There was no entourage in sight when the four members of OFF! arrived onstage last night at the Whisky a Go Go, for a party to celebrate their first official LP, OFF!, released yesterday on Vice Records. Each player took turns checking his gear – singer Keith Morris unfurled a set list almost longer than himself, and guitarist Dimitri Coats plugged in with a snarling blast of noise. Hardcore and DIY were back on the Sunset Strip.
OFF! performed an urgent, modern take on that explosive legacy, rooted in Morris' history as the founding singer of Black Flag and his decades leading the Circle Jerks. He was joined onstage by a tight unit of veteran punk and hard rock players – Coats (formerly of the Burning Brides), drummer Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From the Crypt, Earthless) and bassist Steven McDonald (Redd Kross).
"We're playing a bunch of new songs tonight. No Black Flag, no Circle Jerks – no," Morris told the sold-out crowd to some playful groans. "Don't be afraid to tell your parents that you listen to us. They're not going to punish you for that."
Wearing a Burning Brides T-shirt, and with dreadlocks to his kneecaps, Morris recalled many nights at the Whisky a Go Go, beginning with his first show at age 16 to see bluesman Freddie King. He also told of nights drinking beer in a nearby parking lot with Gun Club frontman Jeffrey Lee Pierce. "We would get obliterated, and we would think of the most wonderful things to pull off over there. One night we set the dumpster on fire."
The Whisky was once home to the original Los Angeles punk rock scene of the Seventies and Eighties, and OFF!'s quick, 45-minute set was designed to bring a little taste of that energy back to the club. "It was a big deal for Keith to come here," Coats told Rolling Stone last night. "This was the old stomping grounds of the old guard, the knights of the round punk table."
The set opened with "Panic Attack," the first of many tightly wound songs of barely a minute or less, as a moshpit swirling with spiky Mohawks and punk-rock lifers erupted on the floor. For "I Don't Belong," from 2010's "The First Four EPs" collection, Morris held his mic over the audience as fans shouted along to the enraged lyrics. "I Got News for You" was the first of four new songs performed last night.
In the crowd were guitarist Greg Hetson (of Bad Religion and the Circle Jerks) and Nick Oliveri, former bassist-singer of Queens of the Stone Age. They are just a few of the band's high-profile fans – the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Kiedis has been leading his own OFF! media blitz, wearing an OFF! cap or T-shirt at interviews, photo sessions, video shoots and most recently to his band's induction last month into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
After the show, McDonald was pleased. "The room has got a lot of spirit and mojo and it was fun," McDonald told Rolling Stone. He first came to the Whisky as a 12-year-old to see the Weirdos in 1979, while his parents waited across the street in their Toyota Corona. "It was a good night."
OFF! will tour Europe in June, with a U.S. tour in July with the reunited Swedish hardcore act Refused.
For Coats, whose beaten Marshall amplifier cabinet was just a little bit more shredded when it was over, the record release party was another great night for the band, whose new album is already getting rave reviews. "This music makes you feel like you're 18 years old," Coats said. "It's incredible the connection we have. We're bookends. We come from the KISS Army, and we are not afraid to shake our hair left and right to tell a story."