By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
"I guess all these songs are for the women," Wanda Jackson said before launching into the original riot-grrl anthem, "Mean Mean Man." Later she praised the gal who designed her acoustic guitar for thoughtfully leaving plenty of room for cleavage. A spitfire diva who toured with Elvis and wrote many of her own classic rockabilly hits, Jackson was refreshingly humble and down-to-earth at the Derby. She thanked the crowd for "letting" her have a quick, sanctimony-free run through the old-time gospel of "I Saw the Light." It had a good beat; most of the artfully decked-out extras from Happy Days kept dancing. Although her radiant voice soared unbroken throughout the too-short set, she stroked her throat and apologized "if I sound a bit Ferlin in the Husky."
Truth is, she sounded wonderful, with backing trio Cadillac Angels kicking up a driving, rootsy ramble that subsided for a precious few country ballads. "Country music and rockabilly are kissin' cousins," she explained, alluding to the days when critics from both camps insisted she choose only one style. (You don't want to fence in a woman who introduced "Riot in Cell Block #9" by declaring, "I've never been to prison — that's one joint I've missed.")
Despite the thrilling closing fusillade of "Let's Have a Party" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," the show's highlight came earlier on a casually tossed-off performance of Charlie McCoy & Kent Westberry's "Tunnel of Love," one of those haunting, soul-baring tunes — like "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" and Peggy Lee's "Fever" — that linger timelessly, beyond genre. As the fillies' skirts whipped on the dance floor, Jackson was momentarily framed by a funnel of synchronized spinning limbs. A guy held his partner's hand behind her back for a quick moment, stealing a kiss when they paused midtwirl. Jackson looked down knowingly, teasingly, and sang, "The tunnel of love . . . it's gonna get you someday."
Over the last decade and a half, roots-rock showcase Ronnie Mack's Barn Dance has floated through some seven different venues and hosted everyone from an army of local lights and losers to arena-rock titan Bruce Springsteen and historic musical figures like James Burton, Rose Maddox and Big Jay McNeely. Mack celebrated the event's 15th anniversary by assembling a head-spinning 15-act lineup that manifested everything from appalling self-indulgence to stunning artistic self-assurance.
With two performers who had appeared at the very first edition — singer-guitarist Rosie Flores and veteran doghouse bass slinger Ray Campi — the long-established Barn Dance tone was represented with typical folksy flair, while sets from more recent arrivals struck an occasional spark of hope for a scene that is too often mired in a moribund retro sleepwalk style. Despite their waxworks vintage wardrobe, Kevin Banford & the Bakersfield Boys took a refreshingly relaxed approach in their update of the classic Wynn Stewart-inspired California country sound, while Randy Weeks, late of the Lonesome Strangers, turned in a nasty dose of dense, overbaked original material that stuck in the craw like a sun-dried mud pie. Another downturn came with Sweethearts of the Rodeo All Stars, who managed to insult Waylon Jennings with their half-assed goof on "Good Hearted Woman" and dredged up an unsavory and unwelcome version of the Stones' "Wild Horses."
It was the surprise appearance by Lucinda Williams that really hit dead-center; sounding deliciously drunk and pissed off, she performed with a ferocity, poise and emphatic follow-through that was light-years ahead of 95 percent of the other participants. The only other recognizable attempt at legitimate artistry came from Mike Stinson, whose rough-hewn urban honky-tonk didn't exactly electrify but stirred up an effective elegiac mood, particularly with "The Late Great Golden State," a lament on the decay of the once-brilliant "coast country" movement that Mack's Barndance strives to preserve. (Jonny Whiteside)
DIRTY VEGAS at Spundae, January 25
The dance-music scene of late has been in a bottomless twister of depressed sales, club raids and artistic confusion. Megaclubs are addicted to overpriced overseas jocks playing that imaginationless scourge, TVP (Typical Vocal Progressive), or worse — '80s-sampling white girls with bad makeup and art-school delusions (they call it electroclash). But perhaps the most unfortunate thing to happen to electronic music's evolution is the current wave of competent producers pretending to be DJs because a) mix-CD DJ compilations are much cheaper to produce but still rake in the profits based on said producers' good names and b) DJ tours are ready-made for the club circuit and don't require the expensive roadies and gear that live acts command (just add vinyl).
This brings us to Dirty Vegas, British no-hit wonders who barely blipped the radar when Mitsubishi licensed their Daft-Punk-meets-Sasha-style tune "Days Go By" for a commercial featuring a pseudo pop-locking woman. Suddenly this trio of waif-boy producers is on the global DJ circuit. Suffice to say, we wanted to hate these guys, but the truth is they rolled into Spundae like the two amigos and rocked the joint (the third guy, Steve Smith, admirably stayed away from the turntables and instead banged a tambourine against his wrist until he vocalized "Days Go By" — a cappella — for D.V.'s finale). Yes, they can blend two songs together without a train wreck, and, yes, they actually took dancers on a journey (mating Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" with a contemporary orgasm-sampling track), and, yes, they didn't bang the beats at 140 beats per minute like some 19-year-old wannabe on E. Dirty Vegas' Paul Harris actually dropped Ricky Motanari and Davide Ruberto's composed, piano-based "Redzone" in the middle of a largely female-fed dance-floor frenzy that would have made any man skip a beat.