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The Germs w/ The Stitches, Love Equals Death – Saturday May 5, 2007 – Slims, San Francisco – Jef Hoskins

The Germs

There’s no way to spin the skepticism around this show. At the forefront, Shane West, an actor who portrayed Darby Crash in a yet-to-be-released Germs bio-pic What We Do Is Secret, is now the official front-man for the Germs. Can that really work??

Our nightclub jitters are measurably reinforced by the fact that the expansive open room known as Slim’s is looking pretty… well, slim as all of this kicks off. There’s barely a crowd to speak of.

It’s possible that many fans of the opening act, Love Equals Death, have kicked the band due to the recent spectacle in which bassist, Dominic Davi was accused of sexual assault and recently arrested at a venue in Los Angeles prior to a scheduled gig. Rumors have been flying about the whole incident, as they do; but the accusations seem to be flimsier by the day. Unfortunately, it will take at least until the legal process is meted out before folks will be able to unravel the entire story for themselves. For now it’s a painful mystery surrounded by a swirl of conjecture; but two things are for sure: L=D is no longer represented by Fat Wreck Chords—certainly an effect of this debacle; and Dominic Davi is not playing with them at this time.


Davi’s replacement is Brian Burnham, who fills in fine, but “Heart=Skull” is just not the same without Davi. Vocalist Chon Travis dedicates a song to Davi, and immediately an audience member turns to a friend and remarks “he just said that for good PR.” The (unnamed) L=D merch person tells us that Davi is not officially out of the band, and that “Brian is just filling in.” Oh, drama…

A few—and we mean a few—more people have arrived as the Stitches take the stage. Singer Mike Lohrman is so many sheets to the wind, he could stock a Mervyn’s White Sale; but it is Cinco de Mayo, so who can blame him?

As they tear into their set, an uncomfortable realization is unavoidable: these guys are getting old. Most of the songs are played much slower than we’ve ever heard them, and the only song Lohrman appears to confidently recall all the words to is “My Baby Hates Me” (considering that every Stitches fan knows that song by heart, one would hope he would too). The rest of the set was just a sloppy mess. The Stitches may just be wasted and having an off night, but even if it’s temporary, they are nonetheless diminished.

As the Germs set up, a video projects footage of former singer, the youthfully departed Darby Crash. Crash succumbed to his own punk rock convictions, committing suicide in Los Anges in 1980 at the age of 22; and it’s with a prickly reminiscence that we watch these scenes. Not that we, or most of the people present tonight were around during the time the Germs were breaking ground in punk rock; but we were all big fans in our own personal ‘back in the’ day. And most of us were a little more like Darby and the rest of the Germs back in the day. It’s a reminiscence of our own punk rock youth that makes this bitter-sweet, as we compare our surviving selves to the Darby departed.

Tonight, remaining members of the original band, guitarist Pat Smear and bassist Lorna Doom, are joined by Don Bolles on drums. While Bolles was not the original drummer (incidentally, it was in fact Belinda Carlisle of The Go-Go’s) he did play the skins right up to the original band’s demise.

The reformed Germs perform with aforementioned frontman West (whom you might recognize from NBC’s E.R.) We probably aren’t the only attendees who have decided it’s inevitable that this is going to be a cheeseball affair; but to our surprise, it turns out to be an enveloping blast.

West commands a presence that fortunately is not overbearingly Crash-y. Although he doesn’t seem to drink nearly as much beer as he shares with the audience, at least West doesn’t front to be the brashly adorable, slurring and cursing, stumbling and wasted Darby. He does a bit of floor-writhing that is more forced than summoned; but he’s not offensively playing it up. In fact, it’s about as perfect of a median as it could be.

Moreover, West actually sings Darby’s lyrics impressively well. And with the entire remaining line-up of original Germs obviously happy to be playing together, a uniting sensation washes over the audience. Kids—and we all are kids again at this point—are pogo-ing, moshing, making out… whatever goes. There’s hardly a complaint in the house, save for a few real curmudgeons hanging tight to the back bar, as far from the stage as possible. These guys probably never got much closer to the pit in ‘77 either…

Post-show, Smear casually struts out the front door of the club in the same manner that he had been sauntering around the interiors prior to their set. Considering Nirvana, House of Style, and the Foo Fighters are not too far in his past, this guy shows no shred of stardom whatsoever. A bigger, firier grown-up version of his precocious past, Smear carouses with fans closer to his own age in front of the venue, gladly posing for casual photos and generally hamming it up.

The question that begs at this point is what the future holds for this band that 30 years ago proudly had no future. The neo-Germs have been playing limited engagements in the Los Angeles area over the past two years and only expanded to San Francisco this time around.

So can we expect a resurgence of the Germs? Our money is on it.

It’s a good bet that they are testing the waters the same way we were tonight. Once the world proves that they can embrace the Germs of today—and they surely will—we can expect to see a new installment of one of punks finest outfits go farther than the first incarnation ever had the chance.


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