X and the Avengers
July 25, 2021
All photos by Raymond Ahner.
Now in it’s 84th season, the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco continues to be the longest running free outdoor music festival in the Bay Area. This past Sunday the festival hosted the band X, who, now in their 43rd year together, continue to be one of the longest running and most influential bands in punk rock. With the fog hovering over the Grove and keeping the weather on the cooler side, it turned out to be the perfect venue for not only the band, but their longtime Bay Area fans as well.
Supporting X on this day was none other than the Avengers, legends in their own right, and one of the original San Francisco punk rock bands. They actually headlined a show at the infamous Mabuhay Gardens in 1978 with X also on the bill, which made them the perfect choice for this show.
Led by original vocalist Penelope Houston, the band had the fans quickly filing into the amphitheater, many of whom made their way down towards the stage. The Avengers made the most of their time on stage, and highlights included “Thin White Line,” ‘Corpus Christi,” ‘The End of the World,” and of course “We Are the One.”
Opening their first live show in almost 18 months with a snippet of “Water and Wine” (during which they worked out a few kinks with their sound), X debuted the title track from their recently released album Alphabetland, which their old school punk rock fans seemed to approve of. From there they played “In This House That I Call Home” and “We’re Desperate,” before bassist John Doe stopped between songs for a quick word. Surveying the crowd, which had now grown to almost full capacity, Doe looked out and simply said, “Holy moly, oh my god! That’s all, that’s all I got to say,” clearly impressed with both the venue and the fans in front of him.
Of course everyone in the grove was eagerly awaiting for the band to play “Los Angeles,” and X did not disappoint, with the dueling vocals of Doe and Exene Cervenka getting even the oldest of old school punks in the crowd out of their blankets and onto their feet. After “White Girl,” Doe once again expressed his thoughts, saying, “Well, I’d say it’s great to be here, but that’s pretty obvious. I’m so glad that everyone is here, and that everyone survived.”
Although their set was somewhat brief, X definitely made the most of their time on the stage, and highlights included “Come Back To Me” (with guitarist Billy Zoom on Sax and drummer DJ Bonebrake on the xylophone), “The New World,” a cover of The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen,” and their set ending “Nausea,” which induced what was surely the first “mosh pit” in Stern Grove Festival history.
By the time it was all said and done, it turned out to be a great day in the grove, bringing out many people from the San Francisco punk rock scene for a day of camaraderie and music. And after the last year and a half, that is just what is needed right now.
Here’s a gallery with more photos of X and The Avengers by Raymond Ahner: