all photos by romana machado
Riding with the Rats: Friends from Back Home are so certain I spend most of my time riding around in limousines with musicians, it was inevitable the only time I’d actually do it would be with musicians from Back Home. The whole episode played like some unhinged semi-sequel to Eddie & the Cruisers as it happened, but seems as overdetermined as an EC Comic in retrospect. The long rise of White Boy & the Average Rat Band’s sole 1980 LP from Appalachian to international cult obscurity had all the slow inevitability of a Mafioso bobbing to the top of a river, concrete Uggs and all. Call it late proto-punk or the last of the great regional psych-metal LPs, this self-produced sonic marvel retains the unambiguous kickass of aged-in-the-radiator corn whiskey. That was the bulk of what I told the boys as we rode all over the Westside in the aforementioned limo. The rest of the band was loose enough and bassist Pat McClintock handed the Playmate a flagon of Jack Daniels, but mainman Mike Matney was still the pensive over-intellectualizer I knew at Richlands High, quizzing me on L.A. audiences and their reportedly advanced tastes. I hooted dismissively and toked up a monster hash buzz, all the while inwardly chortling at the thought of all those soon-blown heads and ears walloped to cauliflower. The long, long car eventually pulled up to the Whisky and we staggered through the doors like Grand Funk Railroad. The place was three-quarters full when these four guys from Tazewell co. Virginia proceeded to bounce the crowd all over the back of the room like handballs. O, great was the delight on my homeboy’s face floating up there on the stage where Otis and Crazy Jim and Rod the Mod once capered with just as little inhibition. That moment made my rock ‘n roll year, with nearly a dozen months left to go.
Roky Wreckerson: After that height came a long, happy freefall to a short sharp shock. the Playmate heard little else outta me for the day or two prior to Roky Erickson’s stand at the El Rey this month but tales of the awesomeness the Evil One throws down. She got to hear and personally approve every Thirteenth Floor Elevator album in the hours counting down and I’m proud to say the expected throng of hard-rock miscreants turned out to the last black-garbed wench and hellhound. Roky’s passage from American Bandstand heartthrob to jabbering system-damaged wreck and on to Gen X hard-rock, harder-luck guru all in several years short of the Biblical threescore-and-ten passed mouth-to-ear up and down the formidable line outside. L.A. Record’s Chris Ziegler spun Texas microdot classics and the wait was short for Jegar, Roky’s son and heir to Roky’s werewolf bawl and glottal gargle. Erickson the Younger eventually yielded to more 45-rpm Sixties nuggetry until the curtain went up on Night Beats. These guys came and went entirely too fast—a veritable Sandoz Express of fuzztone sound—and expectation grew as the place bulged to near capacity. Roky, whitesuited and manically grinning, ran through the crowd a couple of times before curtain, but security eventually escorted him backstage and the famously eccentric rocker had on different clothes but the same expression when he waddled out for his set. As Dynamo Dan Collins notes in his review of Roky’s SXSW turn, the sixty-four year old legend now knows trouble remembering lyrics to his songs. At the El Rey, he seemed to check out in the middle of the show, looking noticeably distracted and disconnected. The fans up front cared about as much as the star or even we did. From far in the back, it looked like a multigenerational rock ‘n roll high school raptly taking in another familiar lesson from a well-loved, if fuzzy-minded, Prof Emeritus.
Stone Bolshie: One of the advantages to being a new-minted Westie are curated wonders unspooling at the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum. UCLA’s ongoing series “Kino-Eye: The Revolutionary Cinema of Dziga Vertov” is the unsung retro-cinema event of this season. Known mainly to Westerners for the trenchant zaniness of his film theory writings, Vertov and his startling high modernist documentaries provide much of the visual knowledge we have of life in the early Soviet Union. The Wilder’s seats are narrow and Munchkin-sized, but damn little discomfort can penetrate half a bar of hashish chocolate. So medicated, I lounged there contently for several newsreels Vertov shot for the Bolsheviks in early 1919 as reality melted pleasantly into History. Images of a fierce, badly battered people gaping with shyness, embarrassment and outright contempt at Dziga’s newfangled movie camera stare back at the viewer today with all the unsettling freshness of a window into an alternate universe. Scenes of war, funerals, and name-brand historical materialists like waddling Zioniev or saluting Trotsky undercranked at sixteen frames per second gave way to the proletarian heroics of The Eleventh Year. This 1928 hymn to smokestacks and dynamos was meant to efface William Blake’s dark satanic mills from the socialist imagination and did much to advance the sturdy cliché that early Soviet cinema was a kind of nitrate-based John Deere catalog. From somewhere in the delirium of happy labor in the New Russia, we see an old-fashioned conveyor belt where smiling women pick shale from coal- a difficult and oft-disfiguring job that the capitalist mineowners of Appalachia were just then underpaying children to do. “Kino-Eye: The Revolutionary Cinema of Dziga Vertov” runs until March 31st.
St. Pat’s Day’s Night: In this town, most serious drunkards hole up under their own floorboards with a quart of good stuff every St. Patrick’s Day, leaving once-a-year inebriates to the tender affections of the LAPD. Well, I quit drinking a long time ago and dodging tosspots and gendarmes is all in a night’s fun anyway. Or such went arguments deployed by the Playmate on behalf of the proposition I should work on Blarney Day rather than merely get high cribside and watch old Frankenstein movies. We drifted west between rainstorms, wobbling through the doors at McWorld while pale sunshine still leaked through the skylight. Inside was the governor of the place (and my old CityBeat comrade), jiving John Schoenkopf, along with less than a double-handful of early arrivals all jumping, slumping, and shivering to successive blasts of homecooked abstract noise. Flickering on the wall of this newly reopened midcity art squat was Death Wish 3, with human panzer Charlie Bronson snuffing a small army of Eighties new wave dudes via machine-gun, bazooka, and hand-cannon. I’d inhaled my one true buzz of the evening on the way in, so we lingered for a longish interval of bright stylized violence before my girl drove us to the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts and the jollification thrown therein by The New L.A. Folk Festival.
About seventy friendly and happy Eastsiders were square-dancing to superbly oldtimey music by exemplary Silverlake country-honkers Triple Chicken Foot. Susan Michaels gently drilled a roomful of flushed and happy hipsters in square dance fundamentals. The room looked about 70% female, with most of the men sporting credibly 19th century side-whiskers or soup-strainer mustachios. The Playmate beamed and giggled- you don’t get diversion like this behind every door in San Francisco! How much sheer fun was this? L.A. Record’s Daiana Feuer circulated through the 150-strong crowd, her camera recording the whole happy sweaty event. The Playmate pronounced herself pleased before we dashed for the Jeep parked half a drizzly mile away. Passing several (U.S. short) fucktons of LAPD, we made our way back to McWorld. John was still there, presiding over an impressive pattern of rolling skronk as a sightly karass of arty vagabonds bulged the place to the walls. One hellhound of noise packed out while another loaded in and house custom seemingly forbade any distinction between one laptop-toting duo or trio and the next as The Beginning of the End’s “Funky Nassau” offloaded on the p.a. “This kinda shit is the wave of the future,” John assured me and I nodded sagely, having attended the birth of several such futures in a jagged career. Out the doors we went a second time, taking a circuitous route to avoid various police dragnets to a neighborhood partydrome called Low Rent Gatsby Manor, a private Xanadu whose own St. Pat’s wingding was just then in an advanced state of decay. “Hold On” by Herman’s Hermits bellowed from speakers while the lord of this castle bade us look out a handsome picture window to a truly enviable backyard playground. Pool, jacuzzi, and a broad swatch of greensward lay unused and barely discernible in the drizzle. He assured us two a.m. normally came in raging hard around here.
A Fistful of Ducat: Having just seen my camp through the Great Burning Man Ticket Fiasco of 2012, I don’t for a nanosecond doubt the horrible plausibility of this hugely funny short movie from L.A. freaksters Old Payphone about a single blood-drenched Coachella pass. Highly recommended as possible harbinger of a new “dead hipster” era in the horror film.
- Ron Garmon