Sunday, April 24
Punks, by nature, tend to be heathens, questioning the importance of religion and just about every other societal>"/>
Sunday, April 24 Neumos
Sunday, April 24
Punks, by nature, tend to be heathens, questioning the importance of religion and just about every other societal construct. So how better to celebrate Christianity's second-biggest holiday than with loud, fierce, early '80s-style hardcore at Neumos with OFF!, led by Black Flag and Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris. And not that the band needed to further prove their punk cred, but they did get arrested earlier this year for stealing vegetable oil from a restaurant to power their biodiesel van. Now that's punk!
Clocking in at just under 18 minutes, OFF!'s debut album, the decidedly low-fi First Four EPs, is a collection of the 16 songs that make up the quartet of 7-inches the band released last year. OFF! formed out of a failed Circle Jerks record that Dmitri Coats of Burning Brides was hired to produce, but when the rest of the band rejected Morris' producer of choice--and after Morris didn't like the songs guitarist Greg Hetson had written the album--the singer said sayonara and the pair formed this fearsome foursome, which also includes bassist Steve McDonald of Redd Kross and drummer Mario Rubalcaba of Rocket From the Crypt and Hot Snakes fame.
At 55, Morris still sports his trademark dreads (though there are fewer these days thanks to male pattern baldness), as well as his ferocious growl, which somehow remains as potent today as it was on Black Flag's 1978 Nervous Breakdown EP. Though Neumos was fairly empty during the sets of the two opening bands, as Morris and co. hit the stage, the room filled up quickly with punks of all ages who pushed and shoved each other in the pit while the band unleashed a fury of manic energy on stage. Morris talked a lot between songs, often for longer lengths than the songs that followed, tackling politics, dead friends, and even taking shots at his former bandmates. "We never get to rehearse," Morris said of one of OFF!'s major challenges. "Because everybody else in this band has kids. And these aren't deadbeat dads. I wouldn't stand for that. I spent 30 years playing in bands with deadbeats." Ouch.
After running through all of their recorded material, the band took a breather, only to return a few minutes later with the sweaty crowd chanting for more. "I call this the Black Flag solution," Morris said. "We're going to start our set over," which they did, playing through three of the set's songs again before leaving the stage for good.
Though plenty of bands have tried over the years to match the intensity of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, few have succeeded. Even fewer could get away with writing songs like "Fuck People" and "Now I'm Pissed" and not have them sound silly. Instead, OFF! imbues each blast of hardcore with a simple, powerful urgency. "I slashed and burned through my 15 minutes of fame," Morris wails on "Blast." "And now it's time for me to extinguish the flame. But that's alright 'cause I wouldn't have it any other way. I had a blast." And so did all of Neumos on Easter Sunday, worshiping their patron saint of punk rock and celebrating his resurrection like some kind of holy punk-rock holiday.
BTW: Like Black Flag, OFF! are named for a popular brand of insect repellent.
T-shirt philosophy: Morris sported a shirt with "Listen to The Germs" written across it.