Posts Tagged ‘Punk rock

08
Jul
12

The International Swingers: Came Out Swinging and Alexandra Lee Gave The Boys Something to Talk About!

A message slipped in my inbox quietly form my friend Dawn Laureen. But the news in it was explosive! Reading it, it appeared that a group of musicians had gotten together with historic pedegree to synthesize a mega group. The International Swingers was their name and the band are composed of Gary Twinn (Supernaut, Speedtwinn), James Stevenson (Generation X, The Cult), Clem Burke (Blondie, The Romantics), Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, Faces and Iggy Pop). My interest was primed! The show was free to the public; being set in The Farmer Market and it would be the kick off point to their mini tour of Southern California. This coming Friday they arrived with a little less than a weeks notice. I thought what fun! To get to see this pedigree of musicians and of such legendary Rock bands for free at the Historic Farmer’s Market would be explosive. I knew I was in store for some good times! Dawn and Frank would arrive at The Farmer’s Market a little later than myself, while Clem, James, Gary and Glen were already there setting up for the gig. Steve Fishman and his lovely wife were there too. I immediately struck up a conversation that led Steve and I in the direction of where to find some of the finest Pizza in LA. Steve recommended Tony’s Bella Vista in Burbank. He said the deep dish was nothing of consequence and insisted that the thin crust was totally TDF! Soon Dawn and Frank arrived. Frank coming in to support his old band mate, Chem Burke of Blondie. Dawn Laureen and him wanted to be part of the mischief and fun. Who could blame them! For me it was a special treat because I got to meet all the wives. Something you don’t always get to do for most gigs. For some of the ladies it was a bit of a reunion of sorts. I gazed upon them at the right time to catch what’ve must been a long held tradition. A couple of the girls delighted in a hug that is somewhat mischievous and suggestive flashback to the old Rock N’ Roll days. I watched them smoosh and jiggle their boobs against one another, with giggles and titters, with a prankster’s glee, as they acted out something that must have go back decades. It must have started in New York to tease and titillate the boys. It was good fun to see them let their hair down and be silly! It was an indication of the direction the evening was going to take and I liked it!

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It wasn’t long before the The International Swingers were ready to romp and stomp. The crowd was thick and Rock-Steady ready for a surprisingly edgy performance at a generally conservative place. Gary took the lead vocals while the set started off with Out Of Control and for the most part Gary delivered the vocals. They joked and engaged the audience between songs and owned the stage for over an hour and a half while keeping the hits, or should I say the anti-hits-a-commin’! The second song was Blondie’s Hanging On The Telephone. They did a helacious version of “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”. The introduce an International Swinger’s original called “I like It Both Ways” to general approval. They then plunged into a number of Punk Rock originals with, Generation X’s Dancing With Myself, Blondie’s Call Me , Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant, mixed with a cover of Mott The Hoople’s All The Young Dudes. A fun side note to all this carrying on came as I passed to the other side. There was a nicely dressed couple swing dancing to the Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant with lots of style and panache. They gayly pranced behind the stage as the band played on. I found it completely appropriate and befitting to any anarchist thinking. It was rather lovely the way it fit in with the mayhem being generated up front. Clem then preformed The Romantics “What I Like About You”. Clem was a member of The Romantics for eleven years. He delivered a credible and solid version of the song. Everyone was singing along to this well crafted Pop song by The Romantics. They metaphorically set the stage on fire and ended the set with a blistering version of God Save the Queen and a riveting cover of Iggy Pop’s No Fun. This all links back to Glen Matlock, a Sex Pistol who had a stent in Iggy’s band. I was speaking with Glen Matlock a week later about God Save The Queen at a NoHo coffee Shop. He mentioned that he was a little bit nervous about playing God Save The Queen at The Farmer’s Market because of what it represented. I let him know that there were nothing but friends and peers at the show. There was nothing to worry about and nothing too shocking for that crowd. This caused me to muse about how greatly The Sex Pistols contributed to my thinking and my love for Punk Rock music to him. I really owe them so much from that insane period of rebillion. Of course, closing the set with Iggy Pop’s No Fun was a complete no brainer. All the old Punkers love Iggy and he was a mainstay to all Punkers. Iggy inspired so many bands to play who have created tons of music we all listen to now that it’s hard to frame a list because of it length of who has dipped into that pool of inspiration. The show was full of energy and powwer to the last bar. It was an amazing show that hit all the bases. At the end I was surprised to see Julian Lennon hanging out with us. The fans leaned out but the core stayed to hang out and catch up with old friends. It was a good scene!

For me the evening wasn’t over. I was bound and determined to see Alexandra and the Starlight Band premier her new Ep at Hotel Cafe. I met Alexandra at SXSW where she and her boyfriend Zackary James played at Miles Davis’ House for its inauguration in Austin. I caught Alexandra once before at her Stone Bar residency. Alexandra has a soulful gritty voice that can be compared to Tina Turner style. I was looking forward her performance at Hotel Cafe that night. It was hard to leave the fun at the Farmer’s Market but adventure awaited on my next stop. I arrived in a timely ready for the action. Another female artist was there. I survived it. Had I not wanted to avoid the crowd of pressing flesh in the parlor area I would have seen both Dave Grohl and Ron Jeremy sipping cocktails. I have an in with Dave and now that I think of it I have an in with Ron too. I dated a girl who was his friend and also who also dated Henry Rollins. Hum, dating what a wonderful social lubricant!

I first saw Zachary and then he saw me. It was a pleasure to see him and that ment that Alexandra was coming up soon. While I waited I chatted up these 2 ladies form Venture and exchanged pertinent info regarding Alexandra and music in general. Julianna Young sat down close to me and we kibitzed a bit from the last time I had seen her at her awesome party a couple of weeks back in the Valley. Alexandra entered the stage pumped and had her war paint on. She sizzled through her set singing her old and new material to a captivated crowd. She’s a Funky Soul Sistah burning with Rock N’ Roll passion burning bright and hot as she slipped up to Zachary playing lead on his guitar in a dirty girl way, while singing on Without My Sunshine. That kept every eye targeted on her every move. Why Didn’t Your Mama Tell You sent the room temperature gauge up a couple notches in the room. About this time Karen came up to the front where we both noticed one another. We shared some quick updates and fine points while Alexandra commanded the stage; stompin’ and preening. Alexandra closed out her set with what was a firecracker of a closer, called T.T.M.F. She was on the stage, all over the stage and down and up on the stage: it was fierce! While she did edit the more vivid words from the song, because her Mother was in the audience, the impact wasn’t any less and the temperature continued to sore. Alexandra delivered the good in spades, badass spades! Karen and I were knocked out. We didn’t see it coming and the photos of those moments tell the whole story. And when she said, “suck my thumb” you could feel the hot iron of rage burning. The folks were up and howling! Alexandra left wanting more and showed everybody how it’s done!

I don’t know if there can be a repeat performance of a night like this but there’s no doubt in my mind that I was treated to some surprisingly brilliant moments and amazing performances that you usually wait weeks apart to snag just one of them. So tieing them neatly together in one night comes as one marvelous unanticipated moment in time. Viva la Rock!

28
Mar
12

Alejandro Escovedo and Friends at the Continental Club: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

I found myself for the first time in days able to take the morning on a slow start path. My host Mike was up and was kind enough to make coffee for us both. He had hooked me up with a great place to stay and inadvertently introduced me to new friends. We finally had time to get to know one another. Of course we related to one another how crazy Southby is and each of us recounted stories as it related to the previous weeks events. We stumbled upon the topics of Rhett Miller. Mike is a fan and a friend. We concurrently experienced The Old 97′s during the 90′s in Dallas. He remembered and recounted things I had long forgotten as he elaborated on Rhett’s career and talent to me. I could only endorse his sentiments with occasional flurries of my own observation of that time in Dallas. There was a part of me that wished we’d had this conversation 2 days earlier but it was such a good feeling to have this connection right then and there as we traded stories in his living room. It appears that Rhett played his last Austin-ish gig in Willie Nelson‘s cowboy town 40 miles outside Austin. That show would have been a sweet ride! Mike was totally cool and it was really nice to get to visit during the decompression part of SXSW.

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My next move was more exploration. I had Mexican food on my mind. It was the return to the taco theme I had earlier in the week. I cruised South Congress diverting to South 1st Street on a deeper level of exploration to happen upon El Tacorrido. The only Taco joint I know of that has 2 drive thrus. I was smitten! I wanted to use the drive thru but after a bit of a wait and a keen desire to hook up, I settled for the walk up solution. The menu was slightly different form most Tex-Mex feeds and that really drove my curiosity. I ordered a gordito and a breakfast taco. I explained it to my friend Jonas like this: “This taco stand is really different for Mexican food in Texas. I can’t say it’s truly Tex-Mex. I’m having difficulty pin pointing exactly the style but it’s more south and inland. Or in other words it’s not the kind of food you find on the border or made for American taste buds.” I was completely satisfied when I headed over to Bouldin Creek for my morning coffee. I spent a few hours organizing photos on my computer as a way to bide my time before the big send off show.

Soon the hour was upon us and I headed over to pick Karen up and to share a little pre-celebratory happy hour at her hotel. I have to say, I was a bit antsy now knowing how both Mike Mills and Peter Buck were showing for tonight’s performance at The Continental Club. I count myself extremely fortunate that the first year I attended SXSW I was made aware and got to experience Alejandro Escovedo and Friends at The Continental Club. I have Karen to thank for that! It’s a cozy environment and the place is ran well. Now it’s an irresistible tradition. It’s such a great way to say farewell to Austin and SXSW. As we rolled up Alejandro was outside visiting with folks. He’s very approachable and a nice guy. It was nice to be inside The Continental Club where Karen and I turned into fans. Miss Melvis was playing. We enjoyed the show but we considered another Happy Hour moment was in order out at my car. We scored the cups at Zen next door and we were on our way. You could hear the sound of clunking paper cups and a toast if you were close or maybe, just inside the red Ford Focus. It was a nice bottle of red wine. Usually, I’m not so inclined to drink red wine but this was pretty good stuff. We then joyfully returned to the club locked in for the rest of the night.

By the time we returned Jesse Malin of D Generation had taken the stage and was entertaining everyone. I continued my Happy Hour on a little longer by drifting to the back bar that I favor the most. I bumped in to Lenny Kaye as the star-studded event bubbled with a who who’s in the back. Again I moved up front I staked my place near the front when the young musical team called Ghost Wolves started a short and energetic set. Konya on drums/vox and Carley on guitar. They started out their set on each other’s instruments and then flipped after the first song. Karen wasn’t feeling it, but I was kind of feeling it. It was like Loretta Lynn singing for the White Strips. By this time Kimiko had join us. It was good to see her. She’s got a cool way about her. She was representing Rosie Flores who would play later that night. This was her reason to be at The Continental Club on this fine evening. She smartly drifted to the back to await for Rosie appearance. Karen and I were up front when Garland Jeffreys took the stage: I mean he took the stage hostage! This man knows what he’s doing! Photo op after photo-op. I’m not familiar with the man’s material but was I was surprised how much his music sound like early to mid Rolling Stones. He did a riveting version of “? and the Mysterian” 96 Tears. He was one of highlight of the evening: a ball of energy and passion. I drifted to the back as did Karen, eventually, where we sat near the threshold of the door. It was time to cool off from the hot and tightening room. Tommy Stinson was taking the stage, I guess, just fresh from the G&R’s tour. I was drinking beer in the back again. I managed to come up for Barfirld (The Tyrant Of Texas Funk). The brother was funky with ranch fresh Cowboy look. He kept it funky and showed us his James Brown dance, except no leg splits. It was good stuff: comedic and entertaining. Damn good drinking music. So I headed back and drank again. At this point Karen spotted David Fricke, I saw him too, from Rolling Stone at the back door. Before long Kid Congo Powers (The Gun Club and The Cramps) would attach himself to the stage and I was all over that! I’ve been wanting to see Kid Congo for years and tonight it would be consummated. How romantical! Kid Congo spread his freak flag far and wide in the Continental Club as I squeezed to the front to catch his much of anticipated act. The former Cramps alumni kept us all completely entertained. He refered to Lux Interior, no, not Nick Cave, at one point when he said there was visionary who told me, “One day Kid you will have your own band and you’ll call it Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds”. I think his time in the Cramps were well spent because he kept us engaged in much of the same way the Cramps would have had they been there. After Kid Congo left the stage was about the time the lock down happened: no ins or outs! There was some speculation Bruce Springsteen would appear. I now believe it was for Mike Mills and Peter Buck. I headed to the back where I had to say hi to Kid Cango and take a few photos. I mentioned to him that Lux had jumped a couple of rows of people one time at the Spirit Club in San Diego and had tongued me. Then I told him that after that people thought I was pretty cool. That made him laugh. Then when I tweeted it, I found later, he had re-tweeted it on Twitter. I was honored he’d bother to do it and it made me laugh too. Then a little later I spotted Rosie and asked her for a photo or two. Once again I drifted to nostalgia. Rosie was at one time very much part of the LA Rock scene. She was one of the main forces in the Screamin’ Sirens. I know I’ve seen them perform. I think if was at Janice DeSoto’s club or maybe Cat House. But what was on my mind at that moment was the Hollywood Hillbillies. The band had a chicken in it. I loved it at the time. I mentioned Hollywood Hilllbillies to Rosie. Her response to me was she was in that band early on, for 3 weeks. I hadn’t remembered she was in the band. Then she qualified it by saying, “I was in the band before the chicken”. She knew about the chicken! That was a great moment. Only someone in the scene would know that! I chuckled. We finished and I decided to hang towards the back in stalker fashion. I was thinking when Mike and Peter enter I’d spot ‘em. At this point we’d entered the home stretch where Alejandro and the Sensitive Boys played till they closed the place down. It’s always one of the best parts of the whole proceedings. I had seen Lenny Kaye learning the word to a song while leaning up against a car. I know because I ask him. I thought he’d gotten a ticket and he informed me other wise. It must have been one of Neil Young songs because he performed an engaging version “Like a Hurricane”. I found myself singing along to “Like a Hurricane”. Then Rosie Flores was announced and join the fun up on the stage. Rosie sang, “If I Could Only Be With You” and then followed it up with a duet with Alejandro with a her and Dave Alvin wrote together called, “Goodbye Again”. The crowd was enthusiastic and riveted. In this time some how, some way, both Mike and Peter got past me. Strangely, Mike Mills started doing this hula move during the cover of a The Troggs “Love Is All Around”. Peter Buck was channeling Michael Stipe hiding in the back corner when Mike Mills strapped on his bass to lead us in a sing-a-long of “Don’t Go Back to Rockville.” I had waited all night for this moment and was pleased I’d made it. As quickly as they had arrived they departed. I pushed through the crowd to catch them, but poof, they were gone, gone, gone! Sniff! Alejandro finished the set with Waco Brothers member Jon Langford for a rousing version of The Clash‘s “Rock The Casbah”. Karen found me and indicated it was a good to leave. I agreed. It was a long week followed by a long day capped off by many amazing performances. It was now time to take the gold home and prepare for long travel day before us both. Here’s to next year: a bigger better SXSW and going for more Hipster Olympic gold!

07
Feb
12

Under The Big Black Sun: One More Night In The Soul Kitchen

I was upfront, leaning up against the stage looking out on dozens and dozens of glowing faces. The close ones were white and bright, full of smiles drifting to darker and darker silhouettes to the back of the club. All were focused toward the stage I was leaning on where I slowly slide up on it, while the members of X paused between songs for a breather. I thought it was the perfect time to fire up a cigarette. Soon I felt a nudge against my back. I turned to my right to look up at Exene gesturing with her fingers, pressed closely to her lips, as if she was taking a drag from a cigarette. I smiled and she smiled back as her hand passed my shoulder and drifted by my cheek, she took the Camel nail from my hand that was lifting up toward her mouth. She then stood up for a second taking 2 solid drags from my camel straight and passed it back to me. Once returned I took another puff off the now moist butt of my cigarette as the band slammed into another Punk Rock classic. In front of me all were being driven wild  by the music. The churning of young hot sweating bodies were tangled weaving to the fast beat laid out by DJ Bonebreak, searing guitar work of Billy Zoom and bleeding edge harmonies of both John Doe and Exene Cervenka slamming against the walls of the Bacchanal. It was the sound of Punk mixed with break-neck speed Rockabilly from the album Wild Gift that tossed the Bacchanal into unrestrained chaos. X selling out 3 night’s of this 500 plus venue in Claremont Mesa in San Diego. The only commercial radio station that played X was KROQ. Everything that brought people together that night was essentially generated by word of mouth from all the Punks, while slightly crossing over to the mainstream. We refered to the mainstream as the “Normals”. That night and the other passed by with blistering Punk Rock ferocity for this Southern California musical power house who was the spearhead for the young and budding army of colored haircuts and leather jackets. It was revelatory, celebratory and lifestyle affirming as we participated in making history, changing culture, while Rockin’ to one of the most intelligent bands to emerge in years. Their songs had content, commentary and substance embodied in skillful song craft. Exene and John Doe’s relationship was an archetype that Punk couple aspired to and emulated. Their relationship was tough, funny and loving and it was reflected in the band’s lyrics and that made X unique among most of the SoCal based Punk Bands. As the years passed X never reached the multi-million status that they were at one time expected to reach. X losing some of their base after signing with Warner Bros. where they were being pulled in a more Pop direction by the guru’s at the label. That was followed with Billy Zoom leaving the band and then the dream couple eventually separating and devouring.

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X still carried on like troopers with new band members and new releases. But for most, the magic was gone. Punk Rock found new heroes and new mythologies to attach themselves to. Exene and John created the acoustic country folkish duo The Knitters a year later. I saw The Knitters for the first time in Tijuana at a Luis Guerena, of Tijuana No, produced show. There was a who’s who of the San Diego Punk Glitterati in attendance. All were eager to be a part of this new setup. All evolved wanted bragging right for seeing one of the first performances of The Knitters. I loved the new thing while getting hammered on cheap Mexican beer. The show was raided by the Federales and was closed down: Punks scattering everywhere. Therefore, the show was a complete success from a Punk Rock perspective. As the years past The Kniters virtually dissolved and John Doe explored a solo career and Exene took up art. With all these changes and morphing, I and we, stilled hung on to our majestic memories of X in their heyday. One night I was giving Jane Weidlin a foot rub at an after party from Cover 13 celebrating Retail Slut’s 20th anniversary. Jane and I got on the subject of how we missed Billy Zoom. We were so glad he had rejoined the band. Jane had seen them recently and said they had torn it up. Billy hadn’t lost any of guitar prowess being an air-conditioned repair man. Jane’s slave name escapes me now, but she was a slave of Sabrina belladonna that night. Jane had been assigned to me for the foot message by Sabrina. It turned out to be a perfect pairing. We carried on for nearly an hour going down the nostalgia road pleased at the reunion of both X and the GoGo’s. It was  a splendid night to rehearse the past. The scene was so close-knit and meaningful for all of us, Jane, myself and everybody evolved. Those memories were so dear that it could only hit a deep emotional and resonating chord with us all who shared this unique past. Our reminiscing validated our choices then and affirmed our love for the music and the scene’s characters, of which, every one of us were very much characters, role-playing, living out our dreams in this vibrant scene. After all the years X was still a vital topic.

I eventually ran in to Doors’ keyboardist Ray Manzarek and I pressed him on the topic of Jim Morrison with what you could call a plan B strategy. I had read “No One Gets Out Of Here Alive” at the time of X’s rise in popularity. For me the book was a watershed read that helped me perfect and define my own Punk Rock persona. Of course there was plan B or the sub agenda I had for Ray. Plan B was to ask him about his producing X’s Los Angeles. X’s first album release. As I pressed Ray about Jim you could read the “sign” registering on his face that said, “They always ask about fuckin’ Jim!”. For me seeing that look was just as important as if he’d started telling me old Rock N’ Roll war stories. It was easy to switch gears and question him about one of our favorite band, X. As he reminisced about X his face lit up and he became open. His gestures and body language read way happier, as we talked music and X. A few years later we ran into one another again and picked up where we left off. X, is but one symptom of Ray’s obsession with music: new music, experimental music and how technology affects the communication of music and musical performances. I can see why Ray’s face lit up about X now that I understand his fascination with the new and the experimental expression of musical performances. That’s why X fit that groove perfectly for Ray at the time they worked together on “Los Angeles“. Clearly, X posed a defining moment in music, Punk and SoCal’s culture: I mean the low, the down and out, the disenfranchised subculture that bred rampantly during the late 70′s and the early 80′s in Southern California, The Punk Rock movement change California from only being seen as a sun drenched subtropical utopia. X was the hub, the nexus of this with a call and response declaration of the desperate, reaching for meaning and recognition during a dark time!

During Christmas, as is my tradition, I migrated down to North Park to hobnob with my people. Yes, the remaining Punk legacy of San Diego’s Punk Rock culture. It’s the deepest roots I have and it represents the longest and most meaningful relationships of my life. Of course I hit The Casbah, the echo of previous heroic days, to be imbued by the “sweet” stale smell of smokey air, mobs of old scenesters mixing with new hipsters for Christmas Eve’s Exile on Kentner. Tim Maze was gracious and said hi. We both exchanged Christmas greeting and goodwill for a yearly reunion we often attend. After, Exile On Kentner I relocated at Kevin’s, cuddling up for a welcome sleep after my drive to San Diego. Christmas morning, joyfully waking to Robyn, Kevin, Stevie and Hammer for a Punk Rock beer soaked Christmas! After the gift giving, the laughs and a Prime Rib Christmas dinner I had one of my musings. We were relaxed, lounging in the afternoon winter’s sun in the front yard when I mentioned to Kev and Robyn that the Under The Big Black Sun concert at MOCA with X, The Dead Kennedys and The Advengers was coming up in January. The Universe must have turned on a switch because it was on! Robyn said buy your tickets now because we’ll be coming down. So the plan was set or so it appeared. I, after all, was a sluffer, waiting to buy the tickets after I joined MOCA again. But I was real busy and time passed very quickly in the leading up to the show. Oddly, about the time I was deciding to purchase the ticket I decided to check the MOCA website. I starred in shock as the graphic on the web page read Sold Out! I was unaware that it would go public and I thought I had more time. Damn, damn and damn! Funny enough I received a text the next day from Robyn asking if I was ready and had I bought my ticket. I looked at the text feeling guilt ridden at my slacker ways and hesitated to respond. I broke the bad news to Robyn. Robyn being who she was, was magnanimous and supportive. This was about 10 days out. So I seethed and simmered in my juices for most of that time looking for a way to hook it up. Just about the time I was about to start pulling strings and asking for favors I got another text. This was Robyn letting me know that her and Kevin was dropping out. I was bummed for them and there was a part of me that felt I had let them down. It was a big weekend for me because I was planning on celebrating the Chinese New Year. Ilona Sampovaara, a wonderful lowbrow artist I had met had a showing as well. I was feeling a time crunch, torn loyalties, with great distances to breach and people to meet. Robyn made everything simple and brilliant. But Robyn is always able to pull out the bright side of a negative situation. She was good enough to let use the tickets. I was tremendously grateful. Robyn knows how to take oranges and make orange juice out of them. I thought a good course for the evening would be to bring Ilona along. Ilona has some remarkable art that demonstrates a witty sence of humor, has an observant eye, a sense of irony and clever commentary built into her paintings of dogs, cats and skewed youthful innocence. I thought the MOCA event would be perfect for her and give her a little more adventure to her visit here in Los Angeles from Mexico.

Saturday arrived with different degrees of drama at different times that would bunch up and then release, then linger like a dangling noose of anticipated till early evening. Ilona and I met. Then came our brief catch up session before we moved to rest Under The Big Black Sun at MOCA. We arrived, for me, in an uncharacteristic early manner to soak in MOCA’s vibe and art. I was surprised to see it was outdoors and in MOCA’s courtyard. We were early and the crowd was thin. We chatted for a while and the Avengers hit the stage after a long and momentum introduction. I hadn’t seen them before and was curious, but honestly I had low expectations. They were hard, they were tight and they were Punk Rock. The Avengers did a harder version of the Rolling Stone’s “Paint It Black”. They had good stage presence. Brad Kent played searing guitar and had a great look. Their pedigree stems from, Penelope Houston, who was at the Winter Land performance opening up of the Sex Pistols. Brad Kent was part of early Punk bands that spawned groups like D.O.A. and the Subhumans. Of course, I left Ilona behind to get close to photograph the Avengers. At one point I ran into Kim Buresh an entertainment lawyer and friend. It was nice to see her. I started recording a video with my camera and the song happened to be “Fuck You”. What a laugh! I turned to Kim and said, “Of all the songs I would choose to video it would be the song “Fuck You!” We both laughed at the idea and after the song ended I drifted back to Ilona. It wasn’t long before the band closed and the audience began to swirl towards the bar and thicken for the Dead Kennedys performance. Shana Nys Drambrot appeared out of the darkness to say hi. We talked about the bands and her tweeting to her Twitter followers to let them know what was going down at MOCA. She had a press pass from either LA Canvas or the Weekly. She was “Stage Pit” ready! While I’m talking LA Weekly I should note that Falling James was occuping the front stage pit for most of the evening. But in a matter of minutes made 2 passes by us that had me think he was cruising Shana and myself like the boys do at La Jolla and Santa Monica at Circus Books. Then much to my surprise Gary Baseman popped out from nowhere, all Punked up with leather jacket and wildly arrayed pink spiky braids with some stylin’ red bondage pants. Then it got all crazy as I popped off a few shots only to further wind up the action even more as Anthony Ausgang jumped in when I was shooting Jeffrey Deitch and Gary. At that moment the “Lowbrow” scene was blowing up way bigger than the Punk Rock scene we were all here to catch and honor. It was 10 minutes of friendly, nutty horse-play with these “Lowbrow Boys”. Before you knew it, Gary was piggy back riding Anthony, then jumping around and making dramatic posses and fierce faced goofiness. It’s moments like this that take me back to my reading of early 20th Century artist. Gary and Anthony’s horse-play reminded me how wondrous and vibrant the art scene must have been then just as much as it now with mischief and shenanigans I had just witnessed. For examples of such play can be seen when Dalí tied a beget to his head with a scarf for the whole evening for one of his openings. The Dadaists and Theatre Of Hate performances stirring up the crowd to the point of fighting or the rows between Malevich and Tatlin in Russia. What a great moment as it all went spinning out of control! Boys being boys: It was for me the best opening act for X I could have imagined.

Next came the Dead Kennedys sans Jello Biafra. I’ve seen Jello with No Means No in Dallas at the Orbit Room in the 90′s. Sadly, I’ve never seen Jello and the band he spearheaded all those revolutionary ideas with some of the most stunning, the proactive art work to almost get pass the censors. I tend to be a purest. I know Jello did wrong and the band deserved better. But his presence is so huge and his delivery so spot on it’s hard for me to get past and it’s pretty much a deal breaker. But the band hit the stage to deliver a competent version of the Kennedys. They hit all the highs with Kill the Poor, Holiday in Cambodia , Nazi Punks Fuck Off,  California Über Alles and many more. I have to confess I was drawn in by the infectious California Über Alles, because it’s a classic and it’s the way I feel about California right now. I did sing along with a great deal of glee and nostalgia! Towards the end they tightened it up even more where the singer honed in on Jello’s sound. So it was a pleasing end. We all, Shana, Ilona and myself chatted for a bit more before X took the stage and Shana took off for a close up of the X’s performance.

By the time X hit the stage MOCA had hit it’s sold out state. Going in for photos was difficult. Members of the crowd were having their own private family reunion and they weren’t very accommodating or desiring to share their space with me. So I was pushed or shoved as I passed by with my camera. X opened with the “The Phone Is Off The Hook But Your Not”. The crowd was devoted and surprisingly stayed, but packed, with only few taking the opportunity to pogo or shake it on this night. Billy Zoom’s playing was as brilliant and effortless looking as always. DJ kept hammering the beat. John and Exene were wailing in harmony with those break neck turns and spins that come along with their songs. Los Angeles, Johnny Hit and Run Paulene, Nausea, We’re Desperate and the list goes on. Unlike previous performances there were less antics and play between John and Exene. No teasing Exene in-between songs, like John did at Hootenanny or intimate chit-chat with the crowd like at Lobsterfest. Mostly, straight ahead Rockin. DJ got the drum solo of his career during The Hungary Wolf. It was much like the performance I had gotten to see at the Greek for when Under The Big Black Sun had first been released. Sharp, to the point and professional. I’m thinking their in full on concert mode because they’re touring with Pearl Jam in South America and Europe, which is a stunning mix of styles, but very similar ethos. X is finally making the money they so richly deserve. It was a great show and appropriately they ended their set with The Doors’ Soul Kitchen. A great cover of a classic I love. It’s quite a tribute to their art and staying power, to what was once a fresh and raw wet behind the ears struggling Punk band. Now X is being the driving force and focus of a tribute to an era with MOCA’s Under The Big Black Sun. It’s such a statement of devotion, when fans still come out to see such a great band play on a night like this and can only be seen as a strong statement for their future too. It’s like a friendship when it starts new, so young, played with such zeal and enthusiasm, then as the years go by it matures into something comfortable, pleasant and enduring. When Exene took a drag off my cigarette so many years ago I had no idea the legacy it would lead to, nor did I know that X would remain a focus of a generation that so pleasingly defined the enduring culture of Southern California’s Punk scene. We all share a remarkable legacy Under The Big Black Sun!

09
Oct
11

Culture Collide Blowing Up the International Indie and Alternative Music Scenes in Silver Lake

I recieved  an invite from Filter Magazine, of whom I’m a subscriber to their email updates, for the kick off of event for Cultural Collide Music Festival for the concert feature Nirvana: Live At The Paramount. A concert filmed in 1991 had been forgotten till recently. Once found it’s been cleaned up and edited from 16mm down to 1080P High Definition. While the invite suggested I should post this invite to my page with a “like” I couldn’t bring myself to do this. I did share it with a few of what I’d consider devotees of Nirvana or true music fans and close friends. I couldn’t stand the idea of fighting people to find a seat or standing in any line that were a quarter mile long. Thankfully, the tactic paid off making entrance easy and more exclusive. So the lesson here is if you want to be in the know you need to get your finger is the pie or you’re going to have to get your toes wet if you want to be in the action! This Wednesday at the Vista the showing took place with a sizable crowd but no nuttiness. I was very impressed with the feature. It was a perfect time capsule of the band represented and the Punk Rock culture of the time. First point of interest, for me, was when Kurt referred to was when he referred to the music he made as Punk music, not Grunge. So Kurt saw what he was doing as Punk and being true to those ethos. Awe, Grunge you are such a lovely marketing term. Another point of interest was the band’s dress or “Look” was composed: there was no stylist there throwing furs, bedazzling thingies or designer gear on them. Kurt had a sweater with a few moth holes in it, a tee and jeans. No dressing for success here! The sound of the feature was superb and the imaging was superior. For those who weren’t there when it happened it will be a revelatory experience, or others this will be a reminder of how genuine and real music performances were and can be. I left satisfied with the nearest thing to a live Nirvana concert one can receive now. It’s worth giving it a view.

Come Friday I was ready for some live music action and so directed myself to the hot bed of activity of Cultural Collide at Taix for a mixer featuring a number of Dutch bands, in this case it De Staats. What a surprise there were, delightfully quirky and I think there was a socio-political message too. They had this odd charm, the lead singer in proper business dress, while the rest of the band were in musician gear. I think he would’ve dropped the look if he had known how hot Taix was going to be. The lead had presence and knew how to keep it moving and to keep it interesting. There sound was with filled  tinkling keyboards and at had a military cadence at times that bring to mind bands like Wall of Voodoo, Pulp or Oingo Bingo but with a less stylized or quirky vocal approach. I felt, had I been from the Netherlands, I would have picked up on a lot of satire and humor in their presentation. Nonetheless, they were a wonderful way to start the evening off in the right way.

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WIM was the next band on my itinerary or should I say, I stumbled upon them in the Champagne Room of Taix. Hum, happy endings… I was immediately struck by the front man’s presences: vocally gifted, very emotive and dramatic in his presentation. He was captivating, moving and gesturing in a very interesting manner while delivering impressive and stylish vocal performance. I thought at first they were some nutty Eastern European band that was branded as being folk glam. Is this a departure from Freak Folk? He approached the mic like a Silent Movie Star would approach a love interest: brooding, steamy and filled with dark lust. By the second song I was sold and the ladies there had been on board long before I showed up. They temperture raised a few degrees while the band slyly slipped their had up out skirts, musically speaking, while we fell into a trace of ungarded pleasure. WIM is a remarkable band and a must see!

I arrived in time to catch Portugal’s The Gift. The lead singer, has an exotic look and a lively stage presence. She dances and takes dramatic poses, while she delivers a poppy Alternative Rock. Not quite No Doubt, not quite Lena Lovich nor quite Loop Guru, The Gift delivers a tuneful dance Rock that is closer to mainstream or Euro pop than what I’d consider alternative, but lively in any case. Their sound is lush with keyboards, riffy guitars and power drumming. During the last song they the keyboardist used a theremin to great and dramatic affect bumping the overall energy and excitement to the show as a whole.

Next on my wish list was The Morning After Girl. These guys were great, providing dense dark hypnotic melodic alternative Rock to a ever growing crowd. The buzz I had received was on target and they delivered. Somewhere in the realm of Spiritualize, Pink Mountain tops or the Verve this band was a knock out pulling off an awesome interpretation of Neo-Phychedelic Rock. I could have listened to a longer set and nested there for the rest of the night had I not had more trouble to get into. The Morning After Girl knew their instruments had good stage presence and the lighting only made the experience richer and put this band on my hit list to visit again.

The local buzz on Avi Buffalo had drawn my attention to what all the hub-bub was about. So, I trekked back Taix’s Champagne room for my last show for the night. I’d say what Avi Buffalo is somewhat like Darker My Love but referencing more of Bob Dylan and less of Tom Petty with a big dip in to Neil Young and Crazy Horse and the tiniest dash of White Strips. The sound is folkish but in an electric way and in a singer song writer way too. The lyrics are thought driven and introspective. The audience were composed of Hipsters and young locals. It reminds me of how I’d often go to see Tell Tale Hearts in San Diego part of the Garage Sixties sound that was a subculture to the Punk subculture.  I found them to be more rewarding than Darker My Love: more song craft and musicality. I look forward to digging deeper with this band as time goes on. Cultural Collide has curated so far some memorable and amazing talent. I can’t wait to get my Rocks of fop the rest of the weekend here i Silver Lake.


31
Aug
11

Butthole Surfers Rolled Out Saturday as Sunset Junction Shimmers Away

As Sunset Junction melted away on a Wednesday afternoon, as much as, the prospect of my blogging and photographing of the event dripped away that day as well. Of course, there was a constant running dialog within a tight circle of friends on the Topic of Sunset Junction with it’s very much anticipated line up for Saturday and Sunday. This year’s line up was to be the  best and most concentrated ring of talent to have ever grace the streets of Sunset Junction in my memory. As the prospect of this inclusive weekend event broke into smaller fragments spreading amongst the various Eastside clubs, businesses and even local homes, I got a life line from my friend, Chris, who desperately wanted to see the Butthole Surfers and Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah. Sadly, only one was to come to pass. Chris invited me to review and photograph the Butthole Surfers at the Echo Plex with the lure of dinner and drinks. This was an easy sale!

Come Saturday, we planned to get together and as the plan developed we nested at Taix, which is within spitting distance of the Echo Plex. The week had been hectic and chaotic for me with moving and travel, while putting a video package, EPK, together for artist and one man band “Ricky Lee Robinson” at a special party and showcase Heidi Margot Richman put together with a group of music publishers. Fatigued, exhausted and hilariously immobilized by an accident earlier in the week I managed to joined Chris for our drinks anyway. We started our Rock N’ Roll quest by ramping up the fun level at Taix with drinks and gossip. We started with a round of beers and a shot of whisky followed by another round of beers and then finished up with the same and one last shot of whisky a piece. Our Taix waitress managed to serve some rather large shots. We were both very afraid of those shots and happy about it at the same time. So we delayed gratification by sipping gingerly the whisky presented and continued talking about music. Chris is an exhaustive collector of tunage, who’s interest spans from the early Seattle scene, exotic Pink Floyd releases, Peruvian Psychedelics and a host of alternative bands of note. His interest is more perfectly represented in his eBay Store Vinyl Piper. So our conversation was peppered with obscure and trivial details about music and the music business.

We had agreed upon a strategic hit at the Echo Plex, thus avoiding local favs, 400 Blows. This is not the British 400 Blows of the late 80′s who’s focus was experimental: cut and paste found sounds, beats and noise delivered with social conscious grooves. I have the greatest respect for their work. The British 400 Blows had a brilliant adaptation of Charles Manson‘s interview with Tom Snyder; which was a supreme twisty mind fuck. This LA based 400 Blows preform boring, dullish and unimaginative rock n’ roll fare: always to be avoided!

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Chris and I easily scooted through the line of the Echo Plex to enter in to the “Sold Out” land of the Butthole Surfers! It was nice to run into Bert Ferguson and Iris Tower-y to pow wow for a minute before the show got started. During my exploits I ran into Anthony Ausgang, Marialyce Pedersen, Amanda Sherren and the lovely Satanica Batcakes as the evening progressed. The crowd moved with urgent zeal as the band took the stage for a very anticipated show. By this time I had completely lost Chris, who was eager to see the Butthole Surfers, for the first time, as I was for this Texas based band. The fans were entrenched, vacuumed sealed, you might say, as I tried on a few occasion to drive deep to the center to get better photos of the band as they performed. I should say I’m far from being a devotee, my impressions of a Butthole Surfers’ performance aren’t that of a manic band or a high energy ensemble, but more of a band that is jammy and thinky by nature. They’re as much performance art as Laurie Anderson. The Butthole Surfers show consist of slides and snippets of sub-pop counter-culture collages-images and video installations. This propel the lyrical narrative with spliced psychedelic Dadaist approach to words/images, using hypnotic trance flavored tonal rock that puts them in a category and in ideologically alignment, with ideas and thinking that is more in line with Sonic Youth. Although, Sonic Youth is very different musically than the Butthole Surfers. I dipped into my Butthole Surfers brain trust of devotees, Marialyce  Pedersen and Satanic Batcakes to get a read on the performance. Marialyce was cooing the praises of the Butthole Surfers magical set. Satanca had a very different perspective of the Butthole Surfers show. She pointed out that the sound mix was sub par and muddy. She also claimed that the Butthole Surfers were best when two drummers were playing. This round King Coffey, only one drummer this round, was with the band as Satanica pointed out. She said the Butthole Surfers were best when two drummers were present, which included the drummer Teresa Nervosa, as the Butthole Surfers had had in San Francisco at the Filmore in 2008. The sound was muddy on the parameters of the crowd and in the pit the sound appeared to clear up: meaning there was a sweet spot. So there was poor sound design by the sound man at this show. The Butthole Surfers played there mid 90′s hit “Pepper” that faded between being the recognizable hit and defused oblivion, bringing home Satanica’s take on their performance. Other songs covered in the set were, Hey, The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave, Creep in the Cellar and they encored with 22 Going on 23. The show had it’s compelling moments, but because Gibby spent most, if not all, of his time at the Vox and that static presence tended to created a stillness in middle the stage. Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus had their volleys of action on either side, yet I found it hard for them to peak the stage energy in a synergistic way with Gibby’s Vox monolith between both. This lowered the overall energy of their set. I found I could hear in my mind where they wanted to go, but on a few occasions I couldn’t figure out with my ears where they were ending up. For true fans and devotees this a was a truly great performance. Hitting lots of high notes, digging deep from their older catalogue to the fan’s satisfaction. That all being said there were few defectors from the crowd at the Echo Plex during the performance: all lingering on every last morsels of delivered dosage by this siminal ground breaking post punk neo-psychedelic band. You can sign me up for another trip when the Butthole Surfers roll around again.

06
Jul
11

Nervous Gender, The Dead Beats and Human Hands at the Bluestar

What was once the avant-garde is now the old garde but this doesn’t diminish the heat that Nervous Gender can generate as they proved last Saturday night when capping the night off with a line  up of bands that included: The Deadbeats and Human Hands. While Kraftwerk may have started the synthesizer movement , it must be said, Nervous Gender gave synthesizer music teeth. The bite Nervous Gender brought to the music arena defined what is now considered Synthpunk, Queercore and is foundational to what would be considered Industrial/Industrial Dance music today. I caught Nervous Gender for the first time at the Part TIme Punks Music Festival in 2008. I had wanted to see them for years and I was joyous to finally lock them in that night. I was impressed by their performance and gratified to finally hear such a legendary LA Punk play live.

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I’ve seen many shows at the Blue Star downtown. It’s a diner with tasty beers on tap and caters to the alternative/Punk crowd. After all it is a perfect fit. A bar on the inside with table seating to keep it on the DL and then there’s the outside patio with seating, a grill and a stage. A bit like the Echo patio but it’s a diner with big glass widows so you don’t miss any of the action. In other words you can view the band from the bar! For this night and for this line up brought out the nucellus, the core of the core, of the late 70′s and 80′s Los Angeles Punk Rock scene. Some in attendance was were Henry Peck, Lisa Riley, Lisa Murry, Bert Ferguson, Josie Roth, Debora Ballantine Ballabio, Ronald Schnier, Duchess De Sade and of course all the band member and a host of others churning in the midst of the Blue Star patio.

I had made it in time to catch Human Hands’ performance. A band that Bruce Licher of Savage Republic had release through his IPR Label (Independent Project Records) during the 80′s. I had produced and promoted a concert featuring Savage Republic at Backdoor at SDSU and this connection with Bruce Licher of Savage Republic and IPR introduce me to both Human Hands and Camper Van Beethoven. Human Hands was another band that I hadn’t caught traction on the first time around and I was eager to see them.  Thankfully, they were up first. Human Hands are a Punk band of guitars and rhythm section, that is more of a product of late 70′s sensibilities that don’t closely relate to Southern California’s early 80′s Hardcore scene. Thinking of Human Hands’ they are closer to Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation, than to Black Flag’s Rise Above. The crowd had gone from laid back to pumped as Human Hands mounted the stage. They delivered a beefy set that kept everyone on their toes engaged and dancing. They closed out the their set with “Sensible Guy” though there were calls for more of what was rocking the crowd.

The Deadbeats followed and the crowd became even more excited with this seminal Los Angeles Punk Rock band. As I fell back and listened I realized, they were more closely associated with the likes of Wall of Voodoo or Oingo Boingo. Quirky riffs, odd time signatures with stilted vocalizations and phrasing. The Deadbeats were a good fit for Nervous Gender. They blended well as a style bridge between them and Human Hands. They were somewhere in the middle of both bands styles.

Nervous Gender was on last, under the dark canopy of a midnight sky wrapped in stage lighting on Bluestar’s patio. After a steady stream of seminal LA Punk Rock we were now to be treated to a band as bedrock in importance as that of say, Tomato Du Plenty’s Screamers. Edward Stapleton dressed in black and with a more filled out band than any previous incarnation of Nervous Gender, I have seen, hit the stage like a prowling caged tiger. That is no surprise since they are a seminal Punk Rock ensemble. The set was tight as Edward and crew launched in to song after song of an eight song set. Starting off with “Monster”. Delivering the coup de grâce with “Fat Cow” that would put in Kraut Industrial Rocker to a test for authenticity and pedigree. Edward delivered till the very end, utilizing all the musical energy of Nervous Gender had in its reserve with inspired angst killed it by leveling the audience with “Gestalt”. The aftermath was a crowd that got what they came for and left happily after passing through the turbine like nexus of Nervous Gender’s raw delivery of angst driven Proto-Synthpunk.




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