Still Desperate

Tiger Army, X
House of Blues
Friday, April 6

Do you kids really need another review contrasting neopunk with vintage punk? Do you need to hear again how it's not the same as it was back in the day? How our anger was real, man, because of music-business stagnation, a right-wing president crushing the have-nots for the benefit of the superrich and our disdain for the future corporate America pre-packaged for us?

Uh, which era was I writing about again?

During the opening set, guitarist/vocalist Nick 13 of three-piece Berkeley psychobillies Tiger Army belted out the line “We came from nowhere.” They should go back. I swear I heard them at a backyard kegger before they were born. You boys keep playing; I'm going outside for a churro.

Before X's arrival, a pre-recorded message like something you'd hear on the Disneyland tram warned everyone not to mosh, stage dive, crowd surf or knock heads. God (or Walt) forbid there should be spontaneous displays of emotion—as if moshing, stage diving, crowd surfing and head knocking were spontaneous anymore.

Overall impression of X: still desperate, now used to it. There seemed to be a chance at the outset that the pioneering punks had come to deliver an inspired show, as opposed to the take-the-money-and-runathons that have become all too frequent in recent years. Exene looked playful in a big bouffant wig; tiara; black dress; black patent-leather schoolgirl shoes; and black knee-high stockings with white skulls and crossbones. It was as if Jan Crouch's less-twisted sister was in this house we call home. But by a couple of songs in, she, guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebrake had that faraway look of strippers. Cha-ching!

John Doe would have none of that. As always, the co-vocalist/bassist was on. For all his side projects and backstabbing comments about his Band Mates for Life, Doe is consistently punk's answer to James Brown—in banana-colored pants! His energy eventually rubbed off on the others, and the oldies show finally got rolling at song seven, “Year 1,” which elicited both goosebumps and—fuck the recording—frenetic moshing. By the time they got to one of their best live songs, “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene,” the pit was in full swell. Exene, having ditched the wig, looked totally repulsed, like Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. But whenever she decided to hit her marks, she did so with surprisingly strong vocals.

“Our fantastic new president gives this song a whole new meaning,” Doe said as he introduced “We're Desperate.” More befitting that honor was a tune that came a little later. “The New World”—bolstered by Zoom's twangy, anthem-like riffs—features the lyrics “Honest to goodness, the tears are falling all over this country's face/It was better before, before they voted for what's his name/This was supposed to be the new world.”

Uh, which era was I writing about, again?

Zipping through 22 songs in just shy of one and a half hours—including two encores—X pretty much covered their entire catalog from the Zoom years. The closer, “Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not,” left the crowd wanting more. Maybe the young'uns get it. (Matt Coker)

Your Enemies Friends
Chain Reaction
Friday, April 6

It was the Night of the Living Dead: onstage, we had Your Enemies Friends, a band too good to die young and back from a too-long absence, and on the grievously misnamed “dance floor,” we had the zombies. You'd think with all the shootings lately, high school kids would look a little more alert, but these sad sacks could barely keep their eyes open. Please, people, can we stop prescribing Ritalin so casually?

Your Enemies Friends, who said a ton of bad words right into the mic, got people to wake up a little. “We are not the fuckin' Pressure!” sneered Ronnie from the Pressure, who is now no longer Ronnie from the Pressure—guess we'll actually have to figure out his last name now. Instead, he and Dana are now in Your Enemies Friends, the answer to the question, “Hey, dude, whatever happened to the Pressure?” And, well, this is what happened: Your Enemies Friends are an edgy and (at least that night) refreshingly mouthy and confrontational band that slip-slides around the edges of pop and punk, bouncing spastically from new wave to no wave and, um, noise wave (that sounds like an actual musical genre, right?).

They sure know how to work a crowd: after four songs, they quit playing. “We're bored, we're leaving, fuck you,” Ronnie drawled—or words to similar effect—and they slam-banged their way through their closing number with Dana singing and a bunch of thrift-store glitterati scrambling onstage and knocking things over.

Maybe we deserved it, or maybe they've only written four songs and were trying for a graceful exit, but it was still a nicely messy finale—if a justifiably brief set. But we know how to stop the boring for next time, kids: just hide the Ritalin under your tongue, and spit it out when the nurse isn't looking. Then we'll all have a lot more fun at the rock & roll show. Trust us. (Chris Ziegler)

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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