In a very short amount of time OFF! have gotten a lot of people talking, but with the resumé that the four members have put together in the last thirty years of music it’s hardly surprising. They’re playing at the Corner tonight with the Meanies and Marching Orders, before heading off for a set at Meredith on Saturday and an all ages show on Sunday at the Fitzroy Bowls Club.
For twenty-two years the Meanies have been creating an ungodly ruckus, and tonight the Melbourne rock icons are as raucous as ever. Singer Link is in fine form, throwing himself about the stage with a practiced carelessness. While the band may be slightly more clean cut these days, they definitely haven’t lost any of the energy of their sets. “Round in Circles” follows “If I Say Uncle”, rolling along on top of Jordan “Jaws” Stanley’s thick guitar riffs. The room has filled up by the time they get to “Lyin’”, and there’s a few keen punters starting a mosh pit as “Gangrenous” and “10% weird” come blasting from the stage.Twenty years behind bass player Wally Kempton and drummer Mark “Ringo” Hobbs have made them a tight rhythm section. As they close with “Ton of Bricks” and “Feed the Dog” Link jumps off the stage, running into the middle of the moshpit, to the delight of the crowd and the bemusement of one particularly stern looking security guard, finishing off a rambunctious display from a fantastic and underrated band.
Where to start with OFF!? A man with waist-length dreadlocks and a T-shirt` that says “Listen to the germs” walks onstage, casually kneels down and duct-tapes a handwritten set list to the stage carpet. It’s Keith Morris, and everyone in a Black Flag or Circle Jerks shirt knows it. There’s a a certain intensity in his face, like a weight’s about to drop through the ceiling, and then it’s straight into “Peace in Hermosa”, all 90 seconds of it a straight up kick in the face. Dimitri Coats is a ferocious guitar player, “Black Thoughts” and “Darkness” keep up the pace of the set.
Steve McDonald is grinning throughout, and it’s a little bit infectious, with the crowd all smiles. There’s a stage dive every 60 seconds, flying over the first row of punters to be absorbed back into the riotous crowd. Morris stalks up and down the stage, fist clenching the microphone. There’s an emotional tribute to Jeffrey Lee Pierce, the deceased singer of the band The Gun Club and a friend of Morris’, before “Killing Away” and “Full of Shit”. The years spent playing in Hot Snakes and Rocket from the Crypt have seen Mario Rubalcaba develop some serious drumming ability, and on the riser at the back, he’s in his element.
Morris is unrelenting with his furious vocals, as the crowd get more and more unruly he just blasts through the songs, his words carrying as much weight as they ever have. “Fuck People” is a standout, though with their set it’s hard to pick a highlight. It’s twenty-five minutes into it and OFF! have played all of the 16 tracks that they have. The crowd cheer for more, so Morris comes back out, admits that they’re out of songs, and that no, “There’ll be no Circle Jerks, no Black Flag,” or “No Saints, no Beasts of Bourbon, no Scientists”. Instead, without missing a beat it’s straight back to the start to play their first three songs, “Black Thoughts”, “Darkness”, and “I Don’t Belong”, but far from being a cop out OFF! are such a live presence that no one minds in the least, and the place just goes mental again. Morris’ reputation as a frontman is completely, indisputably, well and truly deserved, and put together with Coat’s guitar playing, Steve McDonald on bass and drummer Mario Rubalcaba, they make OFF! one hell of a live band.
– Shaun Thatcher