Black President Before Obamas Time
Check out the entire gallery of photos in Lina Lecaro's Nightranger slideshow.
Revamping the hairspray-drenched debauchery of the ’80s metal scene into a more retro-glam and, often, festish-y scene, Taime Downe’s Pretty Ugly Club at the Dragonfly was one of the ’90s wildest L.A. rock hubs, a place where the leather was tight, the piercings were plentiful, and the bands were vicious and loose. Thanks in part to Downe’s notoriety as leader of hair-flaired bad boys Faster Pussycat (and co-creator of The Cathouse, where Guns N’ Roses and every other ’80s rocker hung), P.U. managed to pack in gussied-up groupies and guylinered band dudes post-grunge era. It all kind of fizzled after the fatal car crash of one of its most beloved band babes, Betty Blowtorch’s Bianca Butthole, and when Downe’s co-promoter, JD Terziu, died in a collision himself a few years later, we thought the Ugly was buried forever. But the sleazy goodness did live on, somewhat, in other spots. The guys from another P.U. fave, Motochrist, continued to throw shows and parties at the 3 Clubs, Velvet Margarita and, until recently, The Redwood Bar. Still, catching Downe at the Dragonfly for a reunion of sorts billed as Pretty “fUgly” last week, was a must for former regulars like Nightranger.
Motochrist, Silver Needle and The Ramonas (an all-girl Ramones cover band) also played, and the latter were gabba gabba good fun, particularly the guitarist’s Johnny-like strumming, stance and haircut. But we should’ve known it was gonna be a weird eve when a feline — not a fake-boobied Rock of Love type, but a real furry, four-legged creature — sauntered in and promptly jumped up cartoonlike and then scrambled out the back door during the ‘one, two, three, four ...’ intro. Ultimately, it was the only pussycat we saw that night. The sets were running very late, which the catch-up happy crowd (including musician Sirius Trixon and DJ dudes Apollo Staar, Casper and Jamie Scrap) didn’t seem to mind. Downe, however, did, and after Motochrist’s last song at about 1 a.m., he refused to play and pounced off. Some fans were pissed, but we’re guessing there’s no lingering animosity between the two bands; they share half their members, after all.
No strangers to the Dragonfly stage, or any L.A. rock stage for that matter, the boys of Black President could never quite be contained in the clubs — or by their previous bands (Chelsea Smiles, Goldfinger, Soulfly, to name a few), for that matter. After witnessing the socially conscious local quartet at The Palladium last Friday, opening up for the Vandals and Pennywise, it was (loud and) clear that the fellas have not only found their perfect running mates in each other but also discovered the best forum in which to spew their “fight the power” rawk: the old-school punk pit. Hopefully the kids (mostly OC/South Bay heads) were listening to the messages, but either way, they were definitely feeling it. And no, the name has nothing to do with Barack; they took it long before he was a candidate, and their views are too radical to endorse any traditional political figures or ideas. Check out the biting and ballistic sounds for yourself on their eponymous Cobra Music debut.
The Vandals turned in one of their signature spazzy-fun attacks, climaxing with Warren Fitzgerald’s aerobic stage display on the Queen cover, “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Great set, but we were hoping for Joe Escalante to comment on the demise of his former workplace, Indie 103.1. This was more of a KROQ crowd, though. Pennywise are, in fact, huge on the ‘ROQ. “F*** Authority” was playing on the station as we drove to the show. We’ve covered the band before, and their followers are unequivocally the most frenzied we’ve seen, which made the photo pit under the stage a bit daunting (we might have complained about getting drenched at Papa Roach last week, but with a Penny pit, we come prepared for spit, flying bottles, and, of course, bodies). So did the Palladium staff, which by the way, were on top of their game. It was our first visit back to the venue since the remodel, and we found Live Nation’s makeover quite striking — the room gleamed, the sound was noggin-rattling as it should be, and most noticeably the A.C. kicked ass (anyone who’s ever been to a punk show at the space back in the day knows it used to be a sweat-fest.) Considering the room’s hardcore history, this was the perfect show to finally check it out, though it wasn’t all about rebel-rousing. The night was also a tribute of sorts to Pennywise drummer Byron McMackin’s mother, Dartis, who passed away a few weeks ago and was known to rock her Pennywise tees around her Lawndale, Calif., community. Friday, it was other way around: the band all wore tees with her image on their chests, and played one of its most potent — and surely cathartic — shows ever.
What’s more chaotic than a Pennywise pit? How about being sandwiched between a dozen or so extremely high-strung 6-foot-tall drag queens and the impenetrable L.A. Fire Marshall? The bash for queen of queens herself RuPaul and her new TV show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, at World of Wonder gallery in Hollywood last Thursday brought out every cross-dressin’ hot mess and costume-sporting art tart in town, and was promptly cited over-capacity within an hour, which meant even Ru herself (in boy guise), the show’s contestants and judges — and the likes of Patricia Field, the Madden bros. and Perez Hilton — couldn’t get into the gal or the outdoor patio/alley area without serious waiting and wrangling. Some just left. We stood patiently by the door, and were allowed to enter the girlicious gates soon enough (in a way, the V.I.-piss-fest outside was just as amusing). It was Absolut-ly fabulous inside though. The free vodka was flowing and our favorite L.A. faux-femmes, including Constance, Jackie Beat and Candyass, were glossed up and glowing, not to mention a real chica who gave ’em all a run for their money, Charo! If ya thought our online slide show last week was wild, this one will really tickle your hoochie-coochie. The Race debuts on February 2 on LOGO, and the art show is up till February 7.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.