2016 marks 40 years since punk rock rose from the twin pillars of New York and London. While the movement was impacting music, art, and culture in the UK and the east coast of the US in the late 70’s, it was also growing on the west coast. Formed in Los Angeles in 1977, X, consisting of John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake, would become a seminal band in the first wave of American punk and a standard bearer for the west coast scene. While punk would ultimately prove to be fiery and short-lived, X persevered and continued to tour and release influential albums through the 80s before retiring in the early 90s. The downtime proved temporary and X reunited in the early 2000s, touring sporadically ever since. Recent tours have been missing founding member and guitarist Billy Zoom who has been dealing with prostate and bladder cancer. Thankfully Zoom has been responding well to treatment and has returned to the band for a run of shows dubbed the Re-Zoomed Tour which kicked off at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia last week.
There was a celebratory air buzzing through the sold-out crowd as X took the stage. The band Kicked off with a one two punch consisting of “Beyond and Back” and “In This House That I Call Home” from 1981’s Wild Gift. The set, culled primarily from their first four studio albums, mixed classic tracks, fan favorites, and rarities that haven’t been played in years. It may have been 36 years since the release of X’s critically acclaimed debut album, Los Angeles, but the years melted away as “Nausea,” “Sugarlight,” and “Los Angeles” were played without losing any of the passion and ferocity. Even the slower and sadder “The Unheard Music” provided a level of emotional intensity. “The Hungry Wolf” showcased the powerful underpinning beat laid down by drummer D.J. Bonebrake. Not to be outdone, John Doe pushed his thundering bass hard, and despite the fact that Billy Zoom leaned against an elevated stool throughout the show, he managed to play as fast and aggressive as ever. A tight run through “White Girl” highlighted the wobbling harmonies of John and Exene and showed that they still have an undeniable chemistry.
The crowd roared its approval as the band closed out their set with “Soul Kitchen” and left the stage to thunderous applause. X came back out for a three song encore that started with John acknowledging that they were in close proximity the nation’s capital. With a tip of the hat to the current political state, the band launched into the still topical song “The New World.” After a band huddle at center stage, and in response to calls from the audience, “Johnny Hit And Run Pauline” was played before closing out the show. The four original members of X are happy, and thankfully, relatively healthy. The fact that they are still playing together after all these years is amazing. They are older, wiser, and playing as tight and together as ever.
Opening the show was Los Angeles-based duo Dead Rock West. Consisting of vocalist Cindy Wasserman and singer/guitarist Frank Lee Drennen, Dead Rock West played a set of alt-country, roots rock, and Americana folk songs.