Atlanta Music Scene

Melissa Ruggieri covers the Atlanta’s vibrant and evolving music scene. From hot new artists to Music Midtown to shows at the Tabernacle, she’s got you covered.

Punk rockers X celebrate 40th anniversary with tour coming to The Masquerade

To hear singer Exene Cervenka tell it, traveling around the country on a 40th anniversary tour isn’t much different than the days of youth.

Cervenka, the brightly lipsticked frontwoman for seminal Los Angeles punk rockers X, is calling from the road, somewhere between Oklahoma and Missouri, as the band heads toward the second date on a tour that will stretch through most of 2017.

They’re traveling in two passenger vans, hitting a lot of cities they don’t often play (“It’s fun — and it’s great for the fans because a lot of times people have to travel to see us,” Cervenka says), and some, such as Atlanta, that have welcomed them a few times in recent years.

On Tuesday, the original X-ers — Cervenka, singer/bassist John Doe, guitarist/saxophonist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebrake — will steamroll through a concert at Hell at the Masquerade, which recently relocated to Kenny’s Alley at Underground Atlanta. The band also has an additional musician, Craig Packham, assisting on drums and guitar.

“(Atlanta has) always been good to us. It’s a big city with a lot going on. I am going to spend some time with friends when we get there,” Cervenka said.

In conversation, Cervenka, 61, is frank and funny.

Ask her if the quartet has any pre-show rituals, and she answers quickly.

“Nope. We’ve played thousands of shows, so we don’t really have to do anything. We walk out and play. It’s simple. It’s not like we have to pump ourselves up. It’s what we do. We play, we hang out. Everybody’s happy.”

Between 1980 and 1993, X released seven studio albums. They never were a chart band, only making appearances on Billboard’s Rock and Modern Rock listings in the mid-‘80s with “Burning House of Love” and in the early ‘90s when “Country at War” and “New Life” made brief showings.

But they’ve been revered by fans and critics for their contribution to the punk movement; their 1980 debut, “Los Angeles,” has been hailed as essential listening because of its combination of smart lyrics and frenetic music.

In concert, devotees can expect to hear album favorites such as “White Girl,” from 1981’s indie release “Wild Gift,” as well as “Motel Room in My Bed” and “Blue Spark,” from the band’s 1982 major label debut, “Under the Big Black Sun.”

“We’re hoping that people like it,” Cervenka said of the live show. “I never sing a song the same way twice. You have to make it as live as possible, as spontaneous, as in the moment as we can be.”

Although Cervenka, who said she stays healthy by doing yoga on the road, has been surrounded by an abundance of gritty testosterone the past four decades, it’s a scenario she neither regrets nor would want to change in the future.

“I love men. Always have, always will,” she said with a husky laugh. “I love men who can play guitar. I love men who are smart. I’m surrounded by that. I’m surrounded by the best men I could have met in my life. In the punk days, we didn’t have crazy gender laws like we do now. People were people. I didn’t know if they were gay or straight and I didn’t care. All we cared about were that people were having a good time.”

X endured the breakups, makeups and personnel shifts that frequently accompany a 40-year career, but they also share an underlying bond that Cervenka said is so strong, they don’t even think about it.

“It’s just second nature. It’s like being married for a long time — you might not talk at dinner, but you’re gonna make up the next morning,” she said. “We get along really well still and we’re still alive. That’s the key.”



7:30 p.m. May 16. $28.50. Hell at the Masquerade, 75 MLK Jr. Drive SW, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000,

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for Atlanta Music Scene blog on