classic” lineups: Jeff McDonald (pink jacket and tie) on guitar and Lennonesque wail, his brother Steven McDonald (still looking about 18) on bass and vocals, the way-unrockstar-like Robert Hecker on guitar and Roy McDonald (no apparent relation, on loan from the Muffs) on drums. Many years have passed since the bros made their debut as Red Cross at the ages of 2 and 5 or something; Jeff now looks a little thicker and Robert even balder and skinnier, but the sound remains the same: huge chunks of power-pop splendor delivered with a hard-rock slam and dollops of SoCal sarcastic humor.
This day, Kross dealt a minisurvey of rave-ups from their vast repertoire of oughta-be hits. The very, well, Lennon-ish “One Chord Progression” and “Mess Around” came off with brassy cheek and heavy rock grandeur. (When Jeff sings in a vaguely English accent, you want to slap his back, not his face.) “It’s a Crazy, Crazy World We Live In” was a slow-grinding kinda Seeds/hard rock/postpunk affair as Steven showcased stylish moves on his customary T-bird bass. Hecker got his little spotlight on a pleasant but bizarrely Dire Straits–like tune; elsewhere his guitar heroics were fun and funny if ever so slightly of the oil-and-water variety. Kross didn’t dispatch their famous cover of “Yer Blues,” which they used to do better than the Beatles, but you can’t always get what you want.
Somewhere within the Partridge Family/Stooges/Banana Splits axis, Redd Kross’ hearts will always beat, so one might worry that their cultured kitsch mightn’t age so well, or whether said excellent rock kartoonery masks a dearth of memorably great songs. Somehow, though, the sight of our own boys playing against the silhouettes of palm trees and a crescent moon amid the yellow-gray glow of sunset in, as Jeff put it, “the motherfucking best city in the world,” made all that so majorly beside the point.