Zero Percent, HRA, Wartorn, Raw Power, Offenders
Austin hardcore legacies the Offenders, who achieved notoriety in the Reagan-era underground by slitting punk with a metallic edge, have succumbed to live recidivism. Consider them repeat Offenders.
“Texas’ scene in the Eighties couldn’t be easily defined,” reflects drummer Pat Doyle, who co-founded the group in 1978. “Bands like D.R.I., Really Red, Butthole Surfers, and Marching Plague were so different, but it was all in the same spirit. We carved a niche for ourselves with Seventies rock and metal-influenced hardcore.”
Led by the rabid bark of uncaged frontman J.J. Jacobson and the guitar heroism of towering Tony Johnson, the Offenders intimidated until 1986, when bassist Mikey Donaldson split for San Francisco with contemporaries MDC. The Offenders only re-formed once, at Emo’s in 2002, five years before Donaldson died unexpectedly and 10 before Johnson succumbed to lung cancer.
“I thought I’d be the first to go,” admits Jacobson. “I did a lot more hard living and hard partying than anyone.”
World Burns to Death bassist Craig Merritt and Buzzcrusher guitarist Jeff Martin, friends and fans of the fallen Offenders, joined Doyle and Jacobson for tribute shows as Died in Custody in 2012, but with Southern Lord Records’ recent vinyl reissue of the Offenders discography prompting a legit reunion, Jacobson insisted they ditch the stand-in moniker.
“Fuck that Died in Custody shit!” he exclaims. “We’re the Offenders. Craig and Jeff sound like Offenders. This is our second chance in life.”
The Offenders headline Red 7 alongside equally venerable Italian hardcore act Raw Power. Thirty-six years after forming, Jacobson remains a kinetic menace onstage as the amps behind him blare for the departed.
“The spiritual component, the ghosts of Mikey and Tony, is something I think about often,” confesses Doyle. “Not only do I think they’d approve, but I think if they were here, they’d be doing this with us.”– Kevin Curtin