Even though I’ve been averaging 3 or 4 shows a week, every week of every month since November of 2014, I still get jacked up on performances more often than not. I might not always be AS excited before I get to the venue from one night to the next but the Redd Kross anniversary party for Teen Babes From Monsanto along with a Steve “livin the dream” McDonald showcase with all his current active bands, including Melvins AND OFF! was impossible to not get wrapped up in. Unless you’re a kook.
The truth is that Janky photographer, Jessica Moncrief hit me up to see if I could write about, so she could shoot, OFF! and Melvins at The Observatory. I didn’t find out until I was half way down to Santa Ana that Redd Kross was ALSO playing. I started to make the McDonald connection but still didn’t understand what was happening down there until I got inside the venue and the Melvins were already halfway through their set.
The bummed out feeling at missing a major chunk of the Melvins didn’t last too long when I understood the significance of the evening. Now I understood what Keith Morris was talking about in his response to hooking up for some portraits at some point that night when he waffled and said, “there’s a lot going on there tonight…” Props to Morris- a punk icon that doesn’t have to make it all about himself while his friends are having THEIR moment in the sun and this was definitely that for Steve McDonald.
So we watched the remaining sludgy crunch and croon of Buzz and Steve in a three piece formation of dissonant and distorted doom along with drummer, Dale Crover.
I wondered during the changeover if Steve’s brother, Redd Kross lead singer, Jeff McDonald would bring out his burgeoning punk progeny, daughter Astrid McDonald to do some of the songs off the In The Red Records split single with Redd Kross and Astrid’s up and coming Burger Records style garage punk (meaning they’re not middle aged), The Side Eyes. My question was answered soon enough but only after Redd Kross plowed through their classic covers from the perfectly named, Teen Babes of Monsanto album and other tracks and celebrating the first ever release of Teen Babes on CD. It seemed like it took some time for Jeff to warm up to the one set that was already under Steve’s belt, which made me obfuscate in tangent on the dynamics of the modern day McDonald family and whether there existed a lifelong sibling rivalry.
After Astrid and The Side Eyes guitarist, Kevin Devine concluded the two song stint on stage with the cover In The Red released with the young punks. Performing young Ms. McDonald’s mother’s, pre Go-Go’s effort, “Don’t Talk To Me”, the theme of nepotism set in at it’s climax with the realization of Charlotte Caffey’s most likely, unspoken influence in the naming of her daughter’s band. I’m sure The Side Eyes will get sick of hearing about and reading about this whole thing at some point, if they aren’t already and I say, just kick some fucking ass every time out and leave no doubt.
I thought back to the first time I heard Redd Kross as a VERY young lad listening to a Rodney on the Roq compilation that had “Annette’s Got The Hits” on it. I was also exposed to Circle Jerks, The Vandals, Ill Repute and so many others by that compilation by The Mayor of the Sunset Strip and the once independent, now corporate KROQ. My older sister liked classic rock but she DID turn me on to Suicidal’s first punk album but most of my music taste was shaped by the golden era of KROQ and KNAC, before the word “Alternative” was packaged to describe a music genre that catapulted Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers and conceptualized the word “grunge” to package a group of local area, scene bands in Seattle that sounded nothing alike.
Redd Kross was incredible and it is always reinforced to me that good things happen when I say yes to shows at the last minute. 0 anticipation and build up= no expectations and that is a great thing for a good time. Now- OFF!
Without fail, it creates a narrative in my head when I see iconic figures of punk, who don’t just live off the past (not that there is anything morally wrong about that) or haven’t solely leveraged a renewed interest in the legacy that made them icons such as Jello Biafra with Guantanamo School of Medicine and of course, Keith Morris with OFF! Sure, Morris is doing tours of Flag now but it speaks volumes that OFF! might be the best contemporary hardcore punk band in music right now. Must be just as, if not more rewarding as an elder statesman like Morris to create income for yourself and not have to continuously tour on songs that have been stuck in your head for more than 30 years. I imagine that might make them akin to playing Jingle Bell Rock everyday for 3 months out of every year, no matter how hardcore your songs are.
So when Keith, Dimitri, Mario took the stage & of course, Stevie Mac taking the stage for the third time that night, it was to perform material that was all written in the last 5 years. And in summoning Jello Biafra earlier who played at The Observatory a few nights ago (yes, this review is super re-tardy) with his Guantanamo School of Medicine, the contrast reveals to me that Jello is another who put together a good band that crystalizes how extra-ordinary, not only the popularity of OFF! but also the fact that it’s justified. Which is rare.
So as OFF! ripped through songs from their catalog of 12 full lengths, EP’s, Live albums and splits 7″‘s with bands such as the Melvins, Redd Kross and Barb Wire Dolls, I found myself rehashing the OVER abundance of coverage and obsessiveness I have dedicated to the prototype whose parents named him Keith Morris and the rare breed of band that OFF! represents thinking, “what the hell am I going to write about this band, this time…?”
2016 Radio Interview w/ Keith Morris on Janky Smooth & The NSA being transcribed at this moment and will be live on Janky Smooth this week.
related content: Opening Bands Shine as OFF! Plays Alex’s Bar 16 Year Anniversary
Words: Danny Baraz
Photos: Jessica Moncrief