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Pretty Fly


The Offspring work to pump up their straight-forward stage show at the Event Center

By Sarah Quelland

Photographs by George Sakkestad

IF YOU COULD merge the Living End's charismatic live performance with the Offspring's knack for writing catchy, radio-friendly punk tunes, you'd really have something.

The Living End, a lounge-punk trio currently known for its single "Prisoner of Society," opened for the Offspring last Tuesday (March 30) at the San Jose State Event Center. Led by Chris Cheney on lead vocals and guitar, the band was fun and energetic.

Scott Owen entertained with his ruddy upright bass, twirling it and perching on top of the instrument. Also impressive was drummer Trav Demsey, who worked a drum kit draped with leopard skin. Demsey's personality came shining through--not always an easy achievement for a drummer. He jumped up from time to time to rally the crowd; when he played, his hands flew with blurring speed.

The band did a well-received cover of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" with an interlude featuring the theme from The Flintstones. One of the best songs of the set was the surf-rockish "Bloody Mary," which would have been a nice addition to Rob Zombie's compilation Halloween Hootenanny.

When technical difficulties arose with Owen's bass, Cheney good-naturedly heckled the crowd: "You should boo the fuck out of us." The audience--which up until this point had been a nonstop wave of crowd surfers--let out a resounding "Boo!" to which Owen responded, "I said 'Boo,' not 'Moo,' you cows."

Celebrity Dissing

Intermission followed, with Hole's Celebrity Skin on the P.A. system. Offspring last appeared in San Jose with Hole at the LIVE 105-sponsored Not So Silent Night benefit show at the Event Center. Playing Hole's album was likely a friendly dig at the Offspring, which, like many bands these days, doesn't seem to get along with Hole. (At the end of its set, vocalist Dexter Holland told the audience, "We had a much better time than the last time we were here. Because of who?" and guitarist Noodles blurted out, "Because Courtney's not here!")

One by one, members of the Offspring took the stage against a slide-projected backdrop. Flashy professional lighting matched the many shades of Manic Panic in the audience (Electric Sunshine, Wildfire red, Fuchsia Shock and Tiger Lily orange, as well as a guy in an icy-purple Tina Turner-style wig). Disappointingly, Holland's stage presence was fairly bland, although he warmed up as the night went on. For the most part, the band's straightforward delivery didn't vary far from its recordings.

The Offspring apparently knows that its live performance needs a boost these days because it's taken to presenting little staged moments during its act, including an intermission in which drinks are handed out and the band takes a break. During "Walla Walla," an inmate in an old-school black-and-white striped prison uniform declared, "I'm innocent. I didn't do it." Later, preceding "It's Cool to Hate," life-sized dolls of the Backstreet Boys were brought onstage so that Holland could beat them with a plastic baseball bat.

It's surprising how many popular songs the Offspring have, and the band went through all of them, including the newer "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)," during which a kid costumed like the kid from the video (maybe it was the kid from the video) came out and worked the crowd with a cheesy '80s-style dance.

If the Offspring lacked energy, the crowd definitely didn't. The floor was a jam-packed, constantly churning mass of activity. Two young kids in front of me (probably 10- to 11-years-old) were rocking out, playing air guitar and generally being rock stars. Someone should have put them onstage.

One of the coolest things about the show happened at the very end: the Offspring, which is known for being supportive and fostering community, had free CDs passed out to the audience. I've never seen a band on a major label (Columbia) do that.

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From the April 1-7, 1999 issue of Metro.

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