Having attended more than a few "reunion" shows, the only ones that were any good were a Washington, D.C. Damned show in 1988 and a recent Negative Approach show in Albuquerque. Lets face it: By the time most bands reach a certain age, there are good reasons for calling it quits and the motives for resurrection are largely monetary. In many cases the existence of the Casino Circuit enables bands that never should have been assaulting my ears in the first place to once more hit the road and get in my face with billboards along the highways of North America—or at least the highways running through Albuquerque.
The entirely legit performance that the Los Angeles punk rock legend X put on at the Santa Fe Opera last Monday, Sept. 23, dispelled any doubts I might have had about their motives or competence. I was also pleasantly surprised at what a nifty spot the Santa Fe Opera is—and it sounds great in there. There ain't much to say about X: They rocked, they rock and they still rock. With all four original members on stage, X launched their set with a tight rendition of "Los Angeles" and proceeded to rip through nearly two hours of their best songs—that's a lot of tunes—without slowing down, fucking up or retooling their catalog. Guitarist Billy Zoom played with the same panache and chops he had back in 1980 and drummer DJ Bonebrake—though he looked as though he might collapse near the end of the set—whipped it on his snare like Orville Redenbacher makes popcorn. John Doe and Exene Cervanka (or "Cervenkova," as she is apparently going by these days) performed with all the chemistry they showed in Decline and The Unheard Music way back when. The group is obviously enjoying themselves on this tour, with their health and safety in mind, too.
Seriously, folks, if you live near a city the X/Blondie or X/Blasters tour is coming through: Get a ticket and show up. X fans will freak out as the dopamine and serotonin levels in their brains reach pleasure levels produced by only the world's finest live music. Blondie, by the way, while adequate and definitely popular with the choir—oops, I mean crowd—just didn't have the energy and vibe to elevate their set above the rating of "reunion-rock," a term I hereby claim to have coined.
I heard of Willis Earl Beal late … at least later than all of the indie/hipster music blogs that cause artists to catch on like a quick flame and spread their ashes into the atmosphere before anyone had a chance to know what was coming. It's a very ADD complex with music. Nothing gets a chance to settle, to simmer, to fully sink in … but Beal is separate from all of that. First of all, he doesn't really have an online presence, so the only thing people had to work with was his first album of experimental bedroom recordings, Acousmatic Sorcery. For those who have cable, you might have seen him on “The X Factor.”
But Beal is weird. His interviews boast a vagabond background mixed with rock star arrogance—because he doesn't bullshit. He knows who he is, and he truly doesn't care what anyone thinks, as long as he has room to make music at his own pace. Give the man some room so he can make magic happen. He recently shared a new track from his upcoming record Nobody knows. That song, titled “Too Dry to Cry,” showcases his poignant and forthright lyrics as well as his soulful, ridiculously good vocals. Seriously, this dude has the ferocious authenticity of Robert Johnson with an affinity for slowly slithering into your eardrum like Otis Redding.
Comparisons aside, the guy is prolific. If you haven't seen his performance on “Later … with Jools Holland,” watch it immediately. If it doesn't bring a minor tear to your eye, there's no humanity left in you; all that's left is a shell, a flicker of what used to be a vibrant example of humanity. Okay, I'm being a little dramatic, but it's that good. If his new track is anything to go by, we can expect some great things from his new record. Nobody knows. hits stores September 10. So keep an eye and ear out.
Back in 1984, blind country-western crooner Ronnie Milsap released this rocking crossover hit, “She Loves My Car,” with some surprising support from Exene Cervenka and John Doe of the band X. It seemed unusually edgy and tuneful for Milsap back then, and it still holds up pretty well. The video also features a young and early appearance by “Law and Order” star Mariska Hargitay.
Kenta Henmi wields his axe with precision and style. He played Song Roulette with us this week. The guitarist’s current projects include the Jonny Cats, Glitter Dick, High Iron, Suicide Lanes and Pumpin’ for Jill. The newest, Pumpin’ for Jill, is named for an Iggy Pop tune and Henmi’s wife, Natalie Bruce, is the principal songwriter for the group. See the reborn Jonny Cats perform on Wednesday night. Check out music from the Jonny Cats, Koffin Kats, Terri Schiavo Dance Party and Glitter Dick after the jump. Launchpad • Jonny Cats • Koffin Kats • Glitter Dick • Terri Schiavo Dance Party • Wed Nov 7 • 9:30 pm • $8 • 21-and-over • launchpadrocks.com
Exene Cervenka could care less about resting on laurels. She's fronted X for more than 30 years, stoking a dynamo of L.A. punk, poetry and American roots music alongside singer/bassist John Doe, guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer DJ Bonebrake. With such a robust career in music, Exene could easily cash in her chips and retire with plenty to be proud of. But she hasn't. And she won't. Far from holding steady, Exene has turned her attention to bands like The Original Sinners, The Knitters and Auntie Christ, playing with formats like country, rockabilly, folk, punk rock and glam. She's also acted in films, mounted visual art exhibitions and built a reputation as a spoken word artist.