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  THE ORIGINAL SINNERS w/ Johnny Knox & Hi Test and The Blue Flame Combo  
  The Star Bar  
  Little Five Points, Atlanta, GA  
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I have been devoted to the band X since I first heard them when I was in high school. Subsequently, I have always tracked the subsequent careers of the band members. Iíve seen John Doeís solo shows; I bought the album by Auntie Christ (one of Exene Cervenkaís other bands). So, when The Star Bar announced that Exeneís new band, The Original Sinners, were coming in concert, I decided to attend, sound unheard. You know, itís just one of those things.

On this particular night, before The Original Sinners could play, we got to see two opening acts: one of which Iíve seen (although not in its current incarnation) and the other of which Iíve never heard. Running into a band Iíve never encountered before doesnít really bother me. In fact I like guessing about the experience beforehand. What type of music would a band with this name play? Will they be one of those rare opening bands that makes it onto my ďto seeĒ list? Or will it be one that makes me want to drink tequila shots until Iím green? You just donít know until you get there. However, based on this bandís name -- The Blue Flame Combo -- I wasnít particularly hopeful. I was thinking perhaps they were traditional rockabilly, with perhaps some jazz overtones.

So when The Blue Flame Combo took the stage, I was a bit surprised when they looked like 3 skate punks. And I was really happy when they launched into their music, which reminded me of early Green Day, or perhaps a more psychobilly Ramones. More importantly, all three band members played with a joy and energy that was infectious, so that I began to bop my head and dance along with the music.

Gradually, the rest of The Minions and I crept closer to the stage, become more and more involved in the echoey guitar and stand up bass. Finally, towards the end of their set, they launched into a cover of Ask by the Smiths; I hooted and began to sing along, amazed at how well the song translated to the pop punk genre. It was one of those rare moments when an opening band caught my fancy; I quickly decided that I needed to buy their album and see them the next time they came to town.

After The Blue Flame Combo, local Atlanta musician Johnny Knox took the stage with the current incarnation of his band, Hi-Test. Playing fairly straight forward rockabilly, their talent and enjoyment carried them beyond the limitations of the genre. This may not seem like high praise, but I have to confess: I donít really like rockabilly that much. Yeah, I listen to Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. But these days, most bands that play that style of music donít have the passion and edginess of those early pioneers. Still, despite their rather longish set, Johnny Knox and Hi-Test didnít make me want to kill myself in order to escape the music; in fact, Iíd suggest that if you like rockabilly, this band is one definitely worth catching.

Finally, after the two openers, the moment for which I had waited took place: The Original Sinners took the stage. And life was good. As they played music that had the feel of those early LA punk bands (X Included), I was struck by how very competent all the musicians were. And as she bounded across the stage (and made comments to the audience), I was also struck by the continuing charisma of Exene Cervenka as a performer. However, the biggest impression I had of The Original Sinners was this: they were not X. And it was a comparison that the band themselves seemed to invite, considering both their overall sound as well as their individual make-up. For instance, the female bassist sang backing vocals that took the same harmonies and tones that John Doe often took. Similarly, the guitarists, although a little more punk influenced, used the same blistering riffs that Billy Zoom often used. It was like watching a reflection of one of my favorite bands, with all of the frustration and disappointment that entails. This was all brought home by the last encore of the night: finally the band covered X and the crowd went wild, screaming and hollering. And it made me realize that what I really wanted to do was go home and pull Los Angeles off the shelf.

Still, I have to say that The Original Sinners werenít bad or even mediocre. They were quite solid in their performance. Yet, in the end, I was somehow disappointed. Maybe this was a consequence of my eager anticipation of the show; maybe the buoyant joy of The Blue Flame Combo made the stark professionalism of The Original Sinners stand out. Either way, when we left The Star Bar, I turned to The Minions and stated that I knew which band made my evening. And I wanted to thank The Blue Flame Combo for giving me the greatest happiness on this night.

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