X at the Foundry at SLS, Wednesday Nov 2, 2016
OK, so this was an odd one - somehow we stumbled upon the fact that X were going to play at a film festival at a local casino! No idea how this happened (or who the booker is for the festival as the other band playing after the films was OC 80's punk band the Crowd!), but seeing X for free with free beer and wine at an early hour (7:30 pm!) was too good to pass up, so we got our tickets, got there early, fought off some overly privileged line-cutters and got seats right in front of the small stage area that was set up for X.
Coming on with little fanfare - Billy Zoom and "extra" musician Craig Peckum (I think that was his name - I am not familiar with him) were setting up the guitars themselves) - Billy sat down for their set (he recently successfully fought prostate cancer) but played effortlessly and amazingly, John Doe strapped on a cool, old Kent bass, DJ Bonebrake (who we saw earlier hanging out at the casino cafe) sat down to his minimal kit and Exene came out in a rumbled, stained t-shirt of a unicorn farting rainbows and they proceeded to blast out "Beyond and Back" from Wild Gift - which I suppose is fairly appropriate for a band that has gone through as much as this foursome has.
As I said, Billy's playing was terrific as he sat and grinned and looked around as his fingers seemingly barely touched the strings on his iconic riffs and leads. His set-up was simple - two small amps (that he apparently alternated playing through for different tones) and a volume pedal - and he seems to be controlling most of the tone with his hands. John also played great - fine bass runs throughout - and his Kent bass was amazingly cool with an excellent tone, DJ is, of course, one of the best drummers around of any genre and Exene was cute in her ragamuffin way and interacted with the crowd while singin'n'shriekin'.
From "Beyond and Back" they went into "In This House That I Call Home", "Once Over Twice", the fabulous "White Girl" (certainly among my faves of their many, many amazing songs), "True Love" - with the addition of the aforementioned Craig on acoustic guitar - "Dancing With Tears in My Eyes" and with DJ moving over the vibes, Craig sitting in on the drums and Billy playing terrific sax, the sad ballad "Come Back To Me".
They powered back in with "Year One" and then the rhythm-driven "Hungry Wolf" in which DJ got to take a drum solo - maybe not very "punk", but when you're as talented as this man, who has always experimented with unusual timings, it never gets dull. Exene and John went off to the side of the stage for a huddle during this and came back for a furious finish that blasted into "The World's a Mess, It's In My Kiss". With DJ back on the vibes, they did an Unclogged version of "The Unheard Music", then, after a joke about voting, "The New World", before a wildly strong finish that got people up and pogo-ing - "Los Angeles" (what a song!), "You're Phone's Off the Hook", "Nausea", "Sugar Light", "Black and White Ghost" and the finale of "Soul Kitchen"! Wow!
Yes, of course, they're older and maybe not quite as wild as they once were, but goddam if they are not one of the best and most quintessential Los Angeles bands ever and one of the best bands playing around today! My time in LA will be forever linked with this band and I thank them for the decades of amazing music!
(Exene singing to Melanie!)
(Billy's simple but incredible sounding set-up)