Off! bring West Coast snarl to the East End for the second date of their European tour. Here’s five things we learned while trying to be more punk than you.
CEREBRAL BALLZY LOVE SKATEBOARDING
With Cerebral Ballzy taking the stage at 7:40pm, a sizeable part of their potential crowd - including this writer - aren’t even in the venue when the New Yorkers begin their set. “This next song is about skateboarding,” announces singer Honor Titus as we arrive. He swigs his alcohol from two cans at once, about a 6⁄10 on the punk scale, and during the performance his vocals are utterly undecipherable, upping the punk-ness rating to 8⁄10. Perched by the merch stall, I glance at the record display: a sticker on their debut album brazenly bears a quote from indie tastemakers Pitchfork, stating simply “We hate this band”. This encapsulates Ballzy’s attitude and earns them a 10⁄10 on the no-fucks-given punk scale. This approach is reflected onstage as the Brooklyn four-piece remain largely apathetic towards an unresponsive Hackney crowd who barely wake-up to the snotty noise. Soon enough, Titus introduces the set closer with the words “We’re gonna play one more, this song’s about skateboarding.”
8:45PM IS WAY TOO EARLY FOR A FRIDAY NIGHT PUNK ROCK SHOW
It’s a Friday night and our headliners are due on stage at 8:45pm. This doesn’t bode well for the awkward concertgoers who are currently at a pitch somewhere between stand-offish and moderately impressed. There isn’t even enough time to order a drink between bands before Off! make their way on stage.
OFF! ARE LOUD. VERY LOUD.
“They said we were too loud during sound check but that’s just the way it is,” proclaims former Black Flag/Circle Jerks and current Off! frontman, Keith Morris. They open with Void You Out, the first track from their latest album, Wasted Years, and it’s immediately evident what ‘they’ meant. With everything turned up to 11 it takes a few songs for the feedback generating from the vocal mic to be calmed…at which Morris notices the dip in volume and stares manically at the Bar Oslo employee stood at the sound desk monitoring the levels. “HELLO! …HELLO! …HELLO! …HELLO!!!!”. He doesn’t stop taunting the guy until his vocals are set back to their original blistering volume.
THE AUDIENCE REMAIN NOTHING MORE THAN POLITE THROUGHOUT
The atmosphere here tonight is far from dynamite and when the band return to the stage for the encore, they address that fact with the lack-lustre audience. “It sounds like only six of you really wanted us to come back out,” says bassist Steven Shane McDonald, “the rest of you are just waiting for the dance party.” Truthfully though, any punk gig where the headline act is packing down before 10pm on a Friday will suffer.
DESPITE EVERYTHING, OFF! ARE HERE TO HAVE A GOOD TIME
The reason Off! exists is so the four band members can have fun. With years and years of experience playing in seminal acts there are surprisingly no egos on stage. Former Burning Brides frontman Dimitri Coats rocks the guitar with the widest grin in the room, ex-Red Kross man Steven Shane McDonald still looks like your typical Californian surfer kid and former Rocket From The Crypt/Hot Snakes drummer Mario Rubalcaba doesn’t miss a beat. Morris, of course, is the archetypal West Coast punk singer and delivers his trademark snapping growl just the same as he did in the early ‘80s. During Cerebral Ballzy’s set, lead singer Honor Titus described Off! as legendary. I couldn’t agree more.