OFF! Live at Brighton Music Hall Allston/Boston, MA, 05-18-23

OFF! Live at Brighton Music Hall Allston/Boston, MA, 05-18-23

Friday, 19 May 2023

Few bands are flying the hardcore flag these days as successfully as OFF! It’s a mix of things that makes this band stand out. Sure, it’s fronted by Keith Morris of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, who is still at the top of his game both vocally and lyrically. But, the appeal OFF! has for me are the hardcore riffs provided by Dimitri Coates. They are both musically innovative and undeniably hard and catchy. This band has already released 3 albums (yes, I count the EP collection), which have never drifted far from the formula, and to be quite honest, you can never get too much of a good thing. They hit that sweet spot for me, you know?

However, for their latest album, OFF! has taken a somewhat different approach. FREE LSD is experimental, sure, and although a lot of what makes OFF! is still all over the album, musically it’s much more adventurous. And the addition of a new rhythm section certainly helps. It’s not that I don’t like FREE LSD, it’s that sonically, it’s an awkward album for me. Mostly, because it sounds like it’s holding back on the songs. The guitars sound lower in the mix and the drums, the driving force for the band, are simply not loud enough for my taste. That snare sounds deflated as well. This is all personal preference of course, and I was curious as hell to see how these songs would translate in a live setting. Maybe the power of FREE LSD would come through.

Well, I am pleased to say that it most definitely did yesterday at the Brighton Music Hall. I was eager to see this new rhythm section live, and I was completely blown away. Brown and Fulbright II are full-on professionals, intricately adding notes and beats to the songs and keeping an impossibly tight foundation on the live set. They provided a professional angle to these punks, if there is such a thing. Then of course there’s Coates whose furious and fast (or is that the other way around?) guitar playing was delivered with surgical precision. Kieth Morris is the consummate professional and will always deliver and tonight was no different. It’s clear that with these new songs and these new members, OFF! have elevated their musical chops and the genre’s standards in general.

Since they played the entirety of the FREE LSD album, it was revelatory to hear the songs in this new setting. It’s everything I wished the album was, the drums front and center and pounding, and the guitars a total driving force. I now understood that FREE LSD was a hardcore/prog album recorded like a psychedelic album. That’s the disconnect.

Look, you gotta see these guys live. They’re no spring chickens but they’re holding it down as well as any of the new acts. OFF!’s music is as urgent, relevant, and interesting as anything else out there.

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