While walking all sweaty and broken out of the OFF! show at the Black Cat Thursday night, I was already thinking, this is going to be one of those situations where attempting to recount the show will ultimately end with “you just had to be there.” Listening to OFF!’s first 4 EP’s and album will give anyone a primer on what is so great about this band. OFF! is bold, unabashed classic hardcore punk rock that melts faces within a time frame that leaves you stunned. Then, by the time you fully realize what has just happened, the band has already packed up and left the building - or been hauled off by the cops.
So, when OFF! took the stage and launched into “Poison City” the crowd erupted into a flurry of mosh-pits, fist pumping, and unified head-banging, immediately sparking the tenet of punk music that makes these shows so enjoyable. The idea that you must make the choice to always live in the moment, to come with an open mind and leave your presuppositions about what this is all about at the door - or at least at the bottom of your half empty beer can you are about to throw across the room in youthful discontent.
To truly understand and appreciate what is so great about OFF! is to realize a.) that they are not fucking around, and that b.) they put a lot of, if not all of the, soul into what they are doing – soul that isn’t found in most of the over-processed, digitalized music being made today. So, if you know anyone who may be at a point in their life where they are questioning the emotional and soulful effect of music on the human psyche in today’s day and age, then throw them into the pit at an OFF! show to wake them the fuck up.
The interaction and interplay between the band and crowd is something that has always been held sacred to punk rock, and OFF! reminds us all of the importance of that relationship as part of the core of any musical experience. This is a full contact show, so get your elbows loosened up, because once the band kicks in with songs like “I Got News for You” or “Wiped Out”, its like the gate holding back a wild herd of buffalo just got launched open.
The greatest asset of OFF! is that the musicians here are all well educated veterans of their craft. The skillful way Dimitri Coats’s guitar, Steven McDonald’s bass, and Mario Bubalcaba’s drums lock into one another provides a driving, pulsating foundation that builds a sense of urgency for the vocal shouts that pierce out of the speakers like bullets by singer Keith Morris. “When I write lyrics that say fuck people, that’s about the asshole that has to speed in front of you to get to the stop sign, that’s about the prick in line who can’t read the sign that says 10 items or less and shows up with 15, fuck you, fuck that guy, don’t be one of them.” Morris explained to the crowd, and goddammit, they believed him. So, as the crowd and band raged on through the 25+ song, 40 minute set, Morris kept check on everyone in the crowd that was not being respectful with their neighbors from his heightened viewpoint as he launched into tunes like “Feelings are Meant to be Hurt” and “Panic Attack”.
In the end, the Black Cat was filled with the stench of the boy’s locker room at your local middle school where they are still learning about underarm deodorizers and everyone was walking out thinking how they could express to someone what they had just experienced. Like we said, OFF! is a band that has to be experienced to be truly understood. But, lucky for us, they are just getting started, so there’s sure to be many more opportunities in the future to help us all start a unified story that morphs from “you just had to be there” to “remember that time at that OFF! show…”