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X at Bowery Ballroom Saturday May 29th,, 2009: See How They Are

Have you ever known a person who seem perfectly nice and everybody thinks he is just wonderful but for some reason you just don’t get on? Well, this is me and X. I loved “Los Angeles” and “Wild Gift” and have enjoyed their punkbilly to a certain degree thru “See How We Are” all the way to their last album. But my dislike is not just because I argued nastily with vocalist Exene Cervenka during an interview for a radio syndicator in a hotel room in Atlantic City (about the class structure of the boardwalk: go figure) though I don’t know what it is and 25 years later I still don’t like them on a personal level. At a guess I’d say the way X attack the stage is cool and nasty: Billy feels arrogrant and Exene snotty and JD hot and cold at the same time. They are the epitome of too cool for their own good. Maybe they are too cool…

At the the Bowery Ballroom last night I loved the opening act Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts -a NoCal journeyman who used to play with Agent Orange back, back, back in the day and undoubtedly how he knows X. In town to push last years excellent “An Exercise In Blue” the band was tight and melodic,: a form of power pop where, like anything so reliant on timing, like Farce, the smallest mistake destroys the set (it drifts and settles instead of punching). I can’t find the opening number, a terrific song called I think “Westcoast Bound” but I did find “The End Of Summer” which is sorta like Tommy Keene meets John Hiatt in pop mode.

I did have one problem with the Twisted Hearts: they didn’t go on stage till 930p and since the doors opened at 8p (why 8p? what the hell? 7pm) that was half an hour late. X didn’t go on stage till 11pm. I’d been up at 530am, worked a full day, and was asleep on my feet by that time.

So that’s the first complaint with “X” and here is the second: on this tour fans were choosing the set list for the band on line by popular vote (“Johnny Hit And Run Pauline” won though I had left before they played it). As John doe noted, this ruined the song flow. But it wasn’t a deal killer and Billy was still cool at the edge of the stage and Exene still nasty and central John still sweating and twanging and DJ was still really, really good.

Anyway, any time you get to hear songs as good as “Some Other Time” (9% requested it … just 9% guys?) and “Adult Books” is gonna be a good set. the band, and much of the audience, me included, looked its age: but X looked it aggressively, unapologetically and won me over before the long day knocked me out and sent me home before the encore.

So I don’t want to have coffee with “X” I sure wouldn’t mind seeing em at the Beacon or somewhere and I am happy they are still around. I heard Exene and John are writing together agin. Good.

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