John Doe is a living witness to the first wave of American punk rock.
His band, X, was instrumental, in fact, in defining the West Coast punk scene in the early 1980s with its debut EP and a pair of iconic studio albums, “Los Angeles” and “Wild Gift.”
Forty years on, that band – Doe, plus vocalist Exene Cervenka, guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer DJ Bonebrake – is one of the few original punk group left standing, much less playing. The group is in the midst of its X-Mas 40th Anniversary Celebration. The tour plays four cities – Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles – four nights each, with a rotating cast of special guests such as Mike Watt & The Secondmen, The Blasters and Chris Shiflet. It will also make stops in Portland, Sacramento, San Jose and Fresno. The band plays Tuesday night at Strummer’s.
“Fresno got lucky this year,” says Doe, speaking on phone in advance of the tour.
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This isn’t the band’s first time in Fresno. It played here as recently as 2013, stopping through on the Family X-Mas tour with The Blasters. But for this tour they are bringing along a fifth member to play on a few songs, while Zoom plays the saxophone and Bonebrake plays vibes. The band is also playing some deep cuts, Doe says. Songs like “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts.”
This is an X that is well-refined in its playing and happy to be on stage together.
“Billy is enjoying it more than he has in 10 years,” Doe says.
As are the fans, it seems. The band already has 80 shows booked for next year. That almost doubles the typical run of dates and allows them to get to cities they normally don’t play, Doe says.
“This time we can go to Nashville or Minneapolis,” he says. “We found the interest was there.”
Punk rock has evolved since X first started playing, Doe says. After that initial wave, the music became less eclectic and more codified in its angst. X was always more than that.
“Our version of punk rock wasn’t only anger and ferocious backlash. There was musicianship and poetry,” Doe says.
Those things have become sharper as the band aged.
“Is there punk rock after 60?” Doe asks, as if anticipating the question. The answer is yes, but it’s different. “As you play more, your learn how to do it better.”
I want people to show up looking good; no Birkenstocks, no shorts and no f----ing flip-flops.
John Doe – X
- 7 p.m. Tuesday
- Strummer’s. 833 E. Fern Ave.
- 559-485-5356, www.strummersclub.com