Exene Cervenka at Big's Grill Friday Night

Exene Cervenka at Big's Grill Friday Night
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

Exene Cervenka
March 11, 2011
Big's Grill

Even if you're not a fan of the seminal '80s punk band X or the many side projects of vocalist Exene Cervenka, the woman herself is easy to like. The diminutive punker who survived the lifestyle (back when it could rightly be called punk) is still holding on to her ideals and convictions.

In a recent interview with OC Weekly, Exene spoke of the punk ethic having little to do with sound or style. She said it had more to do with the attitude, which she argues is anti-corporate.
And the mother of one lived this ideal at Friday's Big's Grill show--put together by the Weekly as a benefit for the charity Sweet Relief, which helps musicians get needed medical care--when she was heckled by some douchebag during her set after she had taken a moment to comment on the recent struggles of union workers in Wisconsin. The tool in question yelled angrily, "Why don't you back to Wisconsin?" The unflappable Cervenka shot right back: "Why don't you fucking go back to Wisconsin? What are you doing here?" After some murmuring, the tool went back to his beer.

Exene Cervenka at Big's Grill Friday Night
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

As for her set, Cervenka will be embarking on a tour in support of her latest release, The Excitement of Maybe, a collection of country-hued folk jams. Playing these songs for close to an hour, Cervenka demonstrated some brisk strumming, but the main attraction, of course, was her vocals. Her distinctive voice keened out lyrics that revealed a compelling quality: the fickle whimsy of a teenager told through the eyes and experience of a worldly soul.

This was demonstrated beautifully on the tune "I'm Already In Love," a song that describes the sudden onset of emotion to those less guarded with their hearts. 

Even without the lush, full sound of the studio album--Exene was accompanied by a second guitarist and special guest X drummer D.J. Bonebrake for most of the set--the songs from Excitement held up well in their acoustic renditions.

Exene Cervenka at Big's Grill Friday Night
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

It was also a lot of fun to watch Cervenka and her opening act, Phranc, the "all-American Jewish lesbian folk singer," take the jabs from a greased-out, conservative dickhead and launch into the number "Don't Let That Corporation Turn You Around." Watching it made me realize events like this are just what Orange County needs.

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