Interstate ten diverges near Palm Springs in the mega metropolis of Los Angeles and the band X took the road less travelled up highway sixty two to Pappy and Harriet’s and after 37 years of music and exploring it made all the difference for a enchanted evening beneath the desert stars.
As you pull into Pappy and Harriet’s you are guided to the sandy parking lot next to the faux western town left over from the black and white cowboy serials made famous by Gene Autry. As I walked towards the rear entrance in the corner of my eye you could see John Doe relaxing on the porch of the P and H’s green room aka the “little house” which is just part of the former movie set. Doe wearing a flowered shirt and patent leather boots was out stretched and appeared tranquil for this new voyage for X.
Seven hundred plus people lined up early in order to try to get close to the stage. Chief Doorologist Beth a veterano of wrist banding kept the line orderly as she calmly juggled a will call list, guest list, media list and random questions from the helm of her fold up table which serves as the ticket booth at Pappy’s. As the doors opened the X fans rushed to stake their claim front and center of the stage.
Waiting for the show to start a young teenager was at the side of the stage with a small picture frame being bordered by her father who was wearing a well worn Who tour shirt. Exene was milling around wearing a cowboy hat as this teen approached her with her father. I overheard this proud father introduce his daughter Exene and to the Queen of Punk as she gave her the framed gift after sharing a private moment which created a permanent memory for this young X admirer.
For the first time John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, and D.J. Bonebrake performed an acoustic set. This was not a wholly unplugged show. But if X calls it an acoustic show then by decree its and acoustic show. Doe did not exchange his well-worn colossal Fender P bass for a Mexican guitarron but his electric bass was smaller. Zoom swapped his retina burning Gretsch Silverjet with a red Gretsch hollow body and he performed while on a comfortable bar stool minus his signature leather biker jacket. Billy Zoom an expert in the restoration and re-creation of tube amps revealed a new-fangled Billy Zoom designed proto-type acoustic amplifier. Exene Cervenka in the center of the stage was ready to rock. Bonebrake was Bonebrake all full of glee but he also brought along a Musser xylophone.
Bonebrake took the lead by bumping on his drums for the start of “Hungry Wolf “replacing the hammering which he is know for. You could tell this was a special night. I spotted legendary rock n’ roll photog Todd Nakamine squeezing a spot next John Doe’s normal place on stage. But this was a new night to a new renaissance for punk rock royalty, Doe and Zoom switched placements to make room for additional soft percussion mellowing a customarily rowdy punk rock show. Also present was Greg Edwards of Autolux and Failure watching the show with his young daughter on his shoulders.
John Doe told the audience that “This is fucking scary doing something different after thirty six years” and how “we rehearsed the hell out of this” referencing the new ‘acoustic’ approach. Doe introduced “Drunk in my past” by reminding the audience that this song was not autobiographical. X worked through their set smoothly only briefly pausing to discuss transitions between the new interpretations of their work. You can tell that X was happy to be at Pappy and Harriet’s sharing that X does play bars on occasions and some are actual shitholes and not as nice so he dedicated a song to Pappy’s. I am sure there will be some argument about what is acoustic but X has never been a conventional punk group because they always infused country, folk, and Americana elements to their material. Ten songs into their set we heard a new version of the melodic “White Girl” from X’s second album Wild Gift ranked by Rolling Stone as the 334th greatest album of all time. They concluded this appearance with “Devil Dog” reminding their fellow punkers that they remain a hard driving influence in the punk world.
© Guillermo Prieto 2014