As a general rule, reunion tours are pretty terrible. Punk Rock reunions are the worst. It’s embarrassing to watch guys who look like your uncle play songs about teenage angst. Sure, most of these guys have moved on to more “mature” music, but as these projects all seem to fall in the cut-out bin, the reunion tour appears ever more lucrative. The last few years have witnessed reincarnation of Stiff Little Fingers, the Misfits, Bad Brains, Youth of Today, and The Cro-Mags, among others. And like a sucker, I went to all of them and went home almost wishing I hadn’t.
In some weird way, the Circle Jerks performance at the Trocadero on Jan. 12 was the least disappointing of them all. Of course, a $15 door price to watch a middle-aged man with dreadlocks sing about being wasted, running wild in the streets, and disgustingly having the world up his ass can be little more than sleazy. But since the Jerks were always pretty goofy, high expectations had to be left at home for the night.
Reforming every six or so years, Keith Morris, a man of god-like status for having fulfilled the vocal duties on the first Black Flag EP, and Greg Hetson known also for his axe-work with Red Cross and Bad Religion, assembled a rhythm section and hit the road. Not surprisingly, the bulk of their set comes from the band’s first three albums, specifically from 1980’s Group Sex. Sadly though, if the line “I don’t wanna live to be 34/ I don’t wanna die in a nuclear war” from the song “Live Fast, Die Young” could strike a chord these days, a gust of irony blows it off target. Keith Morris certainly made it past 34.
All in all, the Circle Jerks cleared the low bar set for reunions. Knowing damn well that no one on earth wants to hear them, the newer songs were kept to a minimum. Most of the classics sounded adequate, despite a lazy drummer skipping the maniacal fills in “Red Tape.” They played with a surprising level of energy, and perhaps most importantly, they made no pretense of being “back and better than ever.” Making allusions to a new album down the road, but receiving the loudest cheers from announcements of playing “the old shit,” Morris knows his place is in the past. Besides, the Jerks’ version of “Nervous Breakdown” sounds infinitely more ferocious than that of the part Misfits, part Black Flag, part Ramones circus that has been embarrassing itself lately.