Keith Morris, one of the originators of SoCal punk rock, to perform in Burbank

Punk rock isn’t as young as it used to be, originally rising from the streets and nightclubs of London, New York and Los Angeles back in the 1970s.

And yet the raging, rebellious sound continues to attract new generations of young fans, which doesn’t surprise singer Keith Morris at all.

“Look at our times. Wouldn’t you be angry, too?” Morris asked.

The dread-locked former front man for the hugely influential L.A. punk acts Black Flag and the Circle Jerks has seen the fortunes of punk rise and fall and rise again from center stage, finding young fans at every tour stop along the way with as much excitement and rage as ever.

On Sunday, Morris will explore some of that personal history when he hosts this month’s “Messaround” hootenanny at Viva Cantina in Burbank, gathering a crowd of veteran performers with deep connections to local punk rock.

Admission to the show, which beings at 6 p.m., is free.

“It’s about the vibe,” Morris said of punk’s eternal flame, which continues to attract the latest disaffected generation of listeners and musicians.

“It’s about the excitement. It’s about getting together with a bunch of like-minded people. It’s about letting off steam. It’s about being free. Go for the freedom. It’s always relevant,” he said.

For the “Messaround,” Morris will be reading from his memoir, “My Damage,” and perform with the reunited Midget Handjob, his short-lived experimental band from more than 15 years ago.

He’ll also be joined by the Gears, Mad Society, author Iris Berry, Hudley Flipside and others. All have deep roots in West Coast punk rock.

As both host and performer, Morris said, “I get to do double-duty, double-whammy.”

If anything, the last several years have been the busiest of Morris’ career. After decades of on-and-off activity with the Circle Jerks, he’s currently the singer for the hardcore band OFF!, which has earned rave reviews from critics at both the New York Times and Pitchfork for its relentless punk-rock attack that is both true to the past while fueled by contemporary energy.

On May 27, he’ll travel with OFF! to Las Vegas to perform at the Punk Rock Bowling Festival, sharing the main stage with Iggy Pop.

Morris also performs frequently with FLAG, a reunion of former Black Flag players who deliver the old songs for fans who missed them the first time around.

With last year’s “My Damage,” published by Da Capo, Morris discovered a new avenue of performance during an ongoing series of readings across the country, as he recites passages about his early days growing up in the South Bay and as a first-generation Southern Californian punk rocker.

The volume is lower than his concerts, but he’s found a different kind of intensity there.

“There is a big difference. When you’re reading from a book, it’s you,” he said. “When you’re doing the band thing, it’s this big wall of noise, and if you make a mistake, it’s no big deal because the stuff is so fast-paced.”

The reunion of Midget Handjob is an unexpected treat for longtime Morris fans. The band was created during another period of inactivity with the Circle Jerks.

The act combined spoken word and wild spasms of punk and jazz, and released one album on Epitaph Records — but came nowhere near the success of the label’s stars Bad Religion, the Offspring and Rancid.

“Epitaph is proud of the fact that Midget Handjob was the worst-selling music they ever put out,” Morris said. “We sold 500 CDs.”

Morris still has boxes of the CDs and plans to give them away free at the “Messaround” on Sunday.

Doing the show means climbing onstage on a day he normally spends quietly at home, when he’s not touring with OFF! or FLAG, he notes without complaint.

“I’m going to have to go to church on Saturday,” he said with a laugh.

“I’m usually wiped out from everything I’ve done during the week, and I just want a day to myself and all of that fun stuff,” Morris said. “I just want to relax and be a guy who’s 61 years old, feel old and tired and miserable and grumpy and grouchy.”

But he’s expecting good times at Viva Cantina.

“It’s going to be interesting. Hopefully, there will be enough curve balls to keep everybody on their toes.”

If You Go

When: Sunday, May 21, 6 to 10 p.m.

Where: Viva Cantina, 900 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank

Cost: Free

Steve Appleford is a contributing writer for Times Community News.

Copyright © 2017, Burbank Leader
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