View more photos in Lina Lecaro's slideshow, “Nightranger: Rilakkuma, Margaret Cho, Transgressive Fairy Tales, Sunset Junction.”
Note to you paranoid types who never go on creaky carny rides: Good for you! Nightranger got stuck on the Ferris wheel at this year's Sunset Junction Street Fair, and it was downright terrifying. (Read our account on laweekly.com's West Coast Sound.)
After the somewhat harrowing experience on Saturday, we were looking to get some ya-yas out on the ground, and if there was ever a band to celebrate being alive with, it's Fishbone. The seminal L.A. ska-punk-party band, led by Angelo Moore and Norwood Fisher, has been bouncing about Los Angeles for too many years to count, but its performances are always — always! — unforgettable. Moore is still a big kid, with vocals as potent and bubbly as ever, mad sax skills and that wiry rubber-band-man body (he crowd-surfed the Junction, of course). The band brought it, with the spazzy, jazzy jams and hammy thrash that in many ways it invented.
Kinda strange, then, that the guys covered a group they obviously influenced: Sublime, with a take on “Date Rape.” They pulled it off, and spewing everything from huge “Iron Man” riffs (into their classic drunk rocker “Alcoholic”) to essential nuggets (“Ma & Pa”), Fishbone — who shockingly never played SJ before — provided the highlight performance of the fest this year.
Sunday's standout set, for us anyway, had to be Sam Sparro's neon-lit soul grind on the Fold Stage. Sexed up by some diva-voiced backup singers in bright green wigs, with groovy backlighting and atmospheric keyboard synths, Sparro's turn was a seductive spectacle that kept our attention even amid the usual fair distractions — shrieking kids, half-naked drunk dudes and DJ beats throbbing in the distance. Speaking of distractions, the crowd (both days, both nights) was, for the most part, the usual sea of tats, floppy hats, Ray-Bans and summer frocks. Hardly any look-at-me queens or freaks this year (bummer!) but still, some cute style to admire. See our online slide show this week for the best.
Other memorable amusements over the weekend: the Miles Davis Bitches Brew-haha with J Rocc (which made for nice background in the nearby VIP area, even though the sectioned-off hangout was the most boring thing at the whole event), the irie vibes created by our friends from the I&I Sound System (local reggae ice cream truckers Shakespeare and Aurelito, who helped book the riddim acts at the Sanborn stage again this year), the scene at the Electro stage on Sunday (the DJs — Splyce, Caroline D'Amore, Doc Martin — were better on Saturday, but even if they hadn't been, fest-ers always let loose more the second day), the party-within-the-party on El Cid's packed-and-pumping patio, Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang's children's rock-day starter Sunday morning, and the lesbian love-in that was Infinity (Journey tribute) on the same stage, closing out the night. Needless to say, “Wheel in the Sky” took on new meaning after Saturday's ride fiasco.
HELL NO, KIDDIE
Sunset Junction was a family affair for us this year, but it wasn't the only youthful environ we enjoyed on Sunset Boulevard recently. Cutesy Japanese brand San-X (no relation to Sanrio) and the cartoony crew from Bubble Punch took over burger fave Umami, with giant, walking teddy bears (Rilakkumas), young women in little-girl dresses (cosplay Lolitas) and colorful sweets the week before (a pop store at Japan L.A. on Melrose followed). Our online slide show also has the whimsically wild looks this week.
The cosplayers might have loved Transgressive Tales & Fabulous Fairy Fables, a show we caught at California Plaza last Friday, put together by performance artist Marcus Kuiland-Nazario (aka hostess Carmen). Most children's classics originated as morality tales, an idea this presentation — the first outwardly GLBT event for the Plaza's “Grand Performances” program — explored in a highly amusing, somewhat twisted way. (Didn't bring our li'l one.) “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Tortoise and the Hare” and more were taken on by John Fleck, Phranc, Miss Barbie-Q, D'Lo, Armen Ra and others, some with gay undertones, some in more straightforward yet meaningful ways, most with humor. As our pal BBQ quipped, “We don't all live happily ever, honey!”
TO DIE FOR
Margaret Cho's sassy comedy often veers toward the scandalous, but what's really shocking about her new CD, Cho Dependent, out this week, isn't the explicitness of tunes like “Your Dick,” “My Puss” and “Gimme Your Seed,” or even the superstellar list of musicians who join her on each track (Fiona Apple, Tegan and Sara, Ani DiFranco, Ben Lee, Brendan Benson, Grant Lee Phillips). No, what gets our attention on the crackling collection of tunes is Cho's big belter of a voice. Who knew?
At the intimate record-release party at Here Lounge in WeHo last week (attended by pals such as L.A. Ink's Kat Von D and Cho's co-stars from her Lifetime series Drop Dead Diva), Cho proved the strong vox on the disc are more than a fluke (or autotune fakery or reliance on talented collaborators), serving up a mini-live performance with Garrison Star (who joins her on “Seed”) that was bursting with both her signature deadpan humor and powerful wails. Girlfriend obviously has been working on her singing in between acting and comedy gigs.
Cho also unveiled a few videos, including the debut of the brilliant clip “Eat Shit & Die!” with cameos by Lee and wifey Ione Skye, lord of L.A. dance/We Are the World member Ryan Heffington, burlesque/comedy chickita Selene Luna and many more. Cho's hubby, Al Ridenour (L.A. Cacophony Society, Art of Bleeding), designed the craptastic props.
It might be hard to take anyone crooning, “I'm so high I can't quite feel my legs/Let's get on the Internet/Cruise dick on craigslist” seriously as a music artist (that's off of “Calling in Stoned,” with Lee and Tommy Chong!), but we do, especially after seeing her perform live. Yes, artists like Tenacious D, Weird Al and maybe Mickey Avalon (whose “My Dick” seem to have inspired a couple of “answer” tracks here) have done the funny rock star thing before, but Cho takes things in a fresher and obviously more feminine direction. Depend on it.