December 15, 2010
House of Blues
Last night seminal L.A. punk band X celebrated the 30th anniversary of their debut Los Angeles at the House of Blues by playing the album in its entirety, along with "X: The Unheard Music," the 1986 documentary about the band. Thirty years after their first album dropped, they still draw a massive crowd of all ages and put on a mean show -- with huge smiles on their faces.
Surprisingly enough, this was my most pleasant House of Blues show yet. I've started to get used to the creepy pat-downs and obscenely slow lines, but I was in in under five minutes this time with a smile on my face after the bouncer thanked me sincerely for having my ID before he asked and called my photo lovely.
The HOB was approaching full when I got in, even though I arrived 45 minutes before the show was set to start. At 9PM on the dot, W.T. Morgan's "X: The Unheard Music" began, projected onto a huge screen covering the stage. This is probably the greatest punk movie ever made about "people looking to play music that wasn't bullshit." Sorry, fans of The Decline of Western Civilization -- when it comes to punk docs, The Unheard Music tops all. It's a brilliant collage of interviews with the band and those who knew them in the early days, performances and rehearsals, and found footage of a band that turned out to be the best punk band in L.A. Watching a ninety minute film while standing at a punk rock show was awkward and uncomfortable (I heard complains all around, it's not just me!), but after every live performance clip the crowd was screaming and clapping.
After what seemed like an excruciatingly long break, the screen rolled up, and X made their way on stage. They had quite the rocky start. Almost immediately, all kinds of shit were flung at the stage -- beer cans, water bottles, strange articles of clothing. First words out of Billy Zoom's mouth were "It's extremely uncool to throw beer at a guitar. It just makes you look like an asshole." Indeed. Not sure why anyone would pay $30 to see a legacy act that they're presumably a fan of and throw garbage at them. Unfortunately, this continued all night.
They plowed straight through Los Angeles, not even pausing once to chat or take a breath. They are fascinating to watch. Exene is ridiculously adorable in her polkadot dress and cowboy boots, dancing and swaying awkwardly. Billy Zoom had such suppressed energy and a huge smile on his face the entire night, only taking a quick break every ten minutes or so to wink at all the pretty ladies in the audience vying for his attention. John Doe is a total wild man, complimenting D.J. Bonebrake's furious drumming.
Exene blushed at the overwhelming applause at the conclusion of Los Angeles. They took a short break before returning to play a second full set. Exene began by saying "You thought we were doing drugs like it was 1980 but we weren't" and then a beer can hit her in the face. It must be weird to return home to play a big venue with a packed crowd and STILL get shit thrown at you as if you're in some scummy club where everyone hates you. She was a good sport and ignored it.
X played so hard this time around that D.J. broke his drums. According to John Doe, he played with such "essential soul" that he beat his drums to a pulp. He humiliated them, "gave them their last rites. Sorry, sucka!"
At the end Billy let a couple lucky fans in the front row touch his guitar. He cracked a grin and pulled out his own camera and took a few photos of the crowd before X turned in for the night.
Critic's bias: I obsessively read any/all books about punk culture and love films about the history of punk.
The crowd: Surprisingly tame. Very few mohawks to be found. Only a couple drunk crowd surfers.
Overheard in the crowd:
"So...there's no Christmas music?"
"But it said X with X-mas...I don't get it!"
Random notebook dump: So many cheese X jokes!
"Can you save my spot? You can, you know, MARK IT WITH AN X!"
Your Phone's Off The Hook, But You're Not
Johnny Hit And Run Paulene
Sex And Dying In High Society
The Unheard Music
The World's A Mess; It's In My Kiss
Who You Know
Some Other Time
Riding With Mary
Because I Do
Beyond & Back
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Added bonus...a little something that's both pretty freaky and endearing...here's John Doe being really excited about something: