X - 40th Anniversary show in Pensacola

Reunion or anniversary shows have never really been my thing. Even in punk and indie rock, I have always felt that there is so much great music being currently made that I tend to focus on the here and now. Many of the bands from the late 70’s and early 80’s I had seen in their heyday, being from a town that had a constant flow of shows from new and emerging artists. However, many of the bands from that era like Depeche Mode and New Order are just as good, if not better, than they were in what many would consider their prime. X is one of those bands. Currently touring with their original line-up of Exene Cervenka (vocals), John Doe (vocals/bass), Billy Zoom (guitar/saxophone) and DJ Bonebrake (drums), X is celebrating 40 years of bringing poetic punk and rockabilly to the people. And yes, they are as good and relevant now as they ever were.

The L.A. punk pioneers have always packed a punch live, but now it is like a well-oiled machine. Musically, it is almost as if time has stood still for these four. Although that is far from the case, especially for Zoom who has struggled in the last few years with two bouts of cancer. Damn they still sound so good. Zoom’s trademark guitar sounds just as raw and precise now.

I remember when I first heard X on 91X,  the new wave and punk radio station in San Diego that so influenced my musical taste. At that time, around 1980, “Soul Kitchen” and “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” were playlist staples. In 1981, “White Girl” could be heard regularly on the station. X seemed to represent that threateningly dark and seedy side of Los Angeles that so attracted me in my youth. While for most, Los Angeles was synonymous with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, for the rest of us, Los Angeles represented a smoggy, over-populated, and dangerous place. The music that was coming out of the clubs at that time reflected that feeling. That feeling was enhanced when 1982’s “Under the Big Black Sun” was released with tracks like “Hungry Wolf” and “Blue Spark” floating out our bedroom windows. To me “Under the Big Black Sun” is a masterpiece unparalleled in punk and alternative music.

It was a genuine thrill to see the original members perform those songs with such precision and yet with all of the edginess that is so familiar to me in their music. Times have definitely changed since those days back in California. There is so much uncertainty. But for a short while at Vinyl Music Hall on that Wednesday night, I could go back and be embraced by the music.

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