L.A. punk band last played the Vogue in 1985
Punk music encourages its enthusiasts to burn out rather than fade away; not many perform together long enough to celebrate a significant anniversary.
Which makes X’s “13x31” tour so special. The seminal L.A. band is commemorating 31 years together this year. Drummer D.J. Bonebrake, who joined in 1978 (a year after the band formed), never really took the time to reflect on things when he first became involved.
“When you’re that young you don’t think about that,” he said. “You think a couple years is a long time. I figured I’d still be around [today], but maybe that’s not even true.”
Combining the poetic prose of vocalist Exene Cervenka and bassist John Doe (with guitarist Billy Zoom rounding out the lineup), X created a punk rock sound that deftly incorporated country and folk.
“We were stubborn,” Bonebrake says. “We wanted to do something a little bit different. That’s why I left The Eyes [Bonebrake’s first band]. I found the music to be more interesting. It wasn’t as typical. If you play the same style of music, after a year it gets really boring. Imagine doing that for 30 years.”
It was a vision that garnered X considerable critical praise, but less in record sales. Bonebrake can still look back with no regrets.
“I think we did pretty good considering what we were up against,” he says. “The business wasn’t geared for bands like us.”
Touring was exceptionally tough for a punk band in the late ’70s; before clubs like the Vogue popped up in Midwestern cities, bands were largely limited to venues on the coasts. After releasing their first singles in 1978, X drove three and a half days from L.A. to play New York City punk hub CBGB for the first time.
“We didn’t play anywhere in between,” Bonebrake says. “I don’t know if there were any clubs. There wasn’t a scene like there is now. There wasn’t a network.”
X has toured sporadically since an extended hiatus from the late ’80s to the early ’90s that began after Zoom temporarily left the fold. Time, Bonebrake says, has helped to smooth over rocky relationships between the band members.
“We’re like brothers and sisters,” he says. “We sometimes get along, and other times we fight like brothers and sisters. We don’t see each other all the time; that’s a great way to keep a band sane. We can communicate really well; over the years we’ve learned how to do that.”
Nonetheless, Bonebrake says it’s too early yet to tell if the band is ready to record a new studio album, which would be the first in almost 15 years.
“We’re going to take it a step at a time,” he says. “There’s definitely a possibility. It’s a big commitment. We’ll see if we’re ready for it.”
WHO: X, Skybombers
WHERE: The Vogue, 6259 N. College Ave.
WHEN: Tuesday, March 18, 8 p.m., $20 advance, $22 day of, 21+
We’re still collecting stories about the Vogue for an upcoming feature on the venue’s 30th anniversary. Please mail any and all submissions (including photos, sound and props) to email@example.com or c/o Scott Shoger at NUVO’s terrestrial address. Here’s a taste of what we’ve gotten thus far:
Mondo Monday was conceived on stage with John Ross — the original Vogue owner — back in the early ‘80s. It happened on midnight on some New Year’s Eve. We talked about the need for new entertainment to be presented to the public.
Many drinks later the concept of a rock ‘n’ roll flea market, talent show and record collectors show was confirmed, fashioned loosely on England’s famed underground “Batcave” parties [early punk U.K. house parties before the term “goth” was used]. We had fire breathers, sword swallowers, carnies, rock ‘n’ rollers, magicians, jugglers, whipping skits, bands and actors; just about everything. The whole city would show up; it was very cool.
We overhauled the Vogue and decorated it as never before. Sort of a carnival/used car lot look. We had bizarre contests of legendary stature. This was a true cutting edge of talent searches at the time. People came from five states away to perform. Hell, The Dead Milkmen played one for $81.
A huge oriental gong was back center stage with four very hammered judges in front of it. Sitting there comfortably sipping cocktails, they sparked lively debates with colorful performers. This was the high-water mark on our 1980s decadent culture on a local level.
Ace Cosby [Q-95 and Off Yer Rockers], Ray from the Alley Cat and Chubby from the Patio were all regular judges. We also had a plethora of wild and shocked guest judges. Names ranged from the fabulous Don from Don’s Guns to a very hot Debbi Knox from “Eight On The Scene News.”
The rules were brutally simple. If you didn’t get gonged, you got some sort of prize. One Christmas the prize was a real candied pig’s head candleholder; next time it was a rubber chicken; then a fur pizza.
All vendors were always welcome to come and vend. This was big time fun!