X at Club Red, 12/9/11

X Club Red Friday, December 9

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Eight overlapping bands in four hours. Last night's X show felt more like a music festival than a Friday night concert. Eager fans bounced back and forth between Club Red and Red Owl to see a bunch of bands that played some variety of punk, country, or both.

The venue had a good turnout early on, but grew more and more crowded with each band. It may have been a tough-looking audience, but these were some of the nicest people I have ever met at a show. It's no surprise that X had such a great turnout, these legendary punk rockers were overdue for a Phoenix performance, and we were lucky enough to be the first destination on the band's X-Mas Rock 'N Roll Revival tour. Contrary to the name of the tour, I'm happy to report that none of the eight bands played Christmas music.

Last night was X's first show after a very successful South American tour with Pearl Jam. We may not have sung along to guitar solos, but we did give X a warm reception, in spite of limited mobility.

I first saw X seven or eight years ago and vividly remember a never ending circle pit, fans screaming along to the lyrics, and skating across a Marquee floor drenched in beer and sweat.

Comparatively, it was weird to see a mostly stagnant crowd last night, but fans did what they could. I saw a couple of dancers and no moshing whatsoever. I doubt it was because of the sign on each side of the stage that read, "Sorry kids, no moshing. If you do it, you will get kicked out."

The issue wasn't a matter of following rules; there literally was no room to move. While standing in the middle of the room coming into physical contact with four or five people at any given time, watching people jump up and down near the stage looked like pure lunacy.

Billy Zoom was the first to take the stage, providing the audience with a big smile in exchange for a round of cheers. The crowd's screams grew louder as DJ Bonebrake, John Doe, and Exene Cervenka joined him for an hour set. If I hadn't talked to Exene, I would not have guessed that she was sick. Both her and John kept stage banter to a minimum, and stuck to business. It's remarkable that X has been touring since the late '70s (disregarding a hiatus), and continues to have so much stamina after all these years. Exene even did a little dance during "The Hungry Wolf."

The Los Angeles songs had the strongest audiences responses, from the crowd screaming back "but you're not!" during opening song, "Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not," repeating the "get out" chorus of the title track, and bobbing along to "Soul Kitchen."

X quietly walked off stage for the encore break, while fans raucously clapped until Exene and John returned for an acoustic version of "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" that showed off the duo's vocal capabilities.

Things picked back up with the unforgettable guitar riff of "The Unheard Music" and wrapped up with "Devil Doll."

X was the only full set I watched. I kept wandering in between stages to see a little bit of everybody. Like I said earlier, most bands fell somewhere on the punk/country spectrum.

Local garage rockers The Love Me Nots put on a solid set, as usual. It was fun to watch frontwoman Nicole Laurenne's dancing and guitarist Michael Johnny Walker's cocked cigarette throughout the band's performance.

From the ashes of Throw Rag and Circle Jerks rose Sean Wheeler & Zander Schloss. These Tom Waits/Mickey Rourke look alikes played bluesy folk and shared a kiss.

The moment I heard Father Figures, I immediately thought of JFA's signature skate punk sound, which isn't a far cry. Michael Cornelius played bass in JFA and plays guitar in the Father Figures.

The Black Tibetans fell somewhere between X and The Love Me Nots on the country/punk spectrum. These L.A. rockers played upbeat songs with garage hooks and had a cool female bassist.

The first two bands epitomized the opposite ends of the punk/country spectrum. Vices to the Grave played nasally energetic punk, and Flathead took the main stage with a country-fried set.

X Setlist: 1. Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not 2. It's Who You Know 3. Beyond & Back 4. In This House That I Call Home 5. We're Desperate 6. Blue Spark 7. Year 1 8. Los Angeles 9. The Hungry Wolf 10. Sugarlight 11. True Love 12. The New World 13. Breathless 14. White Girl 15. Nausea 16. Because I Do 17. Johnny Hit and Run Paulene 18. Motel Room in my Bed 19. Soul Kitchen Encore: 20. I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts 21. The Unheard Music 22. Devil Doll

The Love Me Nots Setlist: 1. Dark City 2. I'm The One 3. You're Really Something 4. Walk Around Them 5. End of the Line 6. Alley 7. Rough Boys 8. Demons 9. I'm Not Okay 10. Do What You Do 11. Voice in my Head 12. Make Up your Mind 13. Karen 14. He Doesn't Share Well 15. You're Bringing me Down 16. Come on Over 17. Give 'Em What They Want

Critic's Notebook

Last Night: X at Club Red.

Personal Bias: X has piqued my interest since Exene collaborated with Pennywise on Punk-O-Rama 6. I guess in that case, I've been a fan since 2001.

The Crowd: Punks and rockabilly folk in grown-up form.

Overheard in the Crowd: "Excuse me, aren't you one of those chopper faggot bands?" Guy in crowd with fake British accent to the guitarist of The Black Tibetans.

Random Notebook Dump: Someone was bragging about getting in with a fake ID. I guess I'm not the youngest one here.

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Melissa Fossum
Contact: Melissa Fossum