OFF! with Retox, Problem Daughter and Autumn Eclipse
Catching a show on a Friday night at Club Sound/In The Venue always ends up being an anxious experience for me. There’s something about rushing the bands on and off the stage so that management can convert the club into a dance hall by 10:30pm that keeps me constantly checking my watch. I always forget how these nights are set up. This dual purpose weekend booking, and my inability to wrap my mind around it, led me to miss both of the local openers. I had heard good things about both Problem Daughter and Autumn Eclipse and was a little put off that they had played before I got to the club. Missing them was completely my fault, but it didn’t really occur to me that a weekend club show would start at 6pm.
I got there just in time for Retox, a national touring band from southern California. Retox is a four-piece grindcore band that features Justin Pearson (of Struggle and the Locust fame) and Gabe Serbian (of the Locust, and also Cattle Decapitation). The band played a variety of quick and screamy hardcore punk that made them a good pick to share the bill with OFF!. They played for just over a half an hour, as the club really started to fill up with a good mix of young punks and older hardcore guys (not many ladies, as is often the case with music this severe). There were even a few families—the awesome side effect of having an early, all-ages show that doesn’t fall on a school night. Retox did what they could to engage the audience, but got little more than some courtesy head-banging and occasional applause. People saved their slam dancing for later in the evening. The band left it all on the stage, though, playing every song like they meant it. They were younger and more heavily tattooed than the guys in OFF!, and did what they could to prep the crowd for the rest of the night.
OFF! took the stage just after 9pm and played for around 45 minutes. This was a huge feat when you consider that they really only have about a half an hour of recorded music to their name. They started off with the tune “Panic Attack” and did not stop until they had played every song in their repertoire. Quick jabs of solid, authentic hardcore were punctuated with singer Keith Morris’s storytelling and song explanations. Morris is, of course, a hardcore punk legend—having been the vocalist behind an early version of Black Flag (also called PANIC), the Circle Jerks and many other bands (Buglamp, Midget Handjob et al.). The crowd didn’t always know how to take Morris, and even shot me a few glares when I distracted from his sermon by daring to laugh at his jokes. Highlights of the set included the song “Jeffrey Lee Pierce” a eulogy written about the singer of the ‘80s punk blues band the Gun Club, and an inspiration to later bands like the Supersuckers. Pierce was a close friend of Morris. As the OFF! front man introduced the song, he took special care to explain the Utah/Pierce connection to the completely silent (dare I say reverent?) crowd. Pierce had taken a breather from his music career and had come to Utah to live with his aging father and to get off of drugs. While in Utah he died of a brain hemorrhage—thought to be the result of a fall he suffered while exploring the Kennecott strip mine. He was only 37. Other songs that required some Keith Morris philibustering were a cover of the 1970s jazz standard “Compared to What?” and the band’s final number, “Peace in Hermosa,” a song about an abandoned church in Hermosa Beach where California hardcore music found a place to squat and grow roots. Then, almost as quickly as it started, and after playing through every song they had as a band, OFF! called it a night. Well, almost. The roar of the crowd got them back on the stage for a little more music and spoken word.
Morris mentioned that the same thing would happen in the early Black Flag days. They would play every song they had and the crowd would demand more. Not wanting to let us down, the band did what only seemed right—they started their set over again. “Panic Attack” seemed even better the second time. After playing through a few more they quit for real. The band stuck around briefly to chat with fans until the club rushed us all out for dance night. In all it was a perfect evening. OFF! gave everything they had. And even though it was a quick set, it had an air of authenticity and sincerity that is rarely experienced. The night was loud, introspective, sincere and even manic. This can be a hard mix to pull off, but when you see it done right, it is something that you’ll never forget.