OFF! and Cerebral Ballzy played for a wild crowd last night at New York City's Bowery Ballroom. How was the show, you ask? My glasses are broken and my ears are still ringing, so pretty awesome.
OFF! is a punk rock supergroup led by Keith Morris, former frontman of Circle Jerks and Black Flag and current frontman of FLAG. Guitarist Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), bassist Steven Shane McDonald (Redd Kross), and drummer Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From The Crypt) round out the lineup, forming one of the best punk acts currently touring. They're midway through their North American tour promoting their exemplary new record, Wasted Years.
The night was kicked off with the grimy punk rock of Santa Ana rockers NASA Space Universe, who warmed up the growing crowd before Cerebral Ballzy took the stage. The audience was still thin enough to stake out a spot right up front, and before Ballzy walked onstage, there was already a fight in front of the mosh pit. Apparently some woman couldn't understand why people kept bumping into her, so she started punching people in the face.
Cerebral Ballzy struck their first notes without acknowledging the drama and the music took over. The circle pit opened up and young punks pogoed throughout the entire set. The stage was dark and their setlist was blistering, peppered with fan favorites like "Don't Tell Me What To Do," and tracks from their upcoming record, Jaded & Faded. Frontman Honor Titus spent the time between songs telling the crowd that punk wasn't dead. "The kids are still alright," he said. They played an extra song -- an onstage encore -- before walking off to the bellowing crowd.
OFF! came up next and the room was full. "Void You Out" led the set, followed by Keith Morris' mantra of the night: "Are we having fun?" He'd ask the question repeatedly throughout the night. By song two, a too-fat-to-crowdsurf fan attempted to jump on top of the crowd and smashed my glasses in the process. I picked up the pieces and chalked it up to the casualties of punk rock. As they careened through songs from all eras of their career, Dimitri jumped into the the hands of the first few rows and shredded solos on top of the crowd. Fans jumped onstage and somersaulted back into the pit. People lost shoes, shared flasks, and sung along. It was a high-energy, no holds barred expression of real punk fury.
The band was in top form, blasting through tracks like "Darkness," "Red White and Black," "Jeffery Lee Pierce," and close to twenty others before their encore of "I Don't Belong" and "Upside Down." Keith would stop and talk to the crowd between songs, praising the weather and damning The Man. He was charming and caustic as always, acting as the voice of reason. Someone in the crowd shouted, "Fuck Black Flag," to which Morris responded, "No. Not fuck Black Flag." The guy took the point and responded, "Fuck Greg Ginn," and Morris disarmed it, saying, "Greg Ginn is not a homosexual, so you can't fuck him."
OFF! closed the night with "Upside Down" and the audience was ushered outside. These days, it's rare to see a Manhattan crowd full of new kids and jaded old guys moshing to the same music, but the power of OFF! is to unite a room for a night and prove that punk is still just as fresh, vibrant, and relevant as it ever was.