Los Angeles punk rockers X will play chestnuts at its Showbox gig Friday, Dec. 18, but roasting them on an open fire is out, says singer-bassist John Doe, who declares the show a “Christmas-free zone.”
Los Angeles does Christmas a little differently than a lot of places. The only snow you’ll see is on the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of downtown — if it’s a clear enough day — and you’re more likely to find yourself barbecuing on a backyard grill than roasting chestnuts on an open fire.
That temperate year-round weather was a big reason why X singer-bassist John Doe (born John Nommensen Duchac) moved out West from Baltimore in his early 20s — and what’s allowed his long-running L.A. punk band to make a tradition of touring up the coast each December, a time most bands stay off the road.
Live-music lovers needing a break from holiday-music fatigue will be relieved to hear that X’s show Friday (Dec. 18) at the Showbox — where they’ll be joined by fellow Californian punk luminary, bass master Mike Watt of the Minutemen — will be “a Christmas song-free zone,” says Doe.
X, Mike Watt
8:45 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, at the Showbox, 1426 First Ave., Seattle; $25-$30 (206-628-3151 or showboxpresents.com).
“If you want to hear Christmas music, go to the mall,” laughs the 61-year-old musician in a phone interview. “This is one refuge.”
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It’s fitting that Doe is calling from the Roxy, the iconic Hollywood club where he, Exene Cervenka (vocals), Billy Zoom (guitar) and D.J. Bonebrake (drums) cut their teeth in the late ’70s and early ’80s. They are about to play the second not-so-silent night of a four-show residency.
X isn’t just the defining L.A. band of its era, it’s as much a part of the culture as the Beach Boys, N.W.A. or the Doors, whose keyboardist Ray Manzarek produced the quartet’s first four LPs.
Its classic 1980 debut “Los Angeles” and ’81 follow-up “Wild Gift” paint a picture of a bygone L.A. that Doe remembers as being full of “hobos, poets … weirdos.”
Equal parts hard-core punk, blues, country and ’50s rock ’n’ roll, X’s music still sounds contemporary, from Zoom’s almost superhuman shredding to the dissonant male-female harmonies Doe and Cervenka pioneered — later adopted by bands like the Pixies.
In its nearly four decades together, X has experimented with different instruments (sax, vibraphone) and styles (1993’s grungy “Hey Zeus!”), but it’s always come back, Doe says, to “straight-up punk rock.”
That this year’s winter run — the band’s seventh — is even happening is a triumph, considering Zoom’s recent battle with bladder cancer.
“His prognosis was good, and the treatment wasn’t too harsh,” Doe explains. “It was painful and [he’d] rather not have done [it], but he’s come back with a renewed humor and fire. We’re very grateful.”
Tests in October showed Zoom is cancer-free.
“You never know when you’re going to leave this Earth, so you might as well experience as much as you can,” says Doe.