Redd Kross, back on the road, returns to Philadelphia

Redd Kross - (from left) brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald, Roy McDonald (no relation), and Robert Hecker - will play Kung Fu Necktie Sunday.
Redd Kross - (from left) brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald, Roy McDonald (no relation), and Robert Hecker - will play Kung Fu Necktie Sunday. (JON KROP)
Posted: April 06, 2013

Steve and Jeff McDonald started their rock-and-roll band in 1978 when they were in middle school. Steve, the bass player, was 11; Jeff, the singer, was 15. Their first gig, soon thereafter, was to open for the soon-to-be-seminal L.A. punk band Black Flag. And thus Redd Kross was born.

The band flirted with punk rock, power pop, hard rock, garage rock, always with a cartoonish sense of humor.

"Redd Kross always stood amongst things but was never really a part of anything," says Steve McDonald from his home in Los Angeles. "We'd play with Sonic Youth, and somehow we ended up on a bill with Poison the same year, but without ever really being the obvious partners to any of those things."

They called it quits after their fifth album, 1997's Show World. McDonald says by then the time had come to move on.

"By the time I got into my early 30s, I felt like maybe it was weird that I made career decisions about my adult life at the age of 11. Looking back on it now, I'm very proud of it; it's an awesome heritage. But I felt, being a young adult, maybe I should try my hand at other things as well."

He worked as a producer (for the Format and Fun.), a record label executive (for Warner Bros.), and a studio musician. Since 2009, he's been a member of OFF!, what he calls a "punk rock supergroup, of sorts" that includes Black Flag's Keith Morris, Burning Brides' Dimitri Coats (a former Philadelphian), and Rocket From the Crypt's Mario Rubalcaba.

Redd Kross stayed dormant for a decade before the brothers reconvened to begin playing occasional gigs, and those gigs prompted Jeff to write new songs, which eventually led to last year's CD, Researching the Blues.

The album, which Steve produced, is a remarkable return. It has all the chaotic energy and zippy verve of classic Redd Kross, and it rocks hard, with a youthful immediacy. When they were making it, though, the band wasn't sure what the reception would be.

"It felt a little bit like, who knows if anybody is going to care about a new Redd Kross record. We had no idea," says Steve McDonald. "We were just doing it because we thought it was great and we had to get it out of our systems."

They needn't have worried. The album is indeed great. Direct and timeless, with a healthy dose of Beatlesque harmonies, it's everything Redd Kross does best.

And now the band is about to embark on its first full tour in 15 years. They're back in the van and back in the clubs. On Sunday, they come to Kung Fu Necktie, which should be a great place to witness Redd Kross' jangly, punchy rock-and-roll.

"We kind of have no idea how it's going to go," Steve McDonald says. "We're going to take a swan dive into it. It really is back to the station wagon for us, which was how we first came to Philadelphia in 1985."


Redd Kross, Far Out Fangtooth, and Psychic Blood play 8 p.m. Sunday at Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St. Tickets: $17. Information: 215-291-4919, www.kungfunecktie.com.

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