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OFF! with The Spits and Double Negative - First Unitarian Church (Philadelphia) - Friday, October 19, 2012

20 October 2012

Though we saw OFF! play with Dinosaur Jr last year at the Electric Factory (please see my review here for more on that show), I felt like this was the first time I was getting to see them as the show was in a much more suitable environment for their brand of 40 second freakout hardcore punk. At the First Unitarian Church, there are no barricades and the just about sold out crowd comprised hundreds (all there to see the headliners) inside of a sweaty basement on a cool October night.

Starting at a little before 11 PM and ending at about 11:30, we seemingly got almost every single song on the fantastic collection The First Four EPs and their more recently released self-titled debut album. In fact, looking back on it, I can’t think of a single song that they didn’t play. Though the crowd clamored for an encore even after lead howler Keith Morris had stated that these would be the last 4 songs before walking off stage, it wasn’t to be. They would’ve had to play some covers as I don’t think they had any more songs left to play! Regardless, Morris was in fine form, hounding the stage like a screaming banshee and living up to his verbose and confrontational reputation, fired up (and occasionally pissed off as I heard some idiotic “less talk, more rock” type comments from folks standing next to me that I also heard when I saw play with his old band Circle Jerks at CBGBs in 2005) the crowd. In fact, his banter is as interesting as the music with Morris going off on a wide range of subjects ranging from politics and voting, clothing choices, conformity, cell phones and other topics of note as well. The music didn’t suffer one iota from the occasional long between-song breaks, though, as Morris, guitarist Dimitri Coats, bassist Steven McDonald and monster drummer Mario Rubalcaba play short, sharp blasts of hardcore ferocity, but are all grounded in ’60s and ’70s rock (a huge difference between them and many other hardcore bands, giving the songs a groove on occasion), making each song memorable and catchy to boot! This is a potent combination and OFF!, who are about as good as this genre gets nowadays, were in terrific form last night.

I managed to catch most of The Spits‘ set. Having only heard one of their prior records in passing at a record store and having never seen them live, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. A 4-piece band with members scattered all over the country, imagine a straightforward but exceptionally tight punk band with Glenn Danzig circa Misfits style vocals and melodies that reminded me of ’90s pop-punk greats like The Parasites, Queers, Screeching Weasel and other Ramones-inspired outfits. It was hard to see them as the lights were off on stage and they had a skull backdrop with lights, but on some songs it looked like there was a hand-held keyboard or maybe a keytar as well! My only complaint about their set is that they kept saying that it was their last song, but kept playing! It was really hot in there and we all really wanted to see OFF!, so even though I enjoyed their set, it was a little much!

The biggest surprise of the night was Double Negative, the band that opened the show. Now I’d heard both of their previous albums (though I’ve yet to hear the just-released Hardcore Confusion Volumes 3 and 4) and enjoyed them, but wasn’t as blown away as many others I know seem to be. Still, having never seen them live, I was prepared to have my mind changed and boy was it ever. Simply put, for the 20 minutes or so they were on, they just dominated the stage. New singer CC reminded me of Tim Singer in his Deadguy days, just menacing and fierce and frighteningly intense! New drummer Bobby Michaud was also a revelation, his hi-hat playing being more similar to disco or post-punk style drummers than what most hardcore drummers do. And some of the tempos themselves were warped and almost mechanized to the point where on occasion it sounded kind of like late ’80s Ministry. Overall, I’d say the C.O.C. and B’last! comparisons I’ve heard aren’t inaccurate, but yet Double Negative somehow transcend that and are their own entity, though very much rooted in the weirder side of ’80s hardcore. In any case, I’ll definitely go back and give those records another chance as I was really impressed with their performance.

Overall, it’s rare that a 3-band bill is one where each band is quality and combined with seeing friends there, including some traveling from out-of-state to see the show, made it a fantastic and fun night!


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