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Arts and Entertainment

Redd Kross at The Greek 7/20/2007

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If I had to make a list of my top 100 albums of all time, Redd Kross'Born Innocent would at least make the top 20. I can't even begin to describe how excited I was to learn that this album was going to be performed live as the opening act for Sonic Youth at the Greek. I had to get tickets for the show. Nothing against Sonic Youth, who would have rocked the roof off had there been one. But I have not seen Redd Kross play a set list like this since - oh, around 1985.

Born Innocent takes its name from Linda Blair's cult classicteen-runaway-in-juvie movie. It always amazes me when I remember how young this band was when they recorded this album. Maybe the marriage of punk rock and bubblegum could only have come from that special combination of teenage angst and growing up to the soundtrack of HR Pufnstuf.

Brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald grew up in Hawthorne, home of the Beach Boys, so maybe there is just something in the water. My preference has always been for the more melodic punk rock, and the songs on Born Innocent are just so fucking catchy. They are like cereal commercial catchy. Compared to the hardcore progression that music was yet to take, it's almost hard to believe that this album was punk rock. With a pair of cute, non-threatening-looking brothers and two girls (actually, the girls were kind of threatening-looking) in the band, it's amazing this album did not break through (Really, I have never understood why Redd Kross was not on the cover of Teen Beat every single month).

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It was just like old times at the Greek. The "gang" was all there - Dave Markey (The Year Punk Broke, We Got Power, etc.), Jennifer Schwartz (Lovedolls Superstar), and Jordan Schwartz (We Got Power), which really made it feel like a flashback.

The staff at the Greek only allow you to take photos in the pit for the first three songs. As I was being escorted to the photo pit, I told the clipboard person, "You know with this band that means like four minutes, right?" A few minutes later, as the nice lady with the clipboard escorted me out, she said, "Wow. You were right about those songs being short." (Later, when they escorted me out after Sonic Youth, I asked, "How could you even tell how many songs that was?")

It was so great to hear the Born Innocent songs live again, especially Linda Blair, Kill Someone You Hate, and Pseudo-Intellectual. It was such a treat to hear them blasting through such a crisp, expensive sound system. I was used to hearing them in little clubs with crappy sound. And Redd Kross was so into it. There was no way they were going to phone it in. Steve and Jeff make the best rock faces, mixing 70s rockstar pouts with dreamy riffing trances, Gene Simmons grimaces and screaming punk glares. One of my favorites is when Steve makes this look of total surprise, like he can't believe how hard they are rocking. Robert Hecker is very zen. No matter how hard he rocks, he always looks so peaceful.

Dave Markey took a short Quicktime video of everyone in the front row pretending to freak out like they were at a Beatles concert. I was standing next to him, so I asked him if he wanted me to cry. I poured water under my eyes and clutched at my face while screaming, He was like, "OK. Stop already. OK. I got it. Please stop." During Redd Kross' cover of the Carrie Nation's Look on Up at the Bottom, Jennifer and I just had to go-go dance. The usher came and made me return to my seat. I was surprised that a hysterical tantrum had gone unnoticed, but just try wiggling those hips, and look out.

I really hope these retro album sets catch on, because it was fucking rad, and Redd Kross was fucking rad. I basically went back in time and saw one of my favorite bands from 20 years ago play my favorite album from 20 years ago with some of my favorite people from 20 years ago. It just doesn't get any better than that.

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(Photos by Elise Thompson for LAist)