Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Live: Steve Soto, X

When: 5/30
Where: Bowery Ballroom

So I have a small backlog of live reviews that never got published because things got so messed up this month. Here's the first:

Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts appear to be a reasonable opener for X, Steve Soto himself having once been in not one but two of LA's finest punk bands, the Adolescents and Agent Orange. But five minutes of his new band, and my only reaction was "what were they thinking?" What were X thinking? What was Soto thinking? I don't mind hardcore punks growing up and calming down. I don't even mind them playing country music. There's nothing inherently wrong with country music! But to see one of the leading figures in early hardcore play mediocre-at-best formulaic country-rock - it just doesn't make sense. Not only was it some of the least edgy music imaginable, the songwriting and performance weren't even good. Not terrible either, but Soto is not someone who should be aiming for the middle.

If you were there, I was the person at the back loudly calling for "Kids of the Black Hole." I don't think he heard me, but if he did, he certainly didn't honor the request. After the set, I noticed someone on stage was wearing an Adolescents t-shirt and I just found it depressing.

When X took the stage, things got a lot better. First of all, the band had allowed the audience to somehow select the set list before the show - I don't know how this was done, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a mix of the band's poppier material and their most classic punk cuts.

Front-couple Exene Cervenka and John Doe were in fine form. Though they do look a bit weathered (X formed more than thirty years ago, after all), they had a lot of energy for old fogeys. The lanky and still boyish Doe really put his heart into playing, lurching and jumping and holding nothing back. Cervenka was a more stable presence, friendly and grounded in center stage. Her performance was cool, comfortable and straightforward, but not without a lot of passion as well. Sadly, her mic was too low in the mix, but her focused delivery carried her parts when the volume couldn't.

Billy Zoom cut an odder figure on stage. Like the others, he was clearly having fun, but his wide smile remained entirely unchanged throughout the set. He played amazingly, as one would expect, and he definitely rocked out, but in comparison to the others on stage, he seemed the furthest removed from the band's youthful punk beginnings.

No matter what, the chance to see a band like X live in incredible for those of us who were in diapers or even just a twinkle in our parents' eyes when X rocked L.A. After Steve Soto's depressing performance, it was nice to see someone who was keeping the spirit alive.

This person put up a ton of pictures from the show, if you're interested.

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