Mario Rubalcalba has constantly established himself amongst the breed of rad humans who can do just about anything awesome (Dave Grohl, Joss Whedon, Danny Way). Professional Skateboarder? No fuckin’ prob bro. Musician? Easier-said than done. Owner of a record store (Thirsty Moon in San Diego, CA)? Check. His resume is long and fortified with the likes of legendary bands 411, Clikatat Ikatowi, Rocket from the Crypt, Hot Snakes, Earthless, and of course, OFF! However, his latest project, Spider Fever, takes him out from behind the drums and plants him squarely in the center with a guitar and a microphone. The band rips through tracks off their eponymous debut. It’s powerful pop-edged, skate rock with big choruses and tasteful solos. At the show I picked up their Long Player. Favoring side two right now, especially “Simply Nervous,” which they closed the set with that night. About 5 minutes in the band hits the extended bridge and it’s a ferocious, driving beast of riffage.
Justin Pearson’s Retox played second. Justin’s been in his fair share of San Diego bands as well (Struggle, the Locust, Some Girls, Swing Kids, etc) and with each project he leaves an indelible mark and Retox is exceptional. Blast beats, noisy guitar, galloping bass and JP caterwauling and screaming his way through a blistering twenty-five minute set. Chatting with my friend at the show we commented that JP has always been involved in projects that are 5 minutes in the future. Somehow he harnesses the sound of rocks pelting police shields and windows breaking. And it’s short, brevity being one of his strong suits. Retox is the band William Gibson wishes his character Hubertus Bigend would’ve discovered then made into some sort of anti-marketing phenomena, something to broadcast at a televised riot.
Punk rock is sprinters music for the non-runner and OFF!’s abbreviated mechanics utilize short explosive bursts of kinetic energy. Volume and bombast. Fuck dynamics. Theirs is the “run with your fist in the air while donning a military surplus store Israeli issue gas mask, an old Black Flag t-shirt used as a wick flaming from the neck of a two-buck-Chuck bottle directly toward the riot shields and batons” brand of music. Keith prowls the stage between the two Viking-sized four and six-string players (Dimitri Coats and Steve McDonald) with a controlled, lightning-in-a-bottle intensity. He’s gregarious. Funny. Enlightened as only someone with his thirty years of playing in punk bands and seeing much of the world, exposing it, and indicting it can be. He absorbs the energy from the room and channels it back into the crowd. The in-between song banter was nearly as long as their set (Keith was free associating up there, getting all chatty with the drunks in the front), which was brief-brief, giving drummer Mario Rubalcalba enough time to catch his breath and Dimitri and Steve a chance to tune. “If your girlfriend dragged you here, thanks. [To the ladies] You better tell him he better get into it if he wants to get into it. I had to suffer through Death Cab for Cutie to get into it.”
Frankly, I was disappointed when no one made out or conspicuously shoved fistfuls of pills into their mouths during “Wiped Out.” Kern’s video of the same song raised my expectations much too high and now I feel the icy burn of viewer’s remorse. Actually, I couldn’t really see much from where I was so it is entirely possible there were people making out and taking drugs. There were a fair share of bad neck tattoos, which seems to be more and more common (or maybe that’s a SoCal thing), but the worst was all the tattooed cleavage. Why the fuck do some women tattoo a place that gets enough attention without a colorful clipper ship, sugar skull, or sacred heart? It’s a tramp stamp for your boobs.
The teachable lessons from an OFF! show: make out more, wear earplugs, go outside, support your local skateboarder, practice tattoo-free boob stewardship, stay rad.
Check out Rat Trap and Wiped Out
Black Thoughts, Darkness
NOTE: This article was initially published on noisey.com.