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The X Factor

Quintessential punk band X goes off on San Diego Sunday night



    The members of X didn’t just make history--they wrote it. Each a legend in their own right, Exene Cervenka (vocals), John Doe (bass/vocals), Billy Zoom (guitar), and D.J. Bonebrake (drums) came together in 1977 in Los Angeles, where they would write one of best punk albums of all time. The seminal Los Angeles, released a few years later, became a musical archetype that could never be replicated by any number of punk artists. Because X defied the genre. They classed it up, brought sophisticated lyrics and soulful harmonies over rockabilly guitar riffs and heart-beat racing drums. More than 35 years later, X is still at it, and they’re coming for you on Sunday, Dec. 8, for a rightfully sold-out Belly Up show.

    The band’s genesis is now the stuff of movies, perfectly iconic of the time and place they came together. Each musical wanderer just needed to be found: Zoom and Doe responded to each other’s nearly identical, simultaneous want-ads in a local music magazine. Cervenka met Doe at a poetry workshop in Venice, where she told him, thank you, but if anyone was going to perform her poems, it’d be her. Bonebrake played a show at the Hollywood punk club Masque, where Doe saw in him their long-sought-after drummer. And with that, finally, all the pieces were in place.
    X put out five records in the next eight years, working with former Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, before the group saw some lineup changes. Members alternately went their separate ways, worked on side projects, got together with different musicians (including the Blasters’ Dave Alvin) for recording--but ultimately, X went on hiatus.
    There were reunions in-between, but X really came back hard in the last few years, touring more regularly with the same intensity that has inspired mosh pits over the decades. Cervenka’s high, wonderfully shaky but anti-sing-songy, raw flatness and Doe’s bell-clear coo pull together Zoom’s finger-twitching guitar and Bonebrake’s hammering snares. Be there on Sunday when Zoom smiles ceaselessly over the crowd, while Cervenka talks love, Doe works that Elvis-leg magic, and with Bonebake, X continues to write history.
    X plays the Belly Up on Sunday, Dec. 8, at 8 pm, $32, 21+. The Blasters open.