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Love International 

Thursday, Aug 26 2004
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Photos by Wild Don Lewis

SUNSET JUNCTION STREET FAIR August 21 & 22

It was a double sun-day for rockers to rock, for homosexuals to be gay, for the old to be young again and for the youth to let love rule . . . despite a concussion or two.

Future phenoms the Like set the amicable tone at the Bates Stage with the sweet melodies of “(So I’ll Sit Here) Waiting,” just before pop princess Chhom Nimol inaugurated the international flavor of the Junction by belting out “Hold My Hips” over Dengue Fever’s surf-ska-spy silk, inadvertently summing up the coming weekend in her native Khmer — “two days of beautiful nights.” At the Sanborn Stage, Los Abandoned’s Lady P maintained the conjunction function with some breezy rock en español AND ingles, plus some caliente rap on “Nada Mio Es Fake.” How do you say bitch in Spanish? Bitch, apparently.

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Giant Drag’s Annie Hardy translated the girl power back to English with the apathy-rock of “My Dick Sucks,” which she thoughtfully dedicated to all the “fine-looking gay men here” (to the hooting approval of that one yahoo who hung out at the Bates Stage in his long-johns jacking off his Corona bottle all weekend . . . uh, lime with that?). Then it was back to español for Christina Ortega’s tejano bluegrass and an irresistibly danceable set from Quinto Sol, whose smoking Santana–meets–Van Halen guitarist, Armando Padilla, sprinkled his notes like hot peppers over the band’s percussion-heavy mix of classic reggae and cumbia-infused salsa.

Saturday night at Bates Stage was a lesson in the three R’s. R&B: Har Mar Superstar jiggled his Buddha belly to the irresistible grooves of “DUI,” then spread the Stevie Wonder–style jam of “Sugar Pie.” Robot: Ima Robot returned from a yearlong tour with “Ziggy Rotten” front man Alex Ebert hoarse but unbowed on the electroclash explosion of “Dynomite.” Rock & roll: Ben Kweller burst brilliantly through technical difficulties on a rollicking “Commerce, TX” and a smash reinvention of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” that sounded more like Bob Dylan than Bob Van Winkle. And damn my semantics if the Donnas didn’t add a fourth R for Rawk, tearing through an unbelievably tight Kiss- and AC/DC-inspired set — wicked little guitar solo on every song — bringing down the sky with the as-yet-unreleased “I Don’t Want To Know.” Surprise: These powder-puff honeys are the real deal.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. World’s youngest octogenarian Jerrie Thill woke up the brunch crowd with a swingin’ kiss at El Cid, and I for one needed it to withstand Dirty Little Secret’s thundering bass, prickly guitars, helicopter high-hats and colon-cleansing kick drum. Setting off a post-punk powder keg on “We Want You,” DLS reminded me of U2 when they still wanted to be the Clash. There was more rocking out at the Bates Stage with the Stonesy histrionics of the Vacation — “White noise . . . t-turn it up!” — and the apocalyptic hardcore of Your Enemies Friends, but Dios Malos spoke the loudest as the softest tones of “All Said and Done” rang out like Radiohead covering some magical Brian Wilson–Paul McCartney collaboration.

It was worth the trek to the Edgecliff Stage to see the international dancing troupe Ritmo Flamenco swing their hoop skirts like every matador’s fantasy — olé! And at the Sanborn Stage, the audience was all about Very Be Careful’s Colombian vallenato music — an Old World mixture of accordion, standup bass, bongos, cowbell and guiro — and singer Ricardo Guzman’s thrilling folkloricos: “Yo conocì a una fantasma!”

As the Sunday sun set on Sunset, the crowd enjoyed a splendiferous finale. Juliette Lewis played sex kitten to sudden-onset paparazzi with her Stooges-fueled Licks. (Some might call it method acting, but she owned the role.) Thelonious Monster paid tribute to past Junction headliner Elliott Smith before launching into a thoughtful take on “Money.” Camper Van Beethoven fired up the oompah-loompah klezmer beat of “Tanya” with a thrilling exchange of gypsy solos between guitarist Greg Lischer and fiddler Jonathon Segal, then played it nice and easy with the Celtic-tinged bumpkin rock of “Good Guys and Bad Guys.” And L.A.’s original cowpoke punks X put on a 22-song adrenaline fest featuring flawless rockabilly guitar from a grinning Billy Zoom, as particularly frenzied takes of “Beyond and Back,” “Los Angeles” and “Year One” incited numerous crowd-surfing catastrophes. (I took a boot in the head for you, John Doe!)

And though X marked the top spot, it was Love With Arthur Lee that blessed it two hours earlier after a rousing sing-along of “Everybody’s Gotta Live,” backed with a little “Instant Karma.” Before he left the stage, the ’60s veteran commanded a moment of silence from the thousands present and, after thrice asking “Could you do me just one favor?” let a final command ring out to the heavens: “Love one another!”

We’ll do our best.

The World’s Still a Mess (and it’s still in my Kiss)

Sunday, August 22 at the Sunset Junction Street Fair:

In 1981, in the days before the U.S. had been dubbed a Homeland and we worried far less about our security, I had a favorite T-shirt that said “Kill Bush First.” I wore it to work waiting tables in a malt shop, where we blasted X’s Los Angeles in its entirety three or four times a shift to the delight of our punk-envying clientele, which included tattooed young men with tall orange Mohawks and leather jackets sliced off at the shoulders; women with blue-black hair and heavy bangs and cat-eye glasses over powder-pale white faces, their full-skirted dresses cinched tight at the waist in the tradition of Ozzie’s wife, Harriet (Harriet, however, would have forgone the requisite midcalf lace-up lug sole). Perched awkwardly on the fence around the soundboard at Sunset Junction on Sunday night, watching X hammer elegantly through its long set of super-short songs, I could imagine my life had been cryogenically frozen, transplanted to the Left Coast and thawed nearly a quarter of a century later — music, fashion, politics and all. Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake sounded letter-pure-and-perfect the way they did on those records 20 years ago; clean and tight punk with a little rockabilly whimsy thrown in for laughs. The girls in their Anouk Aimée–meets–Donna Reed–and–joins–the–army updos were out in force, as were the spiky-haired leather boys, and while a reprise of my old ’81 slogan (referencing Cheney) would probably lead to the arrest and disappearance of its wearer in Tom Ridge’s orange-alerted America, the sentiment lingers: Literally hundreds of new millennial chests merely ordered the public to re-defeat or lick Bush or, at worst, “Buck Fush” (de-Spoonerize that, I guess, and they start opening your mail). The X crowd stretched back from the Sunset Motel to El Cid, but beyond that, I’m told, there were DJs spinning to a wild gay disco scene. Were the ’80s ever better than this?

—Judith Lewis

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