X: October 12, 1983, Rainbow Music Hall
I completely adore John Doe and cherish every word that comes out of his mouth; his 1990 album Meet John Doe was a life-changer for me and still remains among my favorites. He's at the Lion's Lair tonight, in a trio that includes X cohort DJ Bonebrake on drums, for the second half of a double-header there, so in honor of John Doe, I'm recalling those heady, punky days of the 1980s, when all of L.A. seemingly took over the punk movement, remolding it with a fresh California spin. X, at its peak, was a hard-driving band with a heart of gold and way, way too much charisma. You had the rock journeyman Doe and the wild Exene Cervenka, the urgent drumming of DJ Bonebrake and the Buddha-like punkabilly guitarist Billy Zoom, and under the layers of all their outwardly directed noise, you could still find roots, as well as something totally genuine. Like all of X, John Doe is nothing if not genuine, and that's why I like him.
This Rainbow Music Hall concert was not the first time I saw X: That took place at the old Mercury Cafe on Pearl and 13th, and I have no ticket stub from that night, but it was one of the most amazing shows I ever saw there or anywhere else. The entire room seemed to arc with electricity that night, and Billy Zoom in particular was all aglow with some kind of inner power-hold, gazing beatifically over the crowd, perfectly at peace with himself as he calmly soloed through the epicenter of X's swirling sound. At the Rainbow, they were still good, but the larger venue swallowed their fervor almost as quickly as they could pump it out.
Some bands were just meant to be heard in a grungy club, and X was one of them. But, you see, I do have a ticket from that show.