Yuletide traditions often come to mean more than their creators ever imagined, such as the seasonal Bay Area concerts from legendary Los Angeles punk powerhouse X. They started at smaller nightclubs, but got so crowded, they’re slated for the Fillmore this year. “Now, doing a holiday run is kind of touching base with everybody, and the correct interchange between our fans there is a nod, meaning ‘Good to see ya,’ and a nod back, meaning ‘Good to be seen,’” says bandleader John Doe. “Besides, people at this time of year need some relief from the pressure of Christmas.”
The shows – cemented by the 2009 single “Merry X-Mas From X” featuring adrenalized versions of “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – have grown, from compressed rafter-raisers to 2014’s semi-acoustic model.
“I’m still playing bass and singing,” says Doe, who trades vocals with Exene Cervenka, “But we’ve flipped some of the songs around, so we’re like the unplugged version of X.” Guitarist Billy Zoom plays sax occasionally, while drummer D.J. Bonebrake frequently switches to vibraphones. He adds, “Now we’re able to do songs we never did, like ‘Drunk in My Past’ and “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes.’”
The streamlined touring model is still high-decibel. “But it’s just not the fast and furious, go to hell, punk rock X,” says Doe.
Oddly enough, it may even pave the way for a new X album. Doe says, “This re-imagining gives us much more possibility, because it takes the pressure off Exene and I to write songs that are punk rock, exclusively – although it does make the line between X and what I might do solo much more blurry.”
And Doe does a lot of solo work.
In January, he will appear with his old friend Chris D. in some Flesheaters reunion gigs. He sings the traditional “Tenting on the Old Campground” on the CD anthology “Divided & United – Songs of the Civil War,” and – in his acting side career – he has appeared in films including “Zombex,” “Pleased to Meet Me” and the upcoming docudrama “Electric Slide,” which, he says, is “about a gentleman bank robber in the ’80s named Eddie Dodson, who hit 60-plus banks in 18 months. I play the lead detective.”
In 2014, Doe issued his greatest hits compilation, “The Best of John Doe: This Far,” and in spring, he, Cervenka and Robyn Hitchcock have scheduled a train tour called “Roots on the Rails Express” from Los Angeles to Seattle and back again. He adds, “I’m trying to get another job right now,” describing a movie role he’s hoping to land. “Fingers crossed. I don’t want to jinx it!”
IF YOU GO
with The Blasters
Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
When: 8 .m. Dec. 26-27
Contact: (415) 371-5500, www.livenation.com