ZIG ZAG WANDERER: Spirit Vine + Flamin Groovies + hm157 + Stan & Ollie + Mick Farren RIP
Bootleg Doings: The Warlocks show at the Bootleg last month sounded like just the kind of stimulation needed after the heat wave pulped the Eastside. Sure enough, it took only a few seconds standing up to the Spyrals’ gorgeous onslaught in the main theater space for the cobwebs to begin to clear. I’d never seen and barely heard of this San Francisco psychedelic quartet during my stint in the Bay Area, but their whomping wall of sound left me feeling pleasantly wiped out- as sane, whole and refreshed as a Baptist dunked in creek water. The Hallucinations went off in the beer room minutes later, emitting another heavy blast of medium psych.
I’ve a lingering fondness for Gliss, an act I first encountered just before their 2005 “discovery” by Billy Corgan and again during their subsequent trip through the buzzband sausage grinder. They cast up a shimmering gloom for fans weaving before the stage and lolling in the theater seats and sounded just as good under the outside balcony, where I withdrew for a meditative smoke before the next act.
Spirit Vine was awesome, with Jacquelinne Cingolani’s peerless vocals slicing through sheets of dense shoegaze guitar lines like Wednesday Addams with a new meat cleaver. Here’s another parcel of talented psychonauts aided by gigging alongside the cream of the Silverlake industrial complex until they’re now easily the peers of anyone on the bill. Proud of them I was and busy snapping away pics when security informed me (via bellow) I’d violated the house’s no-camera policy and would have to listen the rest of the show from the dubious comfort of the street.
Well, fuck this. I’ve been drunker than Falstaff and higher than Skylab in many of the west coast’s more fashionable nightspots, so it figures the one time I’m 86’d would be for the most surreal First Amendment breach imaginable. Out on Beverly Boulevard, cops in cars were chasing some poor bugger down, perhaps for something as serious as tossing a losing lottery ticket on the sidewalk. I loped back toward the club and the guard unexpectedly offered a deal to hold my camera in exchange for letting me and my notepad back inside. Why not? It sounded marginally better than burning protest nugs out in the open air.
Spirit Vine yielded to the Warlocks’ scheduled eruption in the back room. The headliners had the crowd jammed chummily in the theater space like some overflowing toybox of rocker humanity. This crowd differed in hemline and facial hair but not significantly in age from the audience at my first Warlocks show, opening for the Seeds and Davie Allen at Hollywood’s long-departed Knitting Factory. This mind-croggling set that sounded just as good through the bricks out in the alley (where Christopher DiPino’s bass was making the metal window grates throb) as the packed mass of bodies stageside. Back around the entrance, there was some bad noise about people milling outside, so I asked for my camera as the Centimeters were still inching to the stage and in so doing absentmindedly locked myself out a second time. I began to leg toward MacArthur Park, soakingup their set from an ever-lengthening distance until midnight street noise swallowed it entirely.
Groovier Times Ahead: Being a Flamin Groovies fan is something between belonging to an esoteric cult and having your name at the door of an ultra-fashionable speakeasy. Their catalog (with or without ex-leader Roy Loney, who bailed in 1971) has been in and out of print since the digital age and my own conversion resulted from finding a copy of Supersnazz in a San Diego two-buck bin about twenty years ago. This 1969 debut still sounds like a tonier version of retro-rock revivalists like J. Geils or Commander Cody, but heavier things were to come. 1971’s Teenage Head earned praise from the likes of Keith Richards and 1976’s Shake Some Action went on to be regarded as a definitive pre-punk statement.
A slight crowd attended the opening act. The Exploding Flowers are L.A. jangle-poppers that put me in mind of S.F.’s late, lamented Jellyfish and, like them, the Flowers are longer on songcraft than live delivery. That didn’t matter; the girls danced anyway, except for a fashionable lady to my left who nodded and stared dreamily into nothing.
The Groovies finally tottered onstage to loose a barrage of Sixties jukebox covers like Mitch Ryder’s “Shakin’ With Linda” and a snaky take on the Byrds’ “Feel a Whole Lot Better” before tearing into the Groovies’ standby “You Tore Me Down.” The band is down to two original members, bassist George Alexander and the irrepressible Cyril Jordan, but vocalist Chris Wilson signed on when the Groovies switched to power pop in the mid-Seventies and so counts as one of the original dudes by courtesy. Jordan’s still the madcap, even if much of his repartee drew creased foreheads and WTFs. “Shake Some Action” went off like grapeshot and a collective spazz-out ensured. The Groovies tromped off to hoots and cheers, the clapping kept ritually going into the boys wandered back onstage for another few salvos, winding up with “Let Me Rock.” The crowd rolled in it.
Long Live Hm157: The crackdown on DIY venues is now far enough along for the Weekly to notice and Danielle Davis’s recent story does such a good job of who/what/where that the reader can well guess on the why of the LAPD’s ongoing war against such inoffensive public spaces. The why of such joints as McWorld and Il Corral varies with the personalities of their operators but it seems obvious mainstream venues increasingly fail at offering the kind of experience a non-tourist cares about having. Since shearing visitors seems to be the only economic activity City Hall thinks worth promoting, it isn’t surprising to see officials dump resources into stopping street-level micro-events put on by locals for locals.
Historical Monument No. 157 in many was the best and certainly the cheeriest of these alternate nightspots. Hm157’s fifth anniversary party coincided with a visit by the Playmate and her love of the place (unlike much of the rest of SoCal) is near total. Built by one Horace P. Dibble in 1887, the house and grounds are a cozy, art-bedecked asylum home for fringe rock, freak vaudeville and weirdo double features.
Miraculously, we found room on one of the sofas in the back yard, so we stayed there all night, chatting away as every second act blared away inside the house. We saw Safari So Goody, a trio of Bonzo Dog refugees doing oldtimey toons, with the drummer swanking around in an ape suit. I enjoyed Dream Panther’s set on the outside stage, while the Playmate doted on the glammy pycho-nuggetry of Fancy Space People, the reckoned supergroup composed of Nora Keyes, Paul Roessler and Don Bolles, the latter in charge of the weekly Hush Clubbe lunacy at the Hyperion Tavern. Years of hanging around me and my record collection has given the Playmate a discerning ear for tonal hallucination and we gently debated relative merits until the last skronk.
Mick Farren, RIP: I used to work with the great rocker-journalist-SF pulpmaster at CityBeat, where he turned in splendid copy on a vast array of subjects. Mick’s conversation was like his prose—spare and energetic as J.G. Ballard with lefthanded swerves into an irresistible stream-of-Kerouac wackiness most writers would give their left parietal lobe to cop. One of those few artists every bit as larger-than-life as the work, Mick had a fabled past as leader of Sixties U.K. flower punks the Deviants; but for me, all that took a far back seat to the rollicking fellow I’d hear jabbering learnedly at parties of space opera and Bukharin as the hash pipe went around. In plainly deteriorating health and not wanting to die in the United States, Mick shoved off back to London in 2010 only to drop dead in front of an audience there the last Saturday in July. The crowd bulging the walls at the Cat and Fiddle for Farren’s memorial service one week later shared stories of the fellow’s riotous appetites, with brother Wayne Kramer leading off. One hour after backing out of the door, I was floating in somebody’s pool out in the Valley, listening to DJ music from the illustrious Hippiechick and fending off questions about where I’d just been.
I’ve Seen the Future of Rock ‘n’ Roll and it’s James Finlayson: Thoughts of time and backwards-travel were still with me days later while I was perched in front of a screen waiting for the NoHo (“Way Out West”) chapter of the Sons of the Desert to convene. This long-lived Laurel & Hardy fan karass meets quarterly at the Mayflower Club, a low-slung and non-descript brick box along Noho’s Victory boulevard fringe, There they uphold a tradition of “half-assed dignity,” as Stan Laurel himself put it back in the mid-Sixties when the elderly comic first heard of the eccentric fan club coalescing around his work with Hardy. Stan also had a considerable say in designing the Sons’ coat of arms, which hung proudly as a banner on the Mayflowers’ stage as over a hundred W.O.Wzers crowded in for the confab. The average age looked to be close to retirement (many nad well-behaved grandkids in tow), but this was scarcely the Angry Geezer generation you hear so much about these days. Every crinkled face seemed to bear signs of the same kind of well-maintained eccentricity you used to see in movies about L.A. back when the place was a polyglot of small towns separated by fruit trees. Reading of minutes ensued, sundry business attended, announcements made, toasts drunk (“To Stan!” “To Babe!” To Fin!” for James Finlayson, the boys’ crabbed and popeyed nemesis) and then all rose and locked hands for the order’s song, made famous by L&H in their 1933 feature –
We are the Sons of the Desert
Having the time of our lives
Two thousand strong
Far from our sweethearts and wives, God bless ‘em
An attar of sweet decency flooded the room and all chuckled and grinned while settling down for a learned dissertation on the night’s three short comedies and main feature, Our Relations (1936), in which Stan and Ollie play their equally imbecilic twins. When the lights when on, the meeting broke up in the lingering way of any rock microscene after a really good concert, all honest bonhomie and temporary communion. Expect such semi-public displays out of rockists until long after the last Dave Matthews fan is too old to dance.