From the first second of "In This House That I Call Home", the first X song I ever heard and my first experience with the John Doe/Exene Cervenka vocal pairing, I was in love. Exene's voice isn't what I'd call pleasant. It's shrill, seemingly on the verge of ragged collapse, but when paired with John Doe's manly croon the result is nothing short of transcendent. Their styles together create harmonies unlike any I've ever heard, and the same goes for their down-home rockabilly side project The Knitters.
Aging 40 somethings spending a night out on the town mingled amongst the young and stylish in very un-cowboy-like boots to see the Knitters at the Tractor Tavern. John Doe and Dave Alvin came onstage first and played two slow songs, warming up the crowd. John Doe ushered in the remaining members of the Knitters, saying "those sad songs are for all you sad mother-fuckers and the rest is all fun".
The ever-quirky Exene stood placidly onstage, looking as if she might topple over any second. Despite her seeming drug-induced state she didn't miss a step, belting out the words with a strangely calm ferocity. Dave Alvin, of roots rock band the Blasters, was phenomenal on guitar.
Dressed to the nines in a starched dress shirt and jacket topped by a prim cowboy hat, he wielded rollicking blues solos left and right. The performance as a whole was full of infectious energy, from the rockabilly bopping of upright bass player Jonny Ray Bartel to the spastic stand-up drumming of DJ Bonebrake. Their version of "Born to be Wild" achieved a certain spice and swing to it that Steppenwolf could only dream of creating.
The only thing that could have made this show better would have been a crusty encore version of X's "White Girl". I didn't get my wish, but it went unnoticed. Feeling right at home in my cowboy boots with a red ribbon in my hair, I shook my tush to the homegrown sounds of the Knitters.