X Celebrates 40 Year Legacy at First Avenue


Photos by David Rubene


I left for Chicago bright and early this morning. I’m exhausted and left my apartment in shambles. I probably should have spent last night getting ready. You know, packing, doing the dishes that are piling up in my sink, putting laundry from last weekend away… but instead, I went to see the legendary punk icon X along with the ever popular Skating Polly.

Wednesday night’s show was opened up by Oklahoma City-based Skating Polly. The step-sister duo (who had a drummer with them) instantly had me caught by their riot grrrl vibe. They had this attitude that screamed they didn’t care what you thought of their music, they were there to perform what they wanted to perform and they were going to do it with a staggering amount of passion. It was enough passion that you instantly fell in love with them.

Their forty-five minute set was full of  great mix of music. Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse both had extremely unique voices that each had a chance to shine. Kelli, the younger of the two, seemed to have a very innocent sounding voice at times but, at other times, it was one of the fiercest voice I have heard. She had this way of screaming to the point where it was a high pitched screech but it still had a sense of musical talent in it. Peyton’s voice had a much more mature sound to it but still had an element of fun in it. The darkness of Peyton’s voice mixed with the innocence of Kelli’s voice made the vocals the highlight of their show for me.

With five releases out that span the past six years, these guys are still a fairly new and young band. That being said, they are clearly already making waves what with opening for X on this current tour and everything else they have accomplished in a short time frame (or at least short when it comes to the music industry). There are huge things to come from this young band and I can’t wait to see them grow even more than they already have.

X was the headliner of the night and, to say being able to see them was truly a dream come true would be an understatement. This influential Los Angeles based band started forty years ago and was among the first wave of American punk bands to come out. Even though they haven’t put out a full length album since their 1993 “Hey Zeus!” release, they have stayed relevant in the scene and a truly monumental band for many people. With a couple of breaks here and there and a very serious bout of bladder cancer for original guitarist Billy Zoom, X finally came back to Minneapolis with the original line-up and it was everything you could have asked for. 

Singer Exene Cervenka instantly stole the spotlight with her eccentric movements as she sang through songs with a sense of fury without being frazzled. Even though forty years have passed since the band started, watching her truly gave me a glimpse into what they were probably like back in the beginning of their career. Even though Billy Zoom was sitting throughout the set, he looked good– not like he had a wicked fight with cancer. He smiled as photographers snapped candid shots of the legendary guitarist. Bassist John Doe seemed to be trying to keep up with the energy radiating from Exene and, although that idea seemed to be impossible, it was awesome to watch him as he grooved along with the music. Drummer D.J. Bonebreak powered through the set behind his drum kit with the power and fury that you would want from a punk drummer. 

With a nearly 20 song set, X seemed to play everything that the older crowd wanted to hear. People were singing along and bobbing their heads. Sure, they weren’t moshing like I’m sure they did back in the day, but you could still feel the love the audience had for this monumental band. Although I couldn’t sing along with many of the songs due to not being completely familiar with X’s full discography, I still felt like I was part of a family as I lost myself in the nearly sold out crowd. 

Sure, I can see both Skating Polly and X at Riot Fest this weekend but it just wouldn’t have been the same. There’s an added sense of magic when watching legendary band in a legendary venue and I am more than honored that I got that experience on Wednesday night.