OFF! / Thee Oh Sees - live in Berkeley (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

OFF! / Thee Oh Sees

live in Berkeley (2011)

live show

"At my age, like Henry Rollins, I've earned the right to do whatever the fuck I want!" exclaimed OFF!'s frontman, Keith Morris. Between rampaging through minute-long songs and their frontman alternating between congratulating and attacking the audience, OFF! exhibited that they are as explosive as their pedigree would suggest to the packed 924 Gilman on April 22, 2011.

After taking the stage, Morris thanked the other bands and introduced the members of OFF!. Immediately, hecklers (or *fans*?) began to hurl barbs at Morris, to which he seemed to take personally despite 30 years in punk. When one attendee screamed "You're way more punk than Henry!" Morris immediately snapped back "Henry Rollins is my friend! He took me out on the West Memphis Three tour. He was nothing but an upstanding individual!"

Soon after, the band launched into their set proper. Composed of every song off their debut, First Four EPs, it was striking as to how fierce the band was. While guitarist Dimitri Coates and bassist Steven McDonald seemed to hardly move their feet, they played with such energy that their entire bodies shook. At times when playing a particularly nasty lick, it seemed as though they had an invisible noose around their necks that would snap them to the ground as the final chord came crashing down.

Although the live versions of their songs didn't differ greatly from the studio versions, the band was a little faster and looser in their playing. The result is that when the band hit the snaps and solid punches on their tunes, the force was that much greater, giving their lyrics of desperation that extra oomph.

Morris, despite his 55 years of age, sounded phenomenal, retaining every ounce of the snappy snarl that he first exhibited on 1978's Nervous Breakdown. As always, he alternated leaping about the stage and pantomiming motions fitting for the songs, such as blowing his own brains out and clawing at his face; all the while his five-foot dreads swung like coach whips.

Befitting his mercurial nature, Morris seem to alternate between bliss and extreme annoyance between the show. At one point he reprimanded a larger gentlemen for crowd surfing and jumping onto a young lady. At another point, he got into a short but vicious exchange with some fool who yelled "Less talk, more rock." But, on the other hand, he also announced that "tonight has really been something special and great." Does Morris alternate between moods so easily, or is it that even when people are coming at him, he's still having a good time?

For the encore, the band retook the stage and Morris announced, "We go by the Black Flag method. In Black Flag, people would want more music, but we only had 16 songs, so we would just start the set over. This band only has 16 songs..." at which time the band began their set again. Interestingly, the encore versions were even faster than their earlier incarnations. But where the earlier incarnations were more loose than the studio counterparts, the super fast versions caused the band to tighten up and become a sharper unit, no doubt in part to the technical nature of the band's musical backgrounds. I guess to play simple music really well, you have to be able to play the complex stuff, too.

Thee Oh Sees, who put the show together, played before OFF!. While the group bases their sound off of San Francisco garage rock, to call them a garage band would understate their frantic live show. John Dwyer, the group's leader, held his guitar like it was a stake thrust through his chest and whirled up and down the fretboard like it was electrified. At times, he was playing with such energy, twisting his head, a line of slobber dripped from his tongue. Brigid Dawson, who complemented Dwyer with the keys and vocals, didn't so much sing as she hooped and hollered like Linda Blair. Thee Oh Sees' set didn't so much end as it built to a climatic and phenomenal crash that descended into sprinkling chaos. Of course, the audience was suitably impressed.