An Invitation To The Underground Party: Redd Kross Returns To Houston With The Melvins

Redd Kross will perform at Warehouse Live with The Melvins October 28.
Redd Kross will perform at Warehouse Live with The Melvins October 28. Photo By Julian Fort
Thirty-four years ago, brothers Jeff and Steven McDonald of Redd Kross got their act together to embark on their first U.S. tour. The brothers were just kids and ended up having to cancel their first batch of shows due to a mix of poor planning and bad luck.

When they finally had their first show of the tour, they found themselves playing in a Houston warehouse. Having forgotten to pack a mike stand, the venue provided an employee holding a broomstick with a mike taped to it. Luckily this was not a sign of things to come for Redd Kross, but instead a fittingly hilarious way to start their careers as kings in a developing underground scene.

Redd Kross is not what many would call a household name but they have been pivotal players in the punk rock movement. They have built a legacy and cult following on their unique Partridge Family meets Manson Family sound and aesthetic. Redd Kross will be performing at Warehouse Live October 28 with fellow subversive rockers, The Melvins.

Redd Kross began with the California based McDonald brothers playing music together in their early teen years. Steven describes how they reached out to local punk rockers Black Flag after getting their phone number from the white pages leading them to play their first show ever opening for Black Flag.

“When it started for us, I mean, we kind of fell into a very small community. I guess now so much has been written about that particular era and that group of people like Black Flag, but it was actually a very small community of people. We just kind of fell into it partially by timing and partially, Jeff and I had a lot of energy to go play shows,” says Steven.

Redd Kross never has fully fit into the punk rock mold, or any mold for that matter. They have the ability to make fans smile with their happy, hippy look all the while melting faces off and testing the threshold of an eardrum with their heavy sound.

“We sort of have always done our own thing. That first year we were definitely part of someone else’s world but from that point on we’ve done our own thing. We have always played alongside other bands that were part of the scene, but we were never really card carrying members,” says Steven.

“We played with punk bands but we were more like this weird rock band. For whatever reason, maybe because we started so young, we established ourselves early on so we always had a little bit of credibility. People would allow us, or maybe people just saw our authenticity, so we never really found ourselves having to conform to a rule book.”

"We never really found ourselves having to conform to a rule book.”

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Thank goodness for that as Redd Kross has put out seven albums and multiple collaborations and side projects with a who’s who of the grunge and sludge rock scenes. Their latest album, Beyond The Door, comes seven years after their last record but was well worth the wait for fans. 

The title track takes listeners to a fantasy place featuring a catchy chorus and head bopping rhythm where they might be left wondering what good times might be on the other side.

“The Party Underground” celebrates all the good things that come from the ground up and inviting us to join the not so obvious party going on. “I think at some point I realized that a lot of people kind of view that culture as something that you grow out of and you graduate from and I thought, ‘um, why?’  This is where all the good stuff comes from anyways so let’s just have a good time, stop thinking about the future and enjoy now,” says Steven.

Recently director Andrew Reich, ironically most known for producing the mainstream hit television show Friends, launched a Kickstarter to fund his documentary about the band titled Born Innocent: The Redd Kross Story,  named after the band’s debut album. He has met his fundraising goal, a testimony to the love people have for the band.  The film will concrete their status as underground heroes with interviews from the likes of Kim Gordon and J. Mascis. 

“We were helpful at giving him whatever archives that we have to help tell the story but in terms of how the story gets told, that’s up to him. I just have to cross my fingers that it comes out a way I feel good about and that it’s coming from a positive place so I’m looking forward to it.”

Redd Kross has been on a seemingly never ending tour with their brothers in arms The Melvins and drummer Dale Crover as well as Steven will be doing double duty at the show, playing in both bands. Steven describes their friendship, “It’s a neat relationship, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever had.”

“The thing for me is, playing with The Melvins and then Redd Kross, these guys have had sustainable careers as underground rock musicians for so many years I think aside from enjoying it, I always think it’s a lesson and I see it as a master class in how to sustain your groove and how to go out on the road and do this. It’s really been transformative basically.”

After spending the entire lifetimes together, sharing stages, long road trips and recording session, the brothers have been able to maintain a healthy relationship.  Their connection is clear when you hear them harmonizing or see them feeding off of each other at their live performances.  It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to picture them as the baby faced, glam rockers they were almost 40 years ago, using money from Steven's paper routes to pay for recording sessions. 

“Jeff and I have come along way, talk about evolution there’s been a lot of growth. It’s like any kind of marriage, it takes a lot of mutual respect, consideration and tolerance to really navigate it gracefully.  We’ve had stages where we were better at it than others but I think nowadays, at this point in the game, we're both just so grateful that we get to do this.”

Steven adds, “Now we are in this new chapter, and although its been seven years between releases, I think we both feel enthusiastic about lessening those gaps between releases.”

Redd Kross will perform with The Melvins Monday October 28, The Studio at Warehouse Live, 813 Saint Emanuel, doors at 7 p.m. $10-200.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes