This record release party for Redd Kross’ new album was a complete sweat bath, in the middle of a rowdy crowd which had packed the Roxy on Tuesday night. I don’t know how it was at the Echoplex for that Green Day gig – I still don’t know why I am mentioning it, may be I am still mad I couldn’t get in and I am not even a fan – but if you wanted some true punk energy, you definitively should have come to the Roxy.
Is Redd Kross really punk? Their concoction of pop-glam-punk-rock is more complex, with its familiar rock’ n‘ roll big statements, it doesn’t seem to be tremendously avant-garde, but the band has always managed to make it sound as raw as possible.
Fronted by brothers Jeff and Steven McDonald, respectively on guitar and bass, the quartet, with Jason Shapiro of the band Celebrity Skin on guitar, sitting in for Robert Hecker, and Roy McDonald on drums, totally put the Roxy on fire with a sort of return-to-the-basics, and classics-can’t-disappoint state of mind. They opened the show with ‘Stay Away From Downtown’ off their last album, and right away the energy, the garage-punk-rock riffs intertwined with power-pop melodies filled with hooks were launched and here to stay for the entire set, and barely a break.
They haven’t released anything for 15 years, and the songs they played off this brand new studio album ‘Researching the Blues’ sounded as fresh power-pop as their older songs that they played in the 80s, when they opened for Black Flag. Talking about Black Flag, Steven is also the bassist of the band OFF!, fronted by ex-Black Flag/the Circle Jerks Keith Morris – who was the DJ of the night – so nobody should be surprised about the furiousness of their rock songs which were evoking the hardcore punk scene without forgetting about the harmonies, almost Ramonesque at times.
‘This is the first song of our record which came out today’ shouted Jeff before playing ‘Researching The Blues’ with an aggressive and fun delivery, explosive vocal harmonies and some placed-at-the-right-moment classic-rock solo guitars; but it is something that could be said about many of their songs, which focused on harmonies and melodies despite the rawness and eruptive nature of their guitars. It was getting hotter and hotter after each song, people were moving wildly, I was bathing in everyone’s sweat, and I couldn’t understand why Jeff was wearing two t-shirts (and one had long sleeves!) and Steve a vest that he didn’t remove immediately. But soon, brothers McDonald’s banging long hairs were drenched in sweat and the entire room was steaming.
‘This is a song for your grandparents’, said Jeff before ‘Linda Blair’ off their 1982 release ‘Born innocent’, I was in deny and wouldn’t realize that being a teenager in the 80s could make you a grandpa/ma in 2012, but the energy and the sloppy-shouted vocals of the song were intact, mixed with some old-school moves, legs apart and arm windmills included. Redd Kross members sure know how to move live, while doing some real damage with distorted guitars and fast pounding drums. But Jeff put away his guitar when they reached ‘Annie’s Gone’ on the setlist, and took eccentric and expressive poses, moving a little like Jagger if I dare to say… I guess they wouldn’t mind the comparison, knowing all about the pop-culture-references in their lyrics.
The front rows were filled with pure fans, young and older, joyously singing along and knowing all the lyrics of their power chorus. It was crowded, but, with all this repertoire and raw live energy, I was wondering why this band never became a more mainstream act,.. may be it is better like this, they are the special treat, the hipsters’ heroes for the crowd at the FYF fest, which was presenting the show.
During the encore, Astrid McDonald, ‘the next generation of rock’ n’ roll freaks’, as his father called her (her mother is Jeff's wife, Charlotte Caffey of the Go-Go’s), was a special guest on vocals for the appropriate ‘After School Special’.
I forgot to mention, when I got home, I learnt we had a 4.4 magnitude earthquake in southern California, not a big deal, but still, I didn’t feel anything, and I don’t think any of the people did, how could any of us have? We were pushed and shaken by the all-age-girls-and-boys mosh pit already, the real earthquake was happening in the crowd and on stage.
Stay Away From Downtown
Researching The Blues
Blow You a Kiss in the Wind
Pretty Please Me
Choose To Play
Lady In The Front Row
Annette’s Got the Hits
After School Special