X, The Blasters, & Mike Watt and the Secondmen at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA.
Every show has a moment that captures the mood of the gig. Mike Watt’s quote for the evening set the tone. Punk isn’t a style of music; it’s a state of mind. True to form Mike Watt, The Blasters, & X all performed tonight in a manner that exemplified punk rock through a variety of musical styles.
The night had touch of melancholy, as it was X guitarist Billy Zoom’s last show for a while as he will be receiving treatment for recently diagnosed bladder cancer. The entire back area of the stage with filled with many X family members and close friends. They danced and sang the song right along with the rest of the crowd.
Mike Watt and The Secondmen (Pete Mazich or Hammond Organ and Jerry Trebotic on Drums) opened the night with a blistering set. The set consisted of primarily Minutemen hits. The band featured driving complex rhythms and time changes. If the band had played exclusively instrumentals, this set could have been played in the finest jazz clubs on the planet. The avant-garde saxophonist, Ornette Coleman would have been right at home jamming with Mike Watt and The Secondmen. The band seamlessly delivered song after song with passion and raw energy. The songs like “Bob Dylan Sings Propaganda Songs” strike at the heart of the America establishment.
The Blasters took the stage with their own brand of root-rock swagger. Phil Alvin The Blasters singer, belted out original Blasters tunes and classics like Conway Twitty’s Rebound. The Blasters rhythm section of John Bazz, bass, and Bill Bateman, drums, kept the set rolling along with driving force. The newest member of The Blasters is Keith Wyatt. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Dave Alvin, Hollywood Fats, James Intveld, and Smokey Hormel, Wyatt seems right at home playing his own brand of Americana music. Blending with The Blasters core, Wyatt plays with confidence and verve that had the audience applauding at almost all of his guitar solos. The Blasters’ singer Phil Alvin seemed to be aware to the moment as significant to the Southern California punk and roots music scene. As recently as two years ago, Alvin had his own brush with death and survived to play another day.
X headlined tonight’s shoe. On each of the three previous nights X played their first three albums, Los Angeles, Wild Gift, and Under The Big Black Sun. On this, the fourth night of the series, X played their fourth album More Fun In The New World. The band played the entire album of songs in order with minimal time, and almost no talking, between songs. Throughout the entire gig, Zoom made use of a stool for physical support. X started off strongly with “The New World” with updated lyrics to reflect today’s new economic reality and political landscape. Up next X played a blistering rendition of “We’re Having Much More Fun;” which features one of my favorite song lyrics, “we’ll crawl through your backyard and whap your yappin’ dog.” The band then played “True Love” and “Poor Girl.” The set got even more amped up as X ripped through “Make The Music Go Bang” and “Breathless.” By now, nearly the entire audience was singing every word of every song along with the band. As X wrapped up the first side of the album by playing “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts,” John Doe dedicated the song to the former Minutemen front man, Mike Watt.
X started up the second half of the album with a ferocious rendition of “Devil Doll.” The band then slowed things down just a bit by playing “Painting The Town Blue,” ‘Hot House,” and “Drunk In My Past.” The band drove to the album conclusion riffing through “I See Red” and “True Love, Part II.” During the last two songs the mosh pit was going full frenzy. At the conclusion of the album, the band took a ten minute break.
Following the break, X played as though their heads were on fire. They cranked through several songs from the band’s first three albums. Some of the songs included in this set were: “Hungry Wolf,” “Blue Spark,” “Come Back To Me,” and “The World’s A Mess.” After waiting for the encore applause for five minutes, X came back out and wowed the crowd into a frenzy again by playing “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” and “How I Learned My Lesson.” The band finished with furious rendition of “Los Angeles.” During the set, John Doe said this: “What Mike Watt said was true, puck rock is a state of mind!”
Although this was the most lightly attended of the four shows, the audience was fully engaged and enthusiastic. The audience heaved lots of love at band and at Billy Zoom in particular. As band slowly exited the stage embraced by their onstage friends and families, Zoom shook the hands of several crowd members. The strong, passionate performances by all three bands and the sentimentality of the moment made this a show worth remembering!