It’s August 14 and I am standing at the back of Bakken, an edgy bar in Copenhagen’s meat-packing district. Beside me is Circle Jerks/Black Flag/OFF! legend Keith Morris.
The bar holds maybe 150 at a push, tiled walls, tiled floors, slabs. There’s no stage, two speakers totter on sticks and the floor is lit with a half-disco ball and a woeful red and green light. It is AWESOME.
This is where Morris’ new punk-rock joint, OFF! (along with Dimitri Coats of Burning Brides, Mario Rubalcaba of Rocket from the Crypt – et al – and Steve McDonald from Redd Kross) are about to metaphorically and very punk-rockly splatter brains down the walls.
But back to me and Keith Morris.
At 5’5, I think I’m taller than he is, but he may as well be a giant. In the punk-rock pantheon, Morris is not to be fucked with. It’s my last night on holidays in Denmark and I’ll be damned if I don’t grow a pair to talk to him.
I introduce myself and mention that the last time I shot them was in Vancouver blah blah blah. “I just wanted to say hello,” I say. “Hello!” he says back, just politely enough. We both continue watch as the opening act – an aggressive, hardcore, devastating punk band from Malmö, Sweden, called Hårda tider (Hard Times)– fling bodies around the room. “I wanted to thank you for putting me on the guestlist,” I say, “I was going to take photos but I actually fear for my life in there,” I say to Morris, pointing at the mellee, as I try to figure out how to actually shoot the band amidst insane Danes, no pit, no stage and no light of any use. “Yes, it’s beefy in there”, he says.
“There are a lot of punches being thrown,” I say meekly, sounding like a total pussy. Keith Morris nods. I take the nod to mean that it’s every girl for herself.
But again, I’ll be damned if I don’t get what I came here for. So between sets, I wedge myself on a ledge BEHIND the tottering speaker, with my feet dangling above Steve McDonald’s monitor, no more than three feet away from the neck of his bass. I can count sweat drops. AND THERE WILL BE SWEATDROPS.
Steve and I start chatting. We talk about the Sebadoh tour in Germany and the last time I’d met him in Toronto in the 90s, when he was out with Redd Kross. (“It’s nice to meet you again, he says, convivially.) He’s the most amiable of the lot.
Then….“What are we waiting for?” barks Morris, from behind the amps, and that’s it. OFF! They go, ripping into “Black Thoughts” and 17 more tracks in roughly 48 seconds. It’s wild. Morris is surrounded by fans who yell at him, tower over him and mosh around him. Dimitri flings himself into the crowd. There’s crowd surfing in a room with nine-foot ceilings. Keith Morris’ eyes bore into me as I try to shoot blindly with a flash into the dark. I am literally too close to effectively focus my camera 50mm on the band. He introduces “Jeffrey Lee Pierce” with an explanation about how living in LA he’s lucky to know so many cool people, and references JL and the Gun Club. He talks about race relations and how we all need to get along. He thanks the openers and the small crowd for coming out in the rain, which has turned torrential.
“This is pretty awesome,” he says, “it’s like playing a house party, in someone’s basement, only we’re not in a basement. Though most houses would have something like that,” he says pointing at the out-of-place discoball on the ceiling. “And you gotta thank the bar staff for this amazing….” he trails off. “Ambiance?” Steve offers.. “Ambiance! Yeah” Morris says and chuckles. Everyone laughs. You can tell they actually like the place. So do I…now that I have Steve McDonald to protect me.
Soon enough the set is over and OFF! retreat, only to be shouted back out. No fucking way they’ll do an encore, I think. But they come back out, with Steve this time hammering a little riff on the drum, before getting chided by Keith and giving the kit back to Mario.
“Back when I was in a band and we only had 16 songs,” explains Keith, ”we did in the encores what we’re about to do now. Play the set all over again!” So “Black Thoughts” , “Darkness” and – because Dimitri, whipped with adrenaline, calls for it -“Panic Attack”, all make a second appearance. OH HELL YES!
It was blistering and brilliant and it was OFF! at its best, on the butcher’s block in Denmark. In fact, it was positively…beefy. \m/
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