Gig review: OFF! at The Crescent, York
Legendary Californian hardcore punk vocalist Keith Morris knows how to endear himself to a Yorkshire crowd – he takes to the stage bearing two steaming mugs of tea to sustain him through the set ahead.
Clean of booze and drugs for many decades since his wild early years, Morris’s stage presence and vocal endurance in his late 60s are a pretty good advert for sobriety, eyes wild under the brim of his cap, knee-length dreadlocks defiantly intact.
Morris was there at the big bang of the US response to punk rock, manning the microphone for Black Flag in their earliest pre-Henry Rollins incarnation before exiting to form rival outfit the Circle Jerks.
But this is no nostalgia fest – his long-running “supergroup” OFF! are a going creative concern, who capture the sound and spirit of those days but are not beholden to any legacy act.
Their current incarnation sees long-serving guitarist Dimitri Coats – thrashing his blond mane and pogoing to Morris’s right, firing off incendiary dissonant riff after riff – joined by some serious heavyweight back-up.
On bass duties is And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s Autry Fulbright II, a man whose fingers seem move faster than the human eye as he machine-guns his strings, while drummer Justin Brown is actually a jazz fusion virtuoso who’s held his own with Thundercat and Herbie Hancock, but tonight reins in the flash in favour of sheer power and attack.
The venue is rammed and the crowd have been amply warmed up by support act Teen Mortgage – a guitar and drums duo whose piledriving rhythms and squalling riffs are red meat to the punk-hungry throng – ready for OFF! to go off.
They oblige with a flat-out barrage of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them songs at crushing volume, interspersed with freeform interludes of controlled chaos.
The band don’t let up in pace or fury, to the delight of a lively mosh pit – including the first attempted stage dive I’ve witnessed at the Crescent – and they forgo an encore, having left every last drop of sweat and spittle on the stage.
But as Morris gathers up his mugs and his backpack and shuffles off down the road to the next episode in a remarkable punk rock life, he gets a warm, personal round of applause.