Off! played Brighton Music Hall – 5/18

Keith Morris led the new iteration of hardcore supergroup Off! to Brighton Music Hall Thursday night, with support from Die Spitz.


By the account of frontman Keith Morris, Off! came into being as a band with something to prove. Emerging from the wreckage of a scrapped and dissatisfying Circle Jerks recording session in the late ’00s, Morris and producer/songwriter/guitarist Dimitri Coats took a batch of tracks written amid that upheaval and used them as a jumping-off point from frustration to something fresh.

The band’s membership boasted genre starpower in erstwhile Jerks/Black Flag vocalist Morris, Redd Kross bassist Steven McDonald and Earthless/Hot Snakes/Rocket from the Crypt drummer Mario Rubalcaba – plus Coats, formerly of Burning Brides – but there was nothing crowded or flashy about the straight-up, no-nonsense hardcore they made. Taking their cues from Morris’ pioneering early bands, Off! punched in and out with pissed off songs that rarely exceeded 90 seconds, releasing a string of acclaimed EPs and two full-lengths (by hardcore standards) between 2010 and 2014. If the band was a challenge for punk veteran Morris to head up a project that could feel and sound vital 30-plus years into his career, it was a challenge bested.

Off!’s frantic pace slowed following 2014’s Wasted Years, and it wasn’t until last summer that word of new music – and a new lineup – got out. The core of Morris and Coats remained, while a new rhythm section comprising ex-Trail of Dead bassist Autry Fulbright II and jazz drummer Justin Brown joined up. The 20-track record that followed, 2022’s Free LSD, also brought change to the group, incorporating a broader palette of experimental and metallic textures without sacrificing the urgency at the band’s heart. Those new songs were supposed to make their local debut last November before an unexpected hospitalization upended a leg of the tour, but the band finally did make it to town last week for a gig at Brighton Music Hall.

I’ll say off the top, BMH is not my favorite room for a show like this. That big barricade at stage front is nice for photos, but keeps a degree of separation between band and crowd that can weirdly restrict the flow of energy in a way that other barricaded spaces avoid. Call it punk feng shui – there’s just something…off about it. Off! themselves made the best of it though, with Morris’ distinctive bark leading the quartet through nearly 30 furious songs in under an hour. Coats played sonic architect, via dexterous fretwork and doses of atmospheric noisemaking, while Brown and Fullbright locked down an airtight rhythm section. Nearly all of Free LSD made the setlist (written out in giant Sharpie notation and duct-taped to the stage by Morris), and a chunk of Off! Mark I tracks closed out the night in body-moving fashion.

That I never did manage to see a full set from the band with their original lineup still disappoints me a tad, but it’s a reassuring thing that even nearing 70, Morris continues to push the project – along with the genre he helped to establish – forward.

Check out photos from the set below, as well as a bunch from a super fun opening set by Austin punks Die Spitz.