When It Blows Its Stacks
Photo by Wild Don Lewis
ALL TOMORROWS PARTIES November 89
After reschedulings, relocations, and the late addition of bankable headliners (Sonic Youth, the Stooges), Akbar & Jeffs Art-Rock Hut finally opened for one chilly weekend. The venue a three-tiered space within the Queen Mary, and a nearby inlet-overlooking park had the pedestrian-friendly, seaside-resort feel of ATPs U.K. origins. The logistics werent perfect, with half-hour changeovers between (mostly) 45-minute sets. But who can grouse at hearing No Fun, Academy Fight Song, Anxious Mo-Fo and meaty chunks of Trout Mask Replica performed by the more-or-less-original artists?
Saturday included strong showings from John Wesley Harding (underattended indoors as Modest Mouse alt-rocked outside), Moris Tepper, and the Shins. The highlights are an easy call: Under a lunar eclipse, the Magic Band four Captain Beefheart sidemen from overlapping periods threw down polytonal jazz-rock that shook like Denny Walleys and Mark Bostons bellies beneath John Frenchs Captain-channeling vocals. Later, Mike Watt and George Hurley celebrated Minutemen guitarist D. Boon with a chronological tear through material rarely (if ever) heard live since his death. As Watt told the rapt crowd, Theres only two of us up here, but I hope you can hear the third part.
Sundays side-stage lineup had its tepid patches (Electriline, American Analog Set), and Cat Powers rudderless closing set caused the festivals only serious overcrowding. The park stage, though, hit its stride early, with James Chance & the Contortions funk bottom (and atonal everything else) making danceable sense to youngish new converts. While mixing snafus blew Mission of Burmas opening salvos to the wind, they were tighter (and louder) by midset than on their last L.A. visit. In between, Har Mar Superstar one chunky white guy stripping to hip-hop karaoke complained about the audiences indie-rock golf clap and threatened to cock-block a shipboard wedding reception, booming, You dont need him, you need some of this, over the vast parking lot. So much for that honeymoon. (Franklin Bruno)
The irony is that this fest trades on nostalgia for musicians whose work originally was about dismantling nostalgia or, at the very least, rearranging it. When Terry Riley or the Stooges first came out with their Rites of Spring, they were reviled as cretins and, yes, stooges; decades later, we get a chance to apologize . . . And you know what? You can run away from home again. Bardo Pond provided the perfect anti-soundtrack to the sunny harbor setting with an expanding cloud of mustard-gas noise. Sea gulls pecked at the trash along the oily shoreline, and so did No Wave saxist James Chance. It took a Guitar Centers worth of effects pedals for nine-piece Jackie-O Motherfucker to layer mesmerizing, circular drones overpowering as a setup for Terry Rileys shamanistic mumblings and synth flecks, accompanied by Stefano Scodanibbios bass throbs bumping lightly against the ship.
The pulling of the undertow, Mission of Burmas Roger Miller chanted by the harbor, supplying the days catchiest hooks, as well as several new, Gang of Fourjagged workouts. We know you have many options. Thanks for choosing our airline, Carla Bozulich said, as Nels Clines whooshing-UFO guitar took off during a set that pleasingly drew on all of the exGeraldine Fibbers country, jazz and Ethyl Meatplow incarnations. Cat Powers breathy invocations, quilled with violin, drew a rapturous hush. Dont hurt me, Iggy Pop warned, climbing into the thick pit. Hurt him? Whether humping Mike Watts bass cabinet, posing flamingo-like on one leg or stage-diving headfirst into the crowd, Mr. Pop was righteously revered as a fallen god. He was at his best thanks to: 1) Ron Ashetons meaty & palpably bloody wah-wah hunks; 2) Scott Asheton, clanging his cymbals like menacing chains; 3) and Steve Mackays foghorn-squall sax, burying 1970. Iggy tried one last time to save us: The TV leads to emptiness, to irony and to death. No joke. (Falling James)
JERRY LEE LEWIS at the Viper Room, October 29
Quite a few years have passed since the Killer appeared in Los Angeles, and it was starting to seem he might never return. The fact that this hell-raiser is the sole survivor of Sun Records star-spangled clan is direly ironical: Lewis remains too damn ornery to succumb. With a brand-new album in the can (mostly recorded in Memphis at the latter-day Sun with contributions from Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood) and his cache of wicked hip more than intact, the Louisiana piano beast who just turned 68 is nowhere near slipping into genteel dotage.
This invitation-only fan appreciation show was a Hollywood free-for-all (gratis parking, open bar, a horde of celebrity patrons including Tom Petty and Daryl Hannah), and when Lewis climbed onstage, the anticipatory voltage was extreme. Looking surprisingly fit and ready to rumble, he launched into Roll Over Beethoven with a characteristic mixture of zeal and relaxation, tossing off a slightly fractured version of the lyric and pumping the piano with rollicking emphasis. The Killer was in eerily fine form; his voice, scarcely diminished, carried all the fuss, funk and gravity that has made him one of rock & rolls most forceful proponents.
Mystifyingly, about 80 percent of the crowd lost interest within a span of minutes, and warm applause gave way to loud conversation. Lewis, whose mainstay gigs these days are private parties, clearly didnt give a shit and played what he wanted Mexicali Rose, Life Is Like a Mountain Railway, superb renditions of Lucky Old Sun and Over the Rainbow and responded to a request with a fine Crazy Arms. Its understandable that he barely bothered to rock, but Whole Lotta Shakin still bangs at the skull with unrivaled ferocity. (Jonny Whiteside)
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