New Year’s resolutions can be life-changing, sure, but thinking too big can also make for big disappointment. Props and power to those who made potentially transformative promises for 2010, but we’re thinking small and practical this year, particularly as it pertains to this column. A few of the bad habits we hope to nix while night-ranging: forgetting earplugs at rock shows, mixing booze (beer before liquor, never sicker .), avoiding the word “hipster” (probably impossible) and never, ever falling into bed after a club with a full face of makeup. The latter was particularly challenging after two of the dance parties we cover this week — Resurrection at El Rey and the final Dragstrip 66 at the Echoplex — as both were dress-up affairs so fanciful and festive, we stayed ’til the lights-on bitter end.
(COW)BELLS & WHISTLES
We’ll get to all the goth and glam garnishes above in a sec, but first, an event where the earplugs definitely came in handy: the grand finals of Guitar Center’s Drum Off at the Wiltern last Friday. The annual competition may have been the most star-studded ever, with performances by Danny Carey (Tool) and Brann Dailor (Mastodon), a plaque presentation and drum tribute to John Bonham by his son Jason Bonham, and a bit from jazz legend Billy Cobham. The closing headliner, Bezerk, the clamorous creation of Tommy Lee and Street Drum Corps’ Frank Zummo, lived up to its name with a circusy clash of midgets (well, one little guy, and he called himself that so we’re not being un-P.C.), choreographed dancers in themed outfits, and a procession of pounding that included the USC Trojan Marching Band’s rhythm section, Lee and Zummo on trash cans and kits, Chad Smith (in a silly afro wig), Matt Sorum (with the utterly distracting Darling Stilettos dancing around him), guys from Incubus, Sum 41, Godsmack (remember them?) and our favorite kin-on-the-skins moment, Max Weinberg and his son Jay Weinberg slammin’ to swing sounds. All turned in frenzied sets even if they were simply playing over DJ tracks, à la TRV$DJAM. Unfortunately, Lee’s turntable man is no AM, and the classic rock, funk, punk and metal sludge didn’t offer anything new sonically, drum- or deck-wise (it was like watching a really good practice session with some eye candy thrown in ... rockin’ but not revelatory). Still, with some honing and trimming, we could see this everything-and-the-kitchen-sink slam fest working in Sin City, or something. The unknowns competing for top prize were ultimately more compelling. Congrats to Tennessee’s Ramone Sampson, who tapped and thrashed his way to victory, and even threw in a nifty one-gloved Michael Jackson stick trick. Talk about beating it.
We’re not surprised music from the era of grunge, rap-rock and nu-metal was prevalent at Drum Off. Now that a new decade is upon us, the ’90s are sure to be recycled into the nightgeist all over again. Our pal Jason Lavitt thinks so. The popular promoter debuts a new ’90s club, As If, this Friday at Boardner’s. But don’t expect too many headbanging sounds. This one will be heavy on the boy-band and blingy hip-hop hits of the decade, plus girl-power anthems from Spice Girls, No Doubt and the Clueless soundtrack. More flashbacky fun was had when Lavitt revisited, or rather resurrected, his ’90s “phantasmagoria” (with club legend Joseph Brooks) called Coven 13 at El Rey the Saturday after NYE, joining forces with Helter Skelter’s Michael Stewart and dark DJ dames Amanda Jones and Xian. For many, including yours truly, the eve was like an enchanted reunion. Our longtime friend Dinah Cancer — front woman for seminal L.A. death rockers 45 Grave — was floating about, purple-haired and ageless as ever, and she tells us the Grave will be rising again, doing the theme song for a remake of horror classic Night of the Demons starring Edward Furlong and Shannon Elizabeth, and releasing a five-song EP in February. Reminisced with another ghostly presence set to reanimate next month, Hollywood glam-punk pioneer Rick Wilder, who’s working on a webzine and will be revamping and reuniting his band, the Mau Maus, on “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre eve,” Feb. 13, at the Redwood Bar. In other goth gossip, Jack Dean, host of ’90s dance orgy The Fang Club, hinted that he’ll be bringing back the biting bash this year. But before that, we’ve got Bat Cave (formerly at Medusa Lounge) spreading its wings to a bigger venue, Circus, this Saturday, Jan. 16. B.C. generated some controversy last year (there’s some question about who owns the name), but this one’s backers (HELL, Tramps & Vamps and The Evil Club Empire) are some of the best on the ghouly scene, so whatever it’s called, we expect a bloody good bacchanal for the debut.
DON’T KNOW WHAT YA GOT ’TIL IT’S GONE
While we’re on a ’90s kick, congrats to Dragstrip 66 (est. 1993), which broke the record for attendance at the Echoplex last Saturday night, surpassing the turnout for even Nine Inch Nails’ farewell concert there last year. After 17 years, 66 threw its final fete (see our feature in last week’s paper), and it seems every tranny, crafty-costumed art tart and queeny-scenester in town was there to pay respects. It was such an exultant, uberpacked, glitzy-garbed success, in fact, that guests were begging hosts Paul V. and Mr. Dan to rethink throwing in their wig caps. “Cher and Celine came back,” proclaimed raven-haired beauty Kelly Mantle on the mad hatter–horded smoking patio. “So can Dragstrip!” Dan, aka Gina Lotriman, hinted about a possible yearly party marking the 18th-20th anniversaries, but V. told us later the duo are also playing with the idea of a new monthly, completely different but still retaining the pansexual spectacle of their drag baby. As always, we’ll keep you posted.
And in other end-of-an-era nightlife news, a belated RIP to beloved club-keeper extraordinaire Gilbert Stafford, who passed away on New Year’s Day. The always-dapper doorman, who most recently manned the velvet ropes at L.A.’s Playhouse in Hollywood, set a class standard for stern but respectful door duty, most notably at It-spot Crobar in N.Y. and Miami. An L.A. memorial is planned for Wednesday, Jan. 20 (his birthday), at 3 p.m. at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, with a gathering in his honor at Playhouse that evening.