OFF! Marquis Theater 10.8.11

It took half an hour for Keith Morris and OFF! to blast through every song in their punk rock repertoire.  30 minutes provided the time needed for 17 songs, plenty of onstage banter and even a few breaks for the 56-year-old legend to catch his breath.  The seasoned vets gave it their all, so much so that when it came time for an encore, there was nothing left…so they just started the set over again.  Now what could be more punk rock than that?!!!

OFF! brought the former Black Flag and Circle Jerks singer to town on a night when the seminal Los Angeles band X were performing just down the road and Supersuckers were performing just across town.  Not only that, there were members of The Fluid and Mariachi El Bronx in the house when they took the stage to what had to have been the most ‘mature’ crowd I have ever seen at the Marquis Theater.   This chance convergence of talent in the Mile High City proved to be truly important to Morris, who seemed genuinely elated at the prospect of performing for his favorite Colorado band since Zephyr.  But any concerns that this moment of exhilaration would take anything away from the abrasive nature of the performance were quickly erased when the sound-guy gave the go ahead, unleashing Black Thoughts into the small, crowded venue.  Then came the Darkness and I Don’t Belong (something I’m sure a good majority of this crowd was feeling at the time, as the kids in the pit slammed into the backs of those at least twice their age).  Quick, 45-second blasts of pure punk rock rang of the golden years without sounded dated what-so-ever.  Morris‘s signature voice was the same as I remember it being when I saw him with the Circle Jerks back in the day, but angrier.  I have heard some say OFF! might be his best band to date, and after seeing all 5′ 2″ of him, in his red Urinals t-shirt and dreadlocks hanging off his balding head, I have to say I agree.

After a a dedication to Jeffrey Lee Pierce (without The Gun Club, so many of these bands wouldn’t exist), it was time to take a minute and get some air.  Morris suffers from diabetes and admitted that at this elevation he could suffer hyperglycemia and ‘end up on the floor‘.  Maybe not the most punk rock thing to say, but you gotta give it to him…I have seen much younger men fail to keep up even half the level of intensity that he maintained last night.  And as if to counteract the moment of weakness, he politely told the audience to ‘shove the Broncos up their ass‘.  That’s my man!  A few of the old(er) folks up front could have taken a note from his book and lost the looks of indignation when things got a little crazy.  It is a puck rock show guys, it would do good to remember that!

Every song from the First Four EPs (with the exception of Broken), along with Compared To What and the bonus track Sexy Capitalist were performed, most prefaced by a quick story, history lesson or anecdote from Morris himself.  The dialogue around Peace in Hermosa might have been the best.  The song was written about a Grateful Dead concert experienced while high on PCP.  ‘girls with no bras…elephant tranquilizers…things you did when you were a kid and the hangover only lasted a half hour…we didn’t drink Draino, but I’m sure we would have gotten around to it‘.  Makes you wonder how Morris is alive today, much less making some of the most potent punk rock this side of the 21st century.  After introducing Dimitri Coats, Steven McDonald and Mario Rubalcaba, they left the stage.  Like a tornado that you didn’t see coming, they had come and gone in a flash of the eye and left nothing but destruction, confusion and guilty excitement in their wake.

And then it started over again…Black Thoughts and Darkness ended the set the same way it began.

While Git Some were filling the opening slot, I was outside witnessing what could have been a brutal beating.  Keith and Steven were being photographed by a guy who was being threaten by a much larger, much more aggro guy who was claiming the photographer beat his ex-wife.  The beating of the photographer never happened thanks to people stepping in, including Morris himself, but this vulgar display of aggression went on for a good 15 minutes. I think the most bizarre part was how calm Morris was about the whole thing, casually asking the man with the camera ‘are you a wife beater?

Not long after this, Frontside Five performed a pit-worthy performance that failed to resonate with a small, subdued crowd.  Only one person in the audience managed to match the adrenaline-infused hostility of the band itself, and that person was the same aggro dude who wanted to beat the alleged wife beating photographer.

By the time Retox took the stage, I had met enough interesting people to offset an ugly start to the night.  My Descendents hoodie was a hit as a conversation starter and I enjoyed these conversations around beard envy, Descendents karaoke in Fort Collins and the Frank Turner show from the night before, all while Retox did their noisy thing inside.  I tried to get into their form of noise punk, but just couldn’t do it.

Overall, is was a down-and-dirty night of punk rock that reminded me of those days in the underage clubs of Southern California.  Exactly what I was hoping for.

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