Friday Nov. 9th at Slim's
Better Than: soda, fast cars
Download: Some Redd Kross myspace action.
I'll admit that I was thrilled by the prospect of seeing perennial power-poppers Redd Kross play at Slim's-- their first Bay Area show in a decade. After years spent betting on Hawthorne, CA's other favorite sons (or rather bumping 'em in my bedrooms, boom-boxes, and beater) I anticipated a big payout at this show. But I hardly expected
to leave with such heavy, dollar-sign-embossed sacks of musical loot. A purer explication of rock and roll's essence would've required Jimi Hendrix and Keith Moon playing Chuck Berry songs while James Brown's sweat poured from the sky.
Now, call me an exaggerator, call me a fanboy, call me Maurice, but for you I speak the god's honest truth.
Opener Persephone's Bees were four ultra-capable, musicianly lads and a icy/hot front woman who stripped from a Marie Antoinette outfit to a bustier. They dealt a often pleasing new-wave set that took an arena rock turn during their last song. Three different band members swapped instruments to play guitar solos.
Redd Kross hit after an interlude of Bubsy Berkeley and Three Stooges clips. Guitarist Robert Hecker was wiry, razor-shaved bald and wearing a boxy, white suit with translucent glasses. He apparently spent his hiatus from the group as a Marvel comics villain who left his alter-ego's paisley-glam duds on the other side of a star gate. Singer and fellow shred-czar Jeff McDonald wore a pinstriped suit – your young, hot college professor fronting a band you wished existed.
The group opened with a hat trick of sass-punk classics; “Cover Band,” “Annette's Got The Hits, “ and “Linda Blair, ” which Jeff and brother/bassist Steve wrote during their second decade of life. On the lead track, Jeff gleefully rued bands than “listen to the Knack... play Marshall stacks,” yet “can't write worth shit.”
The delighted audience mocked right along with the timeless tune--the poor Knack could be any slightly chode-ish band just shy of getting it. But an additional layer of meaning was palpable here. The lyrics underlined the fact that Redd Kross not only could write worth shit but could do so when they were just fucking kids! And tonight their junior-high output turned grown-assed adults into bubbly beatlemaniacs.
The band played a song or a few from each of their albums in chronological order. After a gem from their last album, Show World, Jeff asked the crowd to “turn over the record” This meant another similar run through the back catalog: same trajectory, different songs. Their momentum stayed
strong as they ferociously churned the sugar cereal of their later material. When stripped of the production that would identify their records' with the eras they belong to-- hardcore, Metal/AOR, and alt-rock-- their songs possessed on an atom-smashed cohesion that was truly mind blowing. The punk songs were all hooks and the later stuff was sweet and crunchy like biting into a full can of soda. It was like the Beatles playing with KISS's equipment, solely for fun. Hair was whipped. Hecker did a chicken dance and passed the Guitar Institute of Technology's final exams right before our eyes.
At the end of their second encore (which featured an impromptu bludgeoning of PJ Harvey's already blunt “Rid of Me”) the band seemed genuinely touched by their warm welcome back to the live circuit. Steve sought reassurance for the groovieness of Redd Kross' return and managed to self-promote in a typically Utopian manner--
“We'll tell our friends about San Francisco and you tell your friends about Redd Kross.”
Rock is back in the saddle and more again.
Personal Bias: I've purchased multiple copies of Redd Kross' Third Eye album only because “you never know.”
Random Detail: With style and grace, Jeff McDonald windmills on guitar with his arms bent at the elbow instead of swinging at the shoulder.
By the Way: What qualifies as a “spiritual orgasm"?