THE KNITTERS + SLANG CHICKENS @ THE AUTRY
Upon entering the Autry under the windy clear skies in Griffith Park, all that was visible was a lot of jeans and flannel. Devoted Knitters fans were all over the place jovially conversing with their drinks in hand. We all came to enjoy the beautiful fusion of punk and country that both Slang Chickens and the Knitters kindly create for us. Slang Chickens got on stage and without any warning began to play “Club Love” as the sea of flannel flowed towards the stage unable to ignore the loudly western sound.
Under the pressure of opening for the legendary Knitters, Slang Chickens showed nothing but effortless talent. When they played “Punk Rock Fantasy” with lapsteel and acoustic tinged with punk rock lyrics, guitarist and lead singer Evan Weiss smiled lovingly as he sang smoothly: “Miss Exene, won’t you be my wife, I carve fuck the world into my arm with a knife,” with the ecstatic knowledge that Exene was going to be singing shortly after him. Introducing “Let’s Microwave” with a soft banjo that you’d hear from a straw-mouthed man in overalls, the crowd didn’t know what hit them when the song transitioned into a gritty punk usage of banjo that they’d never seen or heard before. Slang Chickens can only be classified as a unique mixture of many types of rock ‘n’ roll, created by talented fellows who love music and brewskies.
The anticipation weighed heavily on the warmed up crowd as we waited for the Knitters. Longtime fans and youngsters (like me) coincided as some were taken aback to see people who were born when the Knitters formed singing along to their music. Exene Cervenka pointed out the beauty of the moon as every head in the audience turned toward the sky, and each bandmember began to play flawlessly. Dave Alvin exhibited his breathtaking guitar skills, especially in “Poor Old Heartsick Me.” DJ Bonebrake rocked the hell out of his snare while John Doe and Exene cracked sarcastic and hilarious jokes in between songs proving to their audiences that they are badass not only in their music but in the flesh. John began talking politics, and I didn’t even see it coming; they played “The New World” which John and Exene play as both an X and Knitters song. To hear this one live put me in a state of total bliss because it’s actually one of my all time favorites. Whether they’re playing “cowpunk” or “punk rock,” Exene and John’s voices combined will always create the utmost brilliant sound. I laughed when I heard them play “Born to Be Wild,” the classic Steppenwolf song. I formed a version of Easy Rider (1969) in my head in which John played the role of Dennis Hopper and Exene as Peter Fonda (fucked up, I know) as I enjoyed their take on this hard rock masterpiece. A song that embodies their pure country instrumentals complimented by punk rock vocals is “The Call Of The Wreckin’ Ball.” In the middle of the song John and Exene had a small talk conversation where they said whatever they could find off the top of their heads and it was genius. They continued to belt out the whole truth: “They call me wreckin’ ball, ‘cause I’m the baddest of them all, roosters and hens, all their fuckin’ friends, they know it’s time to fly, when I come stompin’ by.” I left with sore legs and cheeks from dancing and smiling so hard. Slang Chickens and The Knitters should definitely play together more; I truly hope this wasn’t a one night stand of a show.