I’ve been away for a few days, so my sincere apologies for the lack of posts since Sunday evening! One of the things I did this week, however, was to hook up with fellow Rip It Upper DeHud to go and see OFF! in Manchester, which was Monday night. So I thought I’d tell you about it. You know the back story – punk rock hero finds disillusion when trying to re-form legendary hardcore outfit, thinks ‘Fuck It’, and forms new punk supergroup to take on the world. The hero concerened here is one Keith Morris, the legendary band is Black Flag and the new supergroup is OFF!, featuring not just Morris [Black Flag, Circle Jerks] but also Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Steven McDonald (Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (Hot Snakes/Earthless/Rocket From The Crypt).
So far so legendary. Well, after a long car journey I steered into a parking space next to the hotel on Manchester’s studenty Oxford Road, checked into the hotel, and after about an hour hooked up with DeHud, who had been reprimanded for his behaviour by several passengers on the train for his screaming and grunting whilst taking a nap, awakening from his slumber with a fleck of drool stringing from lips to t-shirt. Undeterred, we drew cash and headed towards a pub, finding The Knott bar a short walk away. This is an excellent, slightly shabby bar in trendy Castlefields, owned by Marble Brewery and serving fine beers from around the world. Draughts of Pale Ale and Deutsche pilsner were quaffed, and after a couple of sociable hours discussing the world of punk, we had meandered from The Knott, via The Cask, to the shiny new Brewdog bar on Peter Street. From here, increasingly unsteadily, we arrived back by the venue, a smallish club known as Sound Control.
Later on, we joined the reasonable crowd filing in to the venue to catch the support band, Trash Talk, tuning up. They did a lot of tuning up. This appeared promising. But DeHud and I, being ageing punkers, reflected in our cups about how, in the good ol’ days, you kind of knew you were at a punk show. The masses would be clad in shabbily ripped jeans, boots of an impressive but indeterminate nature, leather jackets decorated with studdings and paintings that reflected the mood and views of the wearer, and hairstyles that generally tended towards the vertical and garishly coloured. And yet today, [ourselves included], the dress code was pretty much ‘normal’. A few t-shirts bearing band names, a few hoodies, and skate shoes a plenty; but no real effort. I dunno. Maybe it’s just nostalgia……
Finally, Trash Talk hit the stage – but….sheesh. I dunno what they claim to be, genre-wise. It sounded like early Napalm death, with loads of seemingly uncontrolled, generic thrashing, bellowed vocals and a distinct lack of tunes and hooks. Did a band as well grounded and sussed as OFF! really pick this lot to support them on a major tour? We both hoped things would get better, but the whole feel of the band was formless, directionless…you know, I like a fast paced band as much as the next guy, but Trash Talk just didn’t seem to have any redeeming factors. They left us a bit confused and underwhelmed to be honest, because we’ve done 30 years of going to punk shows, and in that time I’ve seen a stack of bands who thought that playing loud and fast was the ticket to riches. Well, it ain’t. You need more than just noise and rage.
A lull and another beer – and then the familiar, dreadlocked figure of Keith Morris walked purposefully on the stage, dumping his big back pack and flexing his arms in preparation for the main show – OFF! had arrived. A wall of feedback emenated from Dimitri Coats’ guitar and they were off [if you’ll pardon the pun] in a blur. All the crowd pleasers got an airing – ‘Cracked’, ‘Wiped Out’ and ‘King Kong Brigade’ as well as a lot of stuff of the ‘First Four Ep’s’. And it was a great sight. Morris, ever the entertainer, broke the intensity a couple of times, relating a long tale about the joint state of our two great nations in the teeth of the current financial crisis, and a rambling story about the death of his buddy, Jeffery Lee Pierce of the Gun Club.
And then it was on with the show. But, and maybe it was end-of-tour fatigue, [Manchester was the penultimate date in an epic European tour], Morris seemed to be tired. Don’t get me wrong – he put in 110 percent and he roamed the stage in his Ramones t-shirt, glaring menacingly as the dreadlocks flailed. But he just seemed to be ‘doing a show’, if you know what I mean. I’d love to see them play after a well earned rest, in LA, to see the old hardcore juju in its native location. Tonight in summery Manchester, it somehow seemed to take off, but not quite fly.