I have been devoted to the band X since I first
heard them when I was in high school. Subsequently, I have always
tracked the subsequent careers of the band members. Iíve seen
John Doeís solo shows; I bought the album by Auntie Christ (one
of Exene Cervenkaís other bands). So, when The Star Bar announced
that Exeneís new band, The Original Sinners, were coming in
concert, I decided to attend, sound unheard. You know, itís
just one of those things.
On this particular night, before The Original Sinners could
play, we got to see two opening acts: one of which Iíve seen
(although not in its current incarnation) and the other of which
Iíve never heard. Running into a band Iíve never encountered
before doesnít really bother me. In fact I like guessing about
the experience beforehand. What type of music would a band with
this name play? Will they be one of those rare opening bands
that makes it onto my ďto seeĒ list? Or will it be one that
makes me want to drink tequila shots until Iím green? You just
donít know until you get there. However, based on this bandís
name -- The Blue Flame Combo -- I wasnít particularly hopeful.
I was thinking perhaps they were traditional rockabilly, with
perhaps some jazz overtones.
So when The Blue Flame Combo took the stage, I was a bit surprised
when they looked like 3 skate punks. And I was really happy
when they launched into their music, which reminded me of early
Green Day, or perhaps a more psychobilly Ramones. More importantly,
all three band members played with a joy and energy that was
infectious, so that I began to bop my head and dance along with
Gradually, the rest of The Minions and I crept closer to the
stage, become more and more involved in the echoey guitar and
stand up bass. Finally, towards the end of their set, they launched
into a cover of Ask by the Smiths; I hooted and began
to sing along, amazed at how well the song translated to the
pop punk genre. It was one of those rare moments when an opening
band caught my fancy; I quickly decided that I needed to buy
their album and see them the next time they came to town.
After The Blue Flame Combo, local Atlanta musician Johnny Knox
took the stage with the current incarnation of his band, Hi-Test.
Playing fairly straight forward rockabilly, their talent and
enjoyment carried them beyond the limitations of the genre.
This may not seem like high praise, but I have to confess: I
donít really like rockabilly that much. Yeah, I listen to Eddie
Cochran and Gene Vincent. But these days, most bands that play
that style of music donít have the passion and edginess of those
early pioneers. Still, despite their rather longish set, Johnny
Knox and Hi-Test didnít make me want to kill myself in order
to escape the music; in fact, Iíd suggest that if you like rockabilly,
this band is one definitely worth catching.
Finally, after the two openers, the moment for which I had
waited took place: The Original Sinners took the stage. And
life was good. As they played music that had the feel of those
early LA punk bands (X Included), I was struck by how very competent
all the musicians were. And as she bounded across the stage
(and made comments to the audience), I was also struck by the
continuing charisma of Exene Cervenka as a performer. However,
the biggest impression I had of The Original Sinners was this:
they were not X. And it was a comparison that the band themselves
seemed to invite, considering both their overall sound as well
as their individual make-up. For instance, the female bassist
sang backing vocals that took the same harmonies and tones that
John Doe often took. Similarly, the guitarists, although a little
more punk influenced, used the same blistering riffs that Billy
Zoom often used. It was like watching a reflection of one of
my favorite bands, with all of the frustration and disappointment
that entails. This was all brought home by the last encore of
the night: finally the band covered X and the crowd went wild,
screaming and hollering. And it made me realize that what I
really wanted to do was go home and pull Los Angeles
off the shelf.
Still, I have to say that The Original Sinners werenít bad
or even mediocre. They were quite solid in their performance.
Yet, in the end, I was somehow disappointed. Maybe this was
a consequence of my eager anticipation of the show; maybe the
buoyant joy of The Blue Flame Combo made the stark professionalism
of The Original Sinners stand out. Either way, when we left
The Star Bar, I turned to The Minions and stated that I knew
which band made my evening. And I wanted to thank The Blue Flame
Combo for giving me the greatest happiness on this night.