"I was talking to someone on the phone, someone I used to have mounds of respect for. Someone for whom I had the utmost respect," announced Keith Morris halfway through OFF!'s set. "But he was whining like a teenage boy or a teenage girl. All of that respect was just gone. He said 'You hurt my feelings.' Well, boo fucking hoo." The band then snapped into Morris' indictment of older bandmates, "Feelings Were Meant to Be Hurt." Throughout the concert, the band seemed to be taking revenge on their contemporaries who had lost the vicious edge of Nervous Breakdown at Slims, in San Francisco, Calif. May 11.
While OFF!'s earliest shows were limited by their 16-song discography, now that they've got 38 tracks to pull from, the shows are more reminiscent of an established band than a just born punk group circa 1978. The most noticeable effect was that Morris, who is usually quite talkative, confined himself to two or three short monologues, and for the most part, the band tore through their sets, playing about three-fourths of each album.
Being that half of OFF! comes from a punk background, and the other half comes from a hard rock background, their live show is a bit of a paradox. It's probably fair to say that most punk bands are in their prime early on, when the members have just learned how to accurately play their instruments and are young and hungry. But, because OFF! has about 102 years of playing experience between them, it was their sheer professionalism that made the music so explosive.
While veteran bands tend to lock into a mid-speed pace, drummer Mario Rubalcaba snapped the show forward, driving at a tempo just faster than the studio versions of the songs. The energetic pace made it possible for guitarist Dimitri Coats and bassist Steven McDonald to strike in tandem, creating a blunt, but sharp hitting wall of simple, driving riffs.
And of course, the legend himself, Morris, was in top form. Amazingly, despite 36 years of screaming, his voice is still as vitriolic, fresh and wet as it was on Black Flag's "Fix Me." The sheer explosiveness of his voice, which still has his slightly nasally tone, makes his words have more of a rusty hook than had they been delivered "straight." In fact, the lyrics were delivered with such urgency and wide eyed howling that it would seem that same things that bothered Morris in 1976 are still bothering him now.
While Morris was not nearly as verbose as his usual self, he took a moment to reference the venue that the group played at the previous night.
"Last night we played at the Whisky a Go Go, which is like your Filmore. Myself and other people, maybe a Germ or an X, would hang out across the street and get totally obliterated. One day, someone had the genius idea to light a dumpster on fire and push it down the hill so that it would roll into the sheriff's station. So, we lit it on fire. It didn't make it to the sheriff's station, but it went a good way. That person who had that idea was Jeffery Lee Pierce of the Gun Club, one of my best friends in the whole world, who passed away in 2006. This song is my eulogy to him."
Morris seemed to pause for a moment and then the band thrust into a vicious version of their tribute to the deceased.
The new songs from OFF! were played mostly on the back half of the concert. Because OFF!'s older songs are more standard bashers, and the newer tunes are somewhat avant-garde, the strategy worked well, with the tunes from The First Four EPs revving up the crowd and the new songs from OFF! just completely tearing the stage apart with their harshness, unpredictable form and sheer viciousness.
Let's hope that OFF! gets more harsh, more unpredictable, and even more vicious.
-Serious question: I am not trying to be sexist--Do females have less sensitivity in their butt-cheeks than males? This girl in front of me kept bumping her behind into my front quarters and clasped hands, but didn't seem to notice. I tried to be a gentlemen and kept backing up, but in a packed club, you can only go so far. I didn't want to say anything either, because, you know, that would be weird.
-Pro-tip: If you get to a venue early, go to the bathroom ASAP, and you might be able to score a free flier for the show that you are at. (Don't take down fliers from upcoming shows, because that is not cool.)
-A lot of publications have said that the new LP is just the band doing the same thing over again and complaining that Morris spends too much time talking about history. Frankly, I think those publications just haven't listened close enough. First, the new LP has NOT been done before--the songs are a weird structure, the lyrics are more poetic and, frankly, new concepts are addressed that I haven't heard in punk before. Second, this is THE legend Keith Morris, an architect of punk itself. If you happened to run into Caesar and he was like, "Hey, let me tell you about the Gaelic Conquest and that time I banged Cleopatra" would you really be like "Nah, that's cool. I mostly paid attention in 10th grade history"?