View more photos in Lina Lecaro's slideshow, "Nightranger: Dogtown/Zephyr's Ranch-N-Roll Party, Weezer's Nerd Rock, Yo Gabba Gabba's 'Party in My City'"
Kiddie faux-hawks, fashionably mismatched tutu ensembles and tattoos (fake on tykes, real on moms and dads) swarmed upon L.A. Live in downtown this past weekend, when the trendster tyke sensation Yo Gabba Gabba and its stage show Party in My City took over the Nokia Theatre for five shows in two days. We attended the first show on Friday and the last on Saturday, and found the fandemonium more frenzied than any rock show we've caught there. Host DJ Lance Rock — who's been a pal since his days behind the counter at Amoeba Records and behind the decks at the Short Stop — excited the tot lot so much, we think it's safe to say he's a children's TV icon at this point, standing right alongside Pee-wee Herman, Mr. Rogers and Capt. Kangaroo. The show itself has become a bona fide phenom, with car sponsorship, a crapload of merch and crowds (young and old) in character cosplay. Pink Foofas and green-striped Brobees ruled the romping.
Friday's "Super Music Friend Show" guests Pretty Lights were funky and bright, but it was OK Go's Saturday "Friend" set (they played Club Nokia in the same complex later that evening) that really was super: Each dressed in a different primary-colored suit, they led the kids in a sing-along of their hit "This Too Shall Pass." Biz Markie offered his "Biz's Beat" both days, even busting out his hit "Just a Friend" and inviting the little ones up to beat-box — which on Saturday included bleach-banged Kingston Rossdale with mama Gwen Stefani in tow. (He does a mean "Boom Boom Pow," by the way.)
Other celebs sighted with their stylish offspring at the Gabba gatherings over the weekend: Nicole Richie and Joel Madden, Tori Spelling (with mama Candy!), Jessica Alba, and Jack Black, who actually has his own episode on the popular Nickelodeon TV show and hence was probably the only star the kids in the crowd recognized or cared about. Small-world moment: Hanging backstage with Rock after the show Friday, we ran into author Jillian Lauren and her hubby, Weezer bassist Scott Shriner, whose band we were scheduled to review that night!
Hard to say which entertainment hub is more garishly lit: L.A. Live or Universal CityWalk. (Both have just been drenched with serious Christmas décor; Live has an ice rink, while CityWalk offers a stage full of "Cityrockin' Holidays" shows.) Inside the adjacent Gibson Amphitheatre, Weezer's "Memories" tour fit the seasonal-nostalgia setting. The band's two shows featured giddy greatest-hits sets followed by full track-by-track renditions of two of their most beloved releases, The Blue Album (Friday) and Pinkerton (Saturday). Plus, the breaks in between had slide-show presentations with old pictures and fliers from the band's struggling days playing L.A.'s live venues. Friday, we saw some from Club Lingerie, Club Dump (in the space that's now the Viper Room) and English Acid at 7969, where yours truly was the door girl for a while. Since the tour is all about memories, let us share one of ours. In the mid-'90s Weezer often played Coconut Teaszer (now XIV on the Sunset Strip) for ASCAP Night, and we also manned the guest list there during those gigs, so we saw them a lot. Even though we really dug their heavy, hook-laden pop-rock and campy vibe, as a critic, we thought they were too intentionally nerdy — back then, Rivers Cuomo wore a ponytail — to ever make it. Even their name was off-putting at the time.
Of course, "nerd rock" became a triumphant genre and Weezer its unchallenged heroes. Sixteen years after The Blue Album made them rock stars, the band — Patrick Wilson (drums, guitar), Brian Bell (guitar, keyboards) and Scott Shriner (bass) — rocked the heck out of the record Friday. The songs were potent and spot-on as any hard-core "W" hand-signer in the audience shouting along could have hoped. Cuomo has notably come out of his shell throughout the band's career, so it was fitting he held back behind a guitar during the early Blue set and let loose with the newer material. And we do mean loose, charging into the crowd early on, splashing water often, joining Josh Freese (who now plays drums when Wilson dons the ax) on the skins and high-fiving fans throughout both sets.
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He also did some jovial duets, first with Lost's Jorge Garcia (whose mug emblazons Weezer's latest, Hurley) on "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" and then with Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino (the fourth-coolest musician in the world, according to NME) on "Island in the Sun." Surprisingly, Garcia's was the better of the two. This may put us on some kind of hipster (s)hit list, but we think Best Coast may be the most overrated band out there. OK, the fourth most overrated band out there. Not sure they're the kind of artist that will ever be able to fill an amphitheater on their own, but if they prove us wrong — Weezer did, after all — then more power to 'em.
TIME FOR CHEERS
Looking for cool holiday haps with pop culture appeal? We checked out Lythgoe Family Productions' stage production of Cinderella at El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, and it's a festive family event to mark on the calendar. The name Lythgoe (Nigel is responsible for So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol) should give ya a clue about this one. The classic fairy tale is set to modern music and done in interactive British-panto style (the crowd is invited to boo and cheer throughout). There are elaborate costumes, dance and comedy, and the wicked stepsisters are drag queens named Cowell and Seecrest ... 'nuff said. See elportaltheatre.com for tickets and info.
We also recommend Ranch-N-Roll's Craftmas. (We'll be hawking our dive-bar book there this Friday.) The funky cowpunk-flaired boutique on Fountain Avenue will host events and sell merch from the likes of the Beer Can Hat Lady, artists Rick Klu and Sammy Velvet, Betty Oatmeal, Exene Cervenka and many others. Check out our online slide-show pics from Dogtown/Zephyr legend Jeff Ho's closing party there last week, and see more info on this weekend's R&R event at craftmas.com.