Viv and I had the pleasure of attending a show by the notable X spinoff band The Knitters Friday night at the Showbox. The Knitters were a semi-joke band that featured Exene Cervenka, John Doe, and DJ Bonebreak of X as well as the remarkable songwriter and guitarist Dave Alvin. They recorded a record, Poor Little Critter in the Road, which was released in the last days of Slash Records, around 1985. The record featured a mix of irreverent covers of American country songs and some jokey originals (cf. the LP’s title). Since then the band has released another record and become a primary touring vehicle for the musicians.
Poor Little Critter in the Road is without question the first time that I actually listened closely to country music and realized how much it had in common with punk rock, the music I came to the record from. Without it, I rather doubt I ever would have taken up the mandolin. Doe and Cervenka’s songwriting and music, like that of Dale Lawrence, helped form my worldview and musical taste. I expect to listen to them with the same interest interest twenty years from now as I did twenty years ago.
I saw X once the year Poor Little Critter in the Road came out, and they were on their last legs, bickering onstage. This made me sad, as the depth of my love for their first two records, Los Angeles and Wild Gift, burned bright in my nineteen-year-old heart and has never flagged. Since moving to Seattle, I have seen X a couple more times, but had missed the last couple visits by the band in the guise of the Knitters.
The addition of Dave Alvin to Doe and Cervenka’s songs is a happy one. Alvin moved to L.A. from Texas just before X formed, as I understand it, and so the players have known each other for some time indeed. Alvin’s amazing band at the time, The Blasters, remains a personal favorite. As I watched him crank out blistering solo after blistering solo tonight, I realized I had somehow overlooked to see him performing electric guitar live, although as I admire his songwriting very much, I have seen him more than once in acoustic settings.
The show opened with John singing “Silver Wings,” and they worked their way though a mixed set of country and old-time covers and both Knitters and X originals, happily for me including “This Must Be the New World.”
We met our friends Patrick and Kara at the show; Kara’s cousin Johnny plays bass for the band and had arranged for comps for us, kindly enough. I like buying tickets for shows, though, and so I prematurely did so in this case. Too bad! Ah, well, it’s a classic case of poor planning anyway – I should have brought my old X and Blasters and Knitters vinyl for inking, but it did not occur to me.