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Cracker, New York Dolls, and X
December 20, 2008
Club Nokia, Los Angeles, CA

I feel as if I missed out on something big here. I grew up on Billy Idol, Queen, and Top 40 radio stations- basically what my parents’ liked. I didn’t start listening to any music that the radio didn’t feed me first until about three years ago when friends of mine started trying to educate me in the ways of the music biz. I still would never even dare to call myself any kind of musical expert, or even say I have vast knowledge or varied taste in music (for the record, I tend to find that people who say “I like a bit of everything” usually don’t). And yet, somehow, I found myself at a show, seeing three celebrated rock bands, and completely clueless about the whole event.

I went to the show for my boyfriend. He had mentioned in passing that he liked the New York Dolls (and had even pointed out for me that Buster Poindexter was in Scrooged so I could make some sort of vague association with the band), and I requested the show, thinking it would be a learning experience for me and a good time for him. The night before the show he wanted to know who else was playing, and I racked my brain and said “I don’t know, some band called X.” Ah, sweet ignorance. I wish I had a photo of the look on his face when I mentioned said band, which I had never even heard of and apparently is some pretty cool shit.

I’m probably vastly undermining the significance of X and the New York Dolls. Friends of mine have told me that they influenced the likes of the Ramones (yes, I HAVE heard of them), and that they remain one of the top influences of punk rock. Living legends, if you will.

And so we went, hand in hand, to this spectacular show, me not knowing what to expect. Sadly, I feel as though I missed the point, and didn’t really enjoy the show as much as those around me. There was an array of fans, most of them old, crusty, past their prime punkers with young hot dates on their arms, or parents bringing their kids to reminisce about the glory days.

The opening band, Cracker, was good fun, although Zachary and I seemed to be some of the few enjoying them. I kept hearing remarks of “These dudes suck!” as we wandered the floors of Club Nokia (note: Club Nokia is a pretty bitching venue. A standing room only level, plus a level of general admission stadium seating, plus a really neat VIP lounge that we got to partake in), but from what I could tell, they were a decent, maybe a little bit standard, rock band. They had one standout song though, and it stood out in a really REALLY bad way- “Euro Trash Girl.” It was a badly repetitive ear worm, with terrible lyrics and lousy riffs. One of the worst songs I’ve heard in ages, and this from supposed veteran rockers.

The New York Dolls took to the stage amidst a wave of cheers. The lead, Buster Poindexter himself, looks a bit scary. He’s a bit scraggly, like a scarecrow, with a mussed up mop of hair, sort of reminiscent of Mick Jagger, but Mick Jagger now, not 60’s sex icon Mick Jagger. He strutted around the stage in a red shirt that draped off his skinny torso like he was playing dress up in a larger man’s clothes. He was definitely fun to watch though, and he did little foot-shuffling dance moves, and turned about on the stage with a swagger that I couldn’t decide if it was alcohol, age, or style.

I can’t really say what the standout songs were, mainly because I don’t know any New York Dolls songs. The crowd really loved “Pill,” and they did do a rousing cover of “Piece of My Heart.” They played fun glam-rock riffs, with a southern-sounding edge backed by the harmonica. All in all, fun for the fans, I sort of felt that I didn’t really grasp what it was that makes them so special.

And then there was X. Exene Cervenka walked out on stage, decked out for the holidays. She did a funny little curtsy in her red Christmas apron, and the rest of the band joined. The drums and microphones were covered in twinkly Christmas lights, reminding those of us there that the holiday was only days away. What a way to kick off your Christmas season, eh? John Doe also got into the holiday spirit (or maybe the old West, I couldn’t tell if it was roses or poinsettias) with one of the tackiest holiday shirts I’ve seen since Robert Downey Jr. in Less Than Zero.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, X played some carols- “Run Run Rudolph” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” though I can’t say the crowd really got into those numbers. They were there to see X the legend, not X the Christmas carolers, even though I thought that it was a fun way to spice up old favorites (even though I completely despise Christmas music. Bah. Humbug.).

I liked their music more than the glam rock of the New York Dolls. Guttural guitars wailed, Excene and John Doe sang to each other, and the crowd got up and danced. They slowed it down for a few ballads, such as crowd-pleaser “My Goodness.” Aged though they may be, the band played with an energy that I haven’t seen the likes of in many younger bands. There was lots of fancy footwork, cracking jokes, and good times to be had by all.

Overall, I really can’t do these legendary bands justice. I almost feel as though any cred I may have gained in trying to learn about the music industry is lost in even attempting to write about a performance that I couldn’t really appreciate having never heard of the bands prior to the week of the event and having never heard the music until I saw them on stage. I may not know what’s up in the music world but I can say one thing about the show: even though I didn’t know what I got myself into, the fans, both young and old, loved every second of it, and what more can a band ask for, really?

–Caitlin Elgin