Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Foxy Shazam at the Aruba Hotel, Las Vegas, Monday June 25, 2012

After seeing Foxy Shazam open for the Darkness and being knocked out by their maniacal stage presence we knew we'd have to see them again whenever we could, but we never would have imagined that it would be at such an intimate atmosphere as the Aruba, which can't hold more than a couple hundred people. So, even though it was a Monday night, we took the next day off of work and headed out.

Amazingly enough, this was actually an early show, with 7 pm doors (!) which meant that the first band, a local entity whose name I didn't catch, went on at about 8:00. Unfortunately, their incredibly unstylish (2 out of the three were only wearing cut-off denim shorts and shoes and nothing else) image, terrible mix (not their fault, I'm sure) and lackluster ska-punk tunes did nothing for me. They definitely had some folks on their side in the audience, but maybe it was just a generation gap, as evidenced by one of their songs being about an "old lady" that the singer works with who is my age!

Up next was Stars in Stereo who were the polar opposite of the openers - this band was so ultra-slick, with near-matching outfits, backing tracks, in-ear monitors and an almost child-like female lead singer who tried far too hard to be sexy. Not bad, but basically bland all around - we assumed they were major label product-fodder.

But then we got the Foxy boys! We were standing right at the stage with Sky's keyboard directly in our face so we had a great view of the mayhem! Blasting out of the gate with "Church of Rock'n'Roll" and "Holy Touch", they had the crowd banging with them right from the start. But for some reason, singer Eric was in a bit of an odd mood (which he admitted) and went into even more long, rambling monologues than usual. This was still quite entertaining but it did cut into the momentum to the point that even the band members were feigning boredom. Eric said that we will never see them like this again, so we can say that we were there when! Of course, they went through a wild set despite Eric's moodiness and remain one of the best live bands around! Their Sparks-with-a-modern-twist sound and incredible antics blow away just about anyone else - big or small - playing today. Everyone walked away with a smile on their face!

Once again, we can whole-heartedly recommend seeing these cats any chance you get for a wild ride on a crazy rock'n'roll roller coaster!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

X - The Unheard Music

X were, of course, one of the premier bands of LA's first wave of punk and are always remembered as the band who truly conveyed what LA was all about through their songs - from the early punk days of partying, vandalism and random violence through the latter days of interpersonal stories, racial issues and much more. I've always thought that if you wanted to know what it was like to live in LA in those days, just about all you had to do was pull out the early X records.

This documentary was made while the band was still together in its original incarnation, so interviews are with  Exene, John Dow, DJ Bonebrake and Billy Zoom. Everyone is engaging, funny, artistic and truly talented. One of my favorite scenes is DJ showing how he created a poly-rhythmic beat while listening to his kitchen appliances! Exene is shown with her song/scrapbooks, John playing country songs on an acoustic guitar and Billy with his wife, cars and ever-present Gretsch.

Lots of songs are highlighted, with live footage from all over LA and imaginative music videos, showing just how talented these cats were. While I have yet to get it, this has been released as a DVD with bonus interview footage, which promises to add even more to the experience.

This is universally described as one of the best band documentaries ever! Essential for fans of the group and the early LA punk scene and practically a must see for any music-lover.

Janis: The Way She Was (documentary movie)

Most likely, I first heard Janis Joplin when she hit big with her posthumous chart-topping cover of "Me & Bobby McGee", but I became a fan after seeing her performance in the Monterrey Pop Festival movie with the fabulously, chaotically psychedelic Big Brother & the Holding Company and their crazed guitar interaction working around Joplin's beautiful, bluesy shrieks.

Of course, I saw this documentary flick when it first came to my home town and have watched it many times since, and though I have always wished that there was more of Big Brother featured, it is still a pretty terrific overview of this wild woman.

There is lots of band footage, with much heavier concentration on the Kozmic Blues Band and Full Tilt Boogie Band than with her original group. But there is some very early - circa '67 - Big Brother from a local TV show (only a small segment - the entire show is worthwhile though and while I don't know if it is still available, it should be sought out) and one of the big highlights for me is seeing Big Brother in the studio recording "Summertime" for Cheap Thrills. I wish there was more of this ground-breaking footage!

Interviews with Janis abound throughout, from Dick Cavett to European TV shows and there is a particularly heart-rendingly tragic one at her 10 year high school reunion where she almost breaks down crying a couple of times as she remembers her mistreatment while living in Port Arthur, Texas. Apparently, no one treated her any better there as a star and the locals were annoyed with her negative comments about the town.

The live performances are from all over the world - from SF to Monterrey to Woodstock to Germany to Holland and more. Some classic bits here, with great audience participation, though personally, I dug the psychedelic mania of BB more than the soul/r'n'b of the later combos. But all of the groups had something groovy to add to her sound and gave her solid grounding to work with.

This gives a pretty good idea of Janis and her hopes & dreams, joys & sorrows. She was just an artistic freak who grew up in a small southern town and got picked on for her weirdness and - sadly - her homeliness. While she felt some validation in her stardom, she never really got over her insecurities, which contributed to her untimely death. This is a nice tribute to another talent taken from us too early.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What We Do Is Secret (movie)

We had heard negative reviews of this movie but when it popped up in Netflix we decided to check it out anyway. Well, the reviews were right.

While the acting was overall mediocre, some of the worst offenses were visual. Obviously, this movie was super low-budget, but the wigs are painfully evident, there was no attempt whatsoever to replicate the look of any of the clubs (I literally laughed our loud at what was supposed to be Club 88), there are continuity issues and props show up in scenes that are years out of place.

The story is roughly taken from the book on Darby and again, no one here is very likable or easy to relate to (the movie even turns Bolles into a bit of a buffoon, which is kinda sad and annoying as he is nicer and more intelligent than most of the players here). The story is pretty much there, but everyone knows that the band was a joke that could barely play live and then fell apart due mostly to Darby being wasted, which ended his life. Nothing ground-breaking here.

In any case, even fans of this band should stay away from this mess - pretty amazingly awful - and not even in a good, B-Movie kinda way.