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The punk-rock masses came out for a pre-Christmas “X mass” at the Casbah. It was a different type of spiritual gathering than your traditional church service, but for those of us that worship at the altar of John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebrake, it felt as natural a Christmas treat as eggnog.

Even with tickets at 35 bucks a pop, the show was a sell-out. It was cramped quarters, and tempers elevated in front of me as patrons jockeyed for optimal viewing. The mix of fans at the show was notable: old bikers, middle-aged punks, and 30-something office drones sang alongside the traditional, but in this instance outnumbered, 20-something Casbah crowd. The cross-section of fans displayed the nearly universal appeal of X. A universal appeal that, for whatever reason, didn’t universally catch on in the ’70s or ’80s.

X tore through a greatest-hits set list for the eager crowd. Singer/bassist John Doe spoke about the old rivalry between San Diego and L.A. before the band launched into its classic track “Los Angeles,” which propelled the crowd into a frenzy. The frantic “Because I Do,” off the band’s 1982 album Under The Big Black Sun, had a similar affect. My favorite moment of the night was the lumbering “The Unheard Music” off their debut. Even though he is the only axe-slinger in X, guitarist Billy Zoom nailed all the solos while transitioning back into verse chords, no problemo. The dude is a pro. Enough of a pro to still be mugging it up onstage with that trademark smirk 30 years into the game.

John Doe proclaimed early on that the band would be playing no Christmas songs during this show. They did play “Nausea,” though, a song that, one could argue, adequately describes holiday shopping at Fashion Valley. Plus, wasn’t “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” a holiday-hit in some alternative universe?

  • Concert: X
  • Date: December 23
  • Venue: The Casbah
  • Seats: Floor
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