Aplscruf's Music Blog

X Keeps on Giving 40 Years Later

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It was a cold and damp December evening. My son Jacob and I crossed First Avenue and headed toward the neon-framed marquee of The Showbox to see X. Seattle’s streets shimmered with thawing snow, two days after a White Christmas–a rarity here. X is a rarity too, still intact after 40 years. Forty years of raw, chest-thumping, eardrum-splitting punk rock.

Their 40th Anniversary tour is a gift that just keeps on giving. Seattle was a stop in the final leg of their year-long tour, which actually began in 2016. The Grande Finale of 2017 took place December 30th in San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom.

X have been around so long, they’re already stuffed in a museum. The GRAMMY museum in L.A. just opened an exhibit in October: X: 40 Years of Punk in Los Angeles, which features X artifacts and memorabilia. There is also a book and a movie out about X and the L.A. punk scene. You’d think they were long gone, with all the honors bestowed upon them.

Exene Cervenka, vocalist for X, exclaims on their website: “For a long time interviewers and X people we’ve met have asked us, ‘Did you think when X started you’d still be playing together now?’ And our answer is surprisingly – No! Of course not!” Like the first fiery X on their Los Angeles album cover, they rose from the ashes, catching fire again and again as new generations of fans fueled them. Exene also added: “A couple weeks ago we were in the van coming home from a show, and started talking about this very exciting 40th Anniversary year coming up. Then Billy said: ‘That’s nice. What are we doing for our 50th anniversary?'”

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Back at The Showbox, makeshift airport metal detectors guarded the entrance. My purse was searched by security as I walked through the rectangular detectors. I hate the New World sometimes, but I’ll tolerate the terrorist paranoia in order to see a live show. The cycle of life and history keeps spinning ’round as new becomes old and old becomes new again. 

Our photo passes only allowed access on the sides of stage; but as usual in Seattle, no one showed up until halfway through the opener. We had prime standing positions in front of the stage, if we could tolerate standing for the next 3.5 hours. Seemed like the punk thing to do. Since X would be doing all the work, we could honor their efforts by standing and getting sweaty right along with them. I knew once we committed, we’d stay put the rest of the night.

X brought in some young blood to open the show this night. LPIII & The Tragedy were supporting X in the Northwest leg of the tour and promoting their debut album, Southland Hum. LPIII and the Tragedy set The Showbox ablaze with their punk swagger, borrowing riffs from roots rock to cow-punk, but they still sounded genuine and fresh.

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Louis Perez III, is an L.A. prince (his father is Louie Perez Jr. of Los Lobos fame), but has branched out and developed his own style of music. A necessary rite of passage, if one is to follow in his father’s musical footsteps. With intense, primal vocals and scorching lead guitar, he knew how to work the stage and energize the crowd.

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Perez’s cousin, Ruby Rosas (vox/bass), peered over the audience with dagger eyes, eager to rip our hearts out and eat them while thumping out bass riffs in snakeskin stilettos. And we were okay with that. She had full control of her instrument and matched Perez in talent and intensity.

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The rest of the band enveloped the two and created a tight, raucous sound, which included Mike Berault on keys, Carlos Guzman on rhythm guitar, and Eric Fuller on drums.

Check out their latest video of the title track here: https://www.lp3andthetragedy.com/video

After a huge applause erupted for LPIII & The Tragedy, the mob was fired up and ready for X.

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John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X

X’s punk music felt just as fresh and relevant as it must have 4 decades ago. No need for them to record “new” music. They have enough timeless hits to fill the night and keep the audience fully engaged. Generations of fans attended the Showbox this night, proving how timeless their music truly is. It speaks to the fans. Its roots run deep, touching many genres, from rockabilly to country, rock and pop. The mosh pit did change considerably, as the majority of the crowd was a bit older. This evening, the pit consisted of one skinny punk kid, flailing his arms and legs, who immediately got clothes-lined by a man twice his age and weight. End of mosh pit.

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Their onstage chemistry is that of a band who still “genuinely like each other”, said bassist/vocalist John Doe, in a recent interview in The Seattle Times. Their playful, knowing looks, inside jokes, and teasing remarks onstage added to the fun atmosphere. At one point, guitarist Billy Zoom kept telling drummer DJ Bonebrake: “Hold on!” right when DJ counted out a beat. After the third time, DJ learned his lesson and they blasted into another song, right on cue. For this show, X added guest musician Craig Packham to fill in on rhythm guitar so Billy could play his sax. Craig also played drums while DJ hit the vibraphone for a few songs.

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Billy Zoom, although seated again for most of the show, still had that Eternal Smile and mugged for the cameras in the front row. He’s still sweet and baby-faced, still playing like a madman, but cool as a cucumber on the outside, barely moving a muscle except those in his flying fingers.

Jacob, my son and photographer co-pilot, witnessed Doe’s solo show at The Triple Door a couple years ago. The lively show, more country than rock, included Jesse Dayton’s terrific backing band. Doe was a little more subdued, letting Dayton do the heavy lifting. Jacob hadn’t seen X as a full band before, and was pleasantly surprised by Doe’s dynamic bass grooves, his magnetism, synergy, and chemistry with X. Not to mention his contrapposto punk stance. The man’s still got it.

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I looked over and Jacob during “Hungry Wolf”. His eyes were closed and his head was bobbing, immersed in DJ’s rolling thunder. The wooden floor bounced to the beat below our stomping feet. The rest of the band disappeared behind the stage as our chests reverberated in marked time. After DJ’s powerful solo, Billy took his seat and conjured the devil out of his guitar, making other-worldly noises and screeches, howling and growling. Exene and John joined the pack to finish up the explosive song.

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DJ Bonebrake

“Mind if we sing a couple end-of-the-world songs?” said John. Exene shuffled over to him and held up 5 fingers close to his face with a coy smile.  John continued: “Uh, make that five end-of-the-world songs…”

If the world ended tonight, we’d all go out spent and satisfied. How punk is that? And isn’t that what music should do for us? Fuck the end of the world.

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Exene, seemingly in her own world, spun and swayed, with hands nesting in her hair. Sometimes she looked like a marionette with arms and legs attached to invisible strings, resurrecting her black-and-white ghost persona in “Because I Do.” When it was her turn in front of the mic, though, she became reanimated, punching out song after song, harmonizing with Doe, screaming, shrieking, and belting out lyrics.

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A woman about my age made her way to the front. Her smiling, glowing face showed how much she loved this band. She knew all the words, sang along, and reached out to each of them as she caught their eyes. During “Come Back To Me”, Exene extended a hand to the woman and held it while she finished her verse. It was so sweet and genuine. A tender moment at a punk rock show. Are they losing their punk angst? No, but they know how to give and receive love. It’s why they’re still around playing for us today.

I gave the fan my business card and told her to write to me, and I’d send her a picture. Priceless.

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Billy played sax during the song, and John later quipped, “That was our jazz interlude.”

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Billy Zoom on sax, guitar pick resting on forehead

The night grew long and hot. We held our positions, not daring to leave and expect to get back to the front lines. Sweating through my two shirts, I decided to remove my denim shirt, hand painted with copper arrows that my artist friend made me as a surprise Christmas present–a Wild Gift, just for tonight’s show. It was a beautiful bootleg, honoring Doe’s trademark look, crafted out of love and friendship. I held it up and caught Mr. Doe’s eye. He gave me a big smile and a little chuckle. Ahh, heaven right here in the heat and the fiery glow.

To be fair, though, Doe’s look and other cool hand-made designer clothing can be purchased through Featherweight Studio.

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John Doe, all punk and arrows

A young woman had the honor of helping Billy play his guitar at the end of the show. I caught a picture in the hazy glow of the lights, as if Billy were an angel sent down to greet her. She later exclaimed on my Facebook page where I’d posted the pic: “Happiest moment in all my life!” What more could you ask for as a fan or as a musician?

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Billy Zoom gets a helping hand from an adoring fan

Exene also expounded on the tour in a 2016 Seattle Times article: “We’ve got three generations of people now coming to see us. I’m grateful that we’re still doing it and I’m grateful people still want to see us. You don’t retire…you play until you die.”

I cannot go without saying how I was reminded of another 40th anniversary tour that just wrapped up a few months ago. The bittersweet and shocking ending of Tom Petty’s  life happened just days after his tour ended. As with X, we’ll still have the music, long after they’re gone. Nothing beats the shared energy of a live show, though.

It was a punk rock show after all, so I believe I’m allowed to toss around an “F” bomb a couple of times. Maybe I’m being selfish, even after acknowledging that life and death form a never-ending circle, but here goes:

X, don’t fucking die. Shoot for the 50th Anniversary.

Peace, Love, and Punk Rock to All…

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For more information, check out their websites and purchase their merch:

http://www.xtheband.com/

John Doe

https://www.lp3andthetragedy.com/

For fantastic pics of the show, check out Peter Dervin Photography and his review on No Depression: http://nodepression.com/live-review/x-celebrates-their-40th-anniversary-showbox-seattle

 

 

 

 

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December 31, 2017 - Posted by | 2017, The Showbox, X | , , , , , ,

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