Photos and review of X at Summit Music Hall in Denver, Colorado - Reverb

Live review: X @ Summit Music Hall

As novel as the idea seemed, the merging of the young, scrappy punk rock of X from the 1986 documentary “The Unheard Music” and the real, live, considerably older band into one event didn’t work as well as you’d think. Saturday night the appearance of the two in succession at Summit Music Hall proved that fact.

On their own, both played out well. But the proximity of the two inspired a few troubling things: constant comparison of “how they used to be” to “how they are now,” and a forfeit of the crowd’s attention span as the movie played.

“The Unheard Music” stands the test of time, and remains one of the more poignant and well-made documentaries of the burgeoning SoCal hardcore punk scene of the early ‘80s. Still, while it held a rapidly growing audience for the first 40 minutes, the second half of the show was an exercise in patience as part of the crowd tried to talk over the film and the other strained to listen and shot glaring stares at their increasingly loud neighbors.

When X did hit the stage, though, the ice was broken with a long, near-perfect performance. All members looked much older — it’s been 25 years since the film, and even then they’d already been playing together for the better part of a decade. But their furious, punkabilly energy belied any potential notion of “has been” for well over an hour.

They tore through all nine songs on “Los Angeles,” their debut record, in album order, and then followed with almost twice that many from their strong history. “White Girl” started a second half that included iconic tunes like “We’re Desperate,” “Blue Spark,” “The New World,” “Devil Doll” and more.

Billy Zoom played quick, fierce rockabilly-punk almost second-handedly, behind his famous maniacal grin, while D.J. Bonebrake pounded the drums and John Doe played the smart, punky bass behind the vocals that spawned his superstar life. In front and center, Exene Cervenka spun, shouted, danced and screamed her poetry like she hadn’t lost a day in the band’s near-three-decade history — despite her age. The set did end up winning over the crowd in the end — the energy and fury of X wouldn’t allow it to be any other way.

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Billy Thieme is a Denver-based writer, an old-school punk and a huge follower of Denver’s vibrant local music scene. Follow Billy’s explorations at, and his giglist at Gigbot.

Lisa Higginbotham is a Denver photographer and a new contributor to Reverb.

  • Xed

    Yeah, perhaps it’s not ideal to have a video as your opening act, but better that than the usual array of crappy opening bands showgoers have to typically wade through.

    As for X.  Well, they were spectacular.  There’s no real reason why they shouldn’t just be phoning it in at this point in their history, but they played like their lives depended on it.  They’re an American treasure, and they’re probably better and nore cohesive now than in their heyday.  A glorious night with one of the best American bands in existence.

  • Anonymous

    I never saw the movie as anything other than a gimmick. Save on an opening act. It would have been bad if they couldn’t measure up to the old X but they were hot. Exene was better than she’s been in years. I hope her health is improving. They proved that they are one of the great bands and still have the fire.

    • Xed

      You’re right Steve – Exene was the big difference.  She was full of life and brought tremendous energy to the show.

      One quibble on the review — X didn’t “win the crowd over by the end” — we were pretty much in the palm of their hands from the first note! :)

      Also, how cool to see young punks moshing and crowd surfing.  So great to see a new generation of fans for this fantastic music.

      • Xed

        I’d also say re: the movie — I took my 15 year old son to the show.  He enjoys X when he hears them but didn’t really know anything about them.  He loved the film and said it gave him an understanding of what he was seeing when the band went on.  So, for at least one newcomer to the band, the video served a real purpose.

  • Becca

    Of note, no visible tattoos on this punk band.  Punk was an attitude and a sound more than a look with X, imho.