“I want my money back from that Circle Jerks show in Philly. That sucked compared to this.” That was the first thing I heard once OFF! finished their set. I have no idea what that show was like, but I do know that this OFF! set was impressive and even louder than I imagined it would be. The combined efforts of Keith Morris (Black Flag/Circle Jerks), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Steven Shane McDonald (Redd Kross), and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket from the Crypt/Hot Snakes) should yield no less than a brash display of negativity (or are they just being realistic?).
An evenly balanced crowd of new fans and middle-aged relics (with maybe six girls thrown in) were raving about openers The Spits and Double Negative, making me regret every circumstance that lead me to miss those performances. Dimitri was the first on the stage, greeting fans and telling us about that one time he wrote a song with a dead guy, and how OFF! wrote a song about it (Jeffrey Lee Pierce). There’s something comforting about songs that necessitate Pitchfork comment arguments.
OFF!s songs range from 33 seconds to one and a half minutes long, staying true to classic punk form. And honestly, you really don’t need more time than that to say “Fuck People.” Keith informs us that “Fuck People” is not about those of us in the crowd, but about pretty much everyone else on earth: angry drivers, people who cut in line, and so on. “Don’t be one of those people that Fuck People is about,” he advised. And after periodic anecdotes and semi-lectures, he picked up with more and more ferocity each time. Punk bands that have any political basis (see: all) obviously lecture at all of their shows, but when they come to DC, it’s almost mandatory. Morris knows we probably deal with it every night, so he knows to keep it short and relevant, and to waste no time getting back to playing. It’s easy for such short songs to feel hasty or sloppy or rushed, but not if you’re OFF! The memorable guitar riff that decorates “Pissed Off” is clear and catchy, and “Black Thoughts” is superbly precise and aggressive all at once.
The quality of this performance begs the question of which is better: a legendary punk band reunion, or the formation of a supergroup?
OFF! Made the case for supergroups tonight. The idea of Black Flag or Circle Jerks reuniting is an exciting thought, and clearly Keith Morris still has all the energy and heart he did decades ago, but what of the more reluctant, out of practice members? In this case, a supergroup is the best possible option: it gives those who are still undoubtedly in love with what they used to do a chance to really do it again, and perhaps even better the second time around. After all, they’ve had additional decades to perfect their disdain for humankind.