Gig review: OFF!

Venue: The Annandale
Date: Wednesday December 7, 2011.

I wish that every time I forked out forty bucks for a band I would get to see a show like this. It's embarrassing that all professional touring bands aren't this good. Maybe a place like The Annandale wouldn't have to literally be selling off its bricks if they could provide shows like these two or three days a week.

Yes OFF! are a "supergroup" (God I hate that phrase) with decades of stage experience under their belts- but come on man- Keith Morris is older than my dad and is still just as intense, energetic and creative now as he was when he was a snot nosed kid in a Sgt Pepper's jacket inciting riots in front of the Circle Jerks, circa 1985.

And unlike other "supergroups", who derive their following from already well established fan bases, OFF!'s balls and all approach to playing straight up punk rock, with the spirit it was intended to be played with, has recruited a legion of new fans (this writer included) as much as it has reigned in fans from the group's other previous musical engagements (Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Rocket From The Crypt, etc). They are what a "supergroup" should be- a completely new band with fresh and amazing material, delivered with the finesse and precision of experts. All killer, no filler.

The ferocious onslaught of energy that is focused and exploded on the audience from the stage on this night is preposterous- like an expertly coordinated attack by an army of predator drones, wave upon wave raining on us from the sky. Each minute-long song is less a musical construction created with strings, skins and vocals and more a swift and brutal head butt that leaves you reeling and slightly concussed after each bone-crunching blow. Just as you think you've pinched the bridge of your nose long enough for the blood to stop gushing out, another wallop lands right in the exact spot of its predecessor, it's effect heightened by the lack of protective cartilage eroded in the previous barrage of face blasts.

At one stage I try to get close enough to the stage to take a photo- I can't get beyond three quarters of the room back. If I were younger/stupider/not carrying my work's camera, I would try to elbow my way through- but in my older age/wisdom/cheapness I stand back and watch in awe as the sardine tin packed punters mould and awkwardly contort their bodies to get as close to the stage/band/energy source as possible. The intensity is fearsome, joyous and exhilarating- in fact it's charming to see a Sydney crowd, who can be frustratingly placid at times, really just go all out f**king nuts.

I can only imagine what it was like being in LA throughout the eruption of West Coast punk rock scene in the '80s and '90s, but this show has given me at least a taste, a morsel of what that epic time must have been like and I will savour that tidbit for a long time, subconsciously infusing it with enough hyperbole to convince my imagination that I have a slight understanding of what that severely important period in music history was like.

Take my words with a grain of salt if you will, but if Dave Grohl, Tenacious D, F**ked Up and Mudhoney turn up to watch you play at the freakin' Annandale of all places- hey, there's something to be said about your live act.

Nathan Wood

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