OFF! are welcomed to the stage like returning kings. Their music inspires a heady reaction of self-destructive energy.
You need only observe the clientele queuing outside the Exchange before the show, pouring into the neighbouring Stag and Hounds for a quick pint, to see that tonight is for the initiated worshippers of old school punk. Expect a whirlwind of leather, studs, patches and mohawks, lost shoes, split skulls and the spectre of Black Flag flying high.
For Bristol’s thriving punk scene tonight is a big deal. It is a chance to see what can only be described as a hardcore punk supergroup, promoting their strongest material to date. And to seal the deal they’ve also brought along one of the most charismatic skate punk bands to come out of New York in decades.
The unenviable task of opening the stage falls to Brighton’s TEEF. The Exchange is still half empty as they launch into their blastbeat-riddled thrash punk, making full use of the unoccupied floorspace. Their songs are as blunt and visceral as a shotgun blast, and their set rattles past at such a rate that they’re at their end game before anyone’s had a chance to clap. Then it’s back to the bar to nurse a bloody forehead and sink a few brews.
Cerebral Ballzy live skate punk. They’ve spent all day skating at the MRP with Cracked magazine, now they’re here. Honor Titus is barely coherent in his between-song banter but still relentlessly watchable as they burn up ‘Puke Song’, ‘Insufficient Fare’ and ‘Cutting Class’. Their everyman laments about not being able to afford the subway, skipping school and never getting the girl are violent and punchy, with dizzying squalls of feedback eliminating the respite between chords. Cerebral Ballzy are a shot to the heart, the perennial warm-up band, but they are rewarded for their efforts in applause.
OFF! are welcomed to the stage like returning kings. Their music inspires a heady reaction of camaraderie and self-destructive energy. Keith Morris is a relic from the good old days, a time when hardcore was still emerging kicking and screaming from the primordial punk-metal soup, so it is a joy to see his music sounding as urgent as it does tonight. There are times when you might be mistaken for thinking you’re listening to Black Flag or Dead Kennedys, but in the chaos of it all it is impossible to criticise. With four chords, a 2/4 beat and a phlegm-specked delivery OFF! generate fun so potent, resistance is all but futile.
Check out a live bit of ‘Upside Down’ right here: