The Once Over Twice

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X always had a populist slant. The rockabilly/punk act always sang about the concerns of the common man on their records, from landlord issues to "Adult Books." Although the band doesn't play live much these days, when they do, they give the people what they want. Bassist/singer John Doe, singer Exene Cervenka, and drummer D.J. Bonebrake are now thankfully reunited with original guitarist and surf god Billy Zoom, and Wednesday night at Slim's they played as if they were back in their heyday, selecting for their set the best songs from their best albums.

Night 2 of Noise Pop 2000 began with locals Earlimart, who played a set of slightly garage-y punk pop numbers. Although their songwriting wasn't much to write home about, their hirstute guitarist's strangling of his instrument was fun to watch. As the band launched into a country-tinged number, my ears perked up, but when the song's chorus - "This is my / country song!" - arrived, I was irritated with Earlimart's inability to practice their genre-crossing with a little more subtlety.

Limp played next, and I was more than a little confused as to what they were doing at a Noise Pop show. The Bay Area's underground music scene is usually sharply delineated between punk and indie bands, who play different bills at different clubs and even shop in different record stores. This NOFX-esque foursome, however, flaunted conventional wisdom by playing with the indie kids in Noise Pop. Although there wasn't anything particularly original about Limp's music - all the usual punk markers were in place, from pick slides to a badly played cover ("More Than A Feeling") - I had to admit that watching the well-rehearsed, tight pop-punksters play was considerably more fun than watching most of Earlimart's set.

Anyway, I stopped wondering about the punk/indie line Limp had crossed as soon as Doe and Cervenka came out and began harmonizing on "Your Phone's Off The Hook, But You're Not," one of only several tunes X played from their classic debut album Los Angeles. Billy Zoom, looking as if he'd just hopped off his motorcycle, strapped on his sparkly Gretsch as if he'd never missed a step and cranked out perfect riff after riff.

Pretty much all the classics were brought out - "White Girl," "Johnny Hit & Run Paulene," "The World's A Mess, It's In My Kiss." The band concentrated mostly on material from their best three albums: the debut, Wild Gift, and More Fun In The New World. Ex-couple Exene and John traded some knowing glances, Bonebrake relentlessly juiced up the tempos, and Zoom stood there as if he owned the place. Sure, his guitar was cranked up so loud it was difficult to even hear the drums, let alone the vocals, but hey, it's Billy Zoom.

The set didn't give an entirely accurate representation of X on record, as it was quite short on ballads and the two they did play - "Nausea" and "The Unheard Music" - were run through at roughly double speed. But little matter. There's too many great bands I missed the chance to see merely because I was born too late. The chance to see one of them - even if a little balder and pudgier than when in their prime - wasn't something I was going to miss.


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