Redd Kross returned to Columbus after a 20-year absence to play Ace of Cups on Tuesday, May 9th. The last time the band performed in Columbus was at the Newport Music Hall in 1997. During that stop, they were on a bill with The Presidents of the United States of America but the band's history with Columbus goes all the way back to shows at the infamous club Staches which the band referenced during their Ace Of Cups show. (editor's note: Ricki C. was at one of those Stache's shows, and has always reported it as an all-timer. Maybe in the future we can coax 500 words out of him about it.)
If you are a fan of Redd Kross then you know why you love them, but to explain it to those who aren't familiar with them isn't so easy. I would describe them as equal parts power pop, punk, garage rock, psychedelia and a healthy dose of Saturday morning cartoon theme songs. Power Pop with a punk aesthetic is also a good way to describe them.
Redd Kross is led by brothers Jeff & Steve McDonald, who formed their first band while still in middle school after their mom bought Steve a bass guitar. The brothers first gig was opening for punk rock legends Black Flag. Redd Kross released their first EP in 1980 when Steve was just 15 years old and the band's first full-length album Born Innocent followed in 1982. Born Innocent featured one of their best known early songs "Linda Blair." With the release of 1987's Neurotica album the sound of Redd Kross was moving more towards psychedelic power pop and the band was attracting a larger fan base.
Redd Kross' commercial peak came with their 1990's releases Third Eye (1990), Phaseshifter (1993) and Show World (1997). Phaseshifter tends to be the album that most fans point to as the band’s best moment and it features some of their best known songs including "Lady In The Front Row," "Jimmy's Fantasy," "Visionary," and "Huge Wonder". After touring for their 1997 album Show World Redd Kross took a break and did not perform again until 2006. In 2012 the band returned with the album Researching The Blues, that effortlessly picked up right where they had left off in 1997. Since the release of Researching The Blues the band has sporadically toured and released a couple archival collections; the newest one being Smoke Seven 81/82 that features some of the bands earliest recordings and an unreleased live set from 1982.
So that brings us back to the show at Ace Of Cups. The band arrived in town just prior to the doors opening at 7pm. They had played in Cleveland the night before at the Grog Shop and were late getting into town. They quickly set up their gear and blasted through "Lady In The Front Row" for their soundcheck to the delight of fans who had arrived early to the show. The band went on stage around 9 o'clock after local band Good Shade warmed up the now packed house. Redd Kross opened their set with... "Lady In The Front Row," followed by Phaseshifter era single "Switchblade Sister." The band played three songs from their 2012 release Researching The Blues, including "Stay Away From Downtown" and "Uglier." The band also performed their 1984 EP Teen Babes From Monsanto in its entirety. The Teen Babes From Monsanto EP includes songs originally performed by, Kiss, The Rolling Stones, The Stooges, The Shangri-Las, David Bowie, etc. The Teen Babes portion of the show opened with Kiss' "Deuce" and the band treated the crowd to some funny Kiss-related banter, including some very well known Paul Stanley stage raps. The McDonald brothers have a well documented love for all things Kiss.
Redd Kross ended the show with a cover of a cover, playing The Quick's version of The Beatles "It Won't Be Long." The Quick were a 1970's L.A.-based power pop band that were a big influence on Redd Kross. Redd Kross also covered The Quick's "Pretty Please" on their 1997 album Show World.
Redd Kross have had a revolving door of members over the years with the McDonald brothers being the mainstays. Their current line-up features the powerhouse drumming of Melvins drummer Dale Crover. Dale also had stints in Nirvana, playing on some tracks on Bleach, Incesticide and various other sessions.
Hopefully Columbus won't have to wait too before Redd Kross come back to town. The band hinted that there may be a new record in the works, fingers crossed that will happen in the near future and we will see Redd Kross sooner than later.
The crowd seemed to be a mix of veteran Redd Kross Army fans that had seen the band before and some that were seeing them for the first time. All agreed that the show we all witnessed may have been the best thing we'd seen in a long long time.
Scott Carr is a guitarist who plays in the Columbus, OH band Radio Tramps. Scott is also an avid collector of vinyl records and works at Lost Weekend Records. So...if you are looking for Scott....you'll either find him in a dimly lit bar playing his guitar or in a record store digging for the holy grail.