OFF! – Whammy Bar: January 8, 2024 (Concert Review)

OFF!

It’s hardcore Jim, but not as we know it! With expectations set far too high, 13th Floor minion Simon Coffey scammed his way into seeing one of the most anticipated shows of 2024, on a sweltering Rahine/Monday Tamaki Makaurau evening. California super-group OFF! playing their third show, of their first-ever tour of Aotearoa, part of an Australasian jaunt.

The genesis of OFF! came about in 2009 when a n effort to record a new Circle Jerks album fell through, and out of the chaos came OFF!  2024 and OFF! have a slightly different line-up with original bassist Steven Shane McDonald (Redd Kross) being replaced OFF!by Autry Fulbright II (And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead) joining legendary Black Flag, Circle Jerks vocalist Keith Morris, guitarist Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides) and drummer Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket from the Crypt, Earthless, The Black Heart Procession)

Way back in 2013, I was a bit bummed out when OFF! didn’t do any club shows when they came as openers for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who had transmogrified into a m.o.r stadium-schlock band by this point (earlier actually) but it seems good things come to those who wait…

Tonight the ‘before and in between and afterwards’ DJ is playing records loud, not loud, fucking loud… impressed though, by his choice of Rudimentary Peni.

Dick Move

Dick MoveDick Move sound precise tonight, Lucy Suttor’s vocals are clear, audible and almost poetic, the ‘messages’ being heard (better sound guy perhaps). Her presence dominates the stage once again, though guitarist Justin Rendell hams it up for the night, as at last I get to see the Whammy Bar drinks waka in action,,,. twice! Dick Move’s storytelling explodes the room. Their punk rock hardcore style dominates the stage. Guitarist Hariet Ellis is playing in socks, while bassist Lulu Macrae and drummer Luke Boyes create symbiotic groove patterns. Once again they impress. Top shelf performance. “Two more songs and we’ll be OFF! offstage” (Pun of(f) the night)

OFF!

Dimitri Coats is chatting to audience members at the front of the stage as his bandmates set up, polite cheers greet Keith Morris as he enters the stage, guitarist Dimitri and bassist Autry stand asunder, towering above him. There’s a lot of anticipation and expectation in the crowd, the room is close to capacity, and it’s a sea of themed t-shirts. The halcyon days of 80s USA hardcore punk (Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Brains) are long lost, but the bodies here tonight are hoping to snatch a glimpse of the taonga/waiata that was created.

OFF!

The energy is immediate, as OFF! launches into short bursts of songs, War Above Los Angeles looms large early on the intro, a signifier of what is to come. Keith Morris’s vocals are clear and powerful and all the while guitarist Dimitri Coats is a juxtapose of energy, leap and jumping, but most eyes are on the storyteller “Another true story no fucking lies”

The lead-in to Kill To Be Heard is a musical soundscape, almost industrial sounding, it’s now that we experience OFF!’s synthesis, their take on the past, tonight is not about a rehash, there’s a celebration of California counterculture in the music. OFF! have captured the sound and spirit of those days but are not a Grateful Dead stylized legacy act

As OFF! march through a huge setlist of songs (remembering many are short) the energy is arduous, however, the pedigree, whakapapa of Autry Fulbright and drummer Mario Rubalcaba shines, as they don’t let up in pace and grooves, to the delight of a small but lively mosh pit. 

When they arrive at Free LSD another Keith Morris korero comes from the pulpit, accompanied by Dimitri’s riffing guitar sounds, it’s a killer lead-in and another pronouncement to those who came expecting the expected. It’s 80s hardcore stretched, more dynamic and enveloping, the effect of the pedigree of musicianship in the band, delivers expansiveness of post-hardcore

The performance seems relentless, endless, and whispers in ears suggest that OFF! went off-set and added a little extra at the end, but the end does come. It’s obvious Keith Morris (who is in his 60s) has given his all, and with a wave and a “Goodnight”, the expected and unexpected comes to an end. 

Well worth the decade wait, to see the man in black, in the flesh (as well as his campaneros)

Simon Coffey

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Warne:

OFF!:
Dick Move:
Setlist: 

Slice Up the Pie

Time Will Come

War Above Los Angeles

Black Widow Group

Kill to Be Heard

Ignored

Smoking Gun

Circuitry’s God

Muddy the Waters

Invisible Empire

Behind the Shifts

Worst Is Yet to Come

Suck the Bones Dry

Murder Corporation

Keep Your Mouth Shut

Peace or Conquest

Free LSD

Void You Out

Red White and Black

Wiped Out

Black Thoughts

Darkness

I Don’t Belong

Panic Attack

Upside Down

Poison City

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Simon Coffey