Thursday, September 27, 2012

Eddie Bear & the Cubs and The Lucky Cheats - The Griffin, Las Vegas, 9-26-12

I can rarely make it out for mid-week gigs, but after I was so knocked out by the Cheats the last time I saw them and haven't been able to see them since and finding out that this was the farewell gig for local rocker Zach Ryan (as a "Cub"), I took the next day off of work and ventured out.

The Griffin is a local Fremont bar, a little newer and a little nicer than some, and not really set up for bands, though they have a small room in the back. Unfortunately, they are also in the Vegas habit of advertising starting times before they open the doors to the band room! So, I got there a little after 10:00 (by myself, as Melanie passed out early) and had to sit around amusing myself for 45 minutes or so before we were allowed in. I almost left, but am glad I didn't!

Eddie Bear & the Cubs is/was a country side project for Zach, who has also been in bands such as Red Feather, the Renegades and more. Here, he played Telecaster guitar and sang, aided & abetted by the Lucky Cheats terrific rhythm section of Luke on bass and Larry on drums, as well as a second electric guitarist, an acoustic player and an incredible pedal steel player (I wish I could remember who he said he played with - anyone who knows, fill me in!). Everyone was stellar, they played some fine covers and cool originals, and had the crowd up & dancing throughout. Super fun combo and it's a bummer that Zach is now moving to Nashville to try his hand in the land when it all began. Hopefully, he will return with some new guns.

I've raved about the blues-rockers, the Cheats before - live & on CD - and the cats were swinging again this night! Playing a bunch of tunes from their record as well as a number of new songs, they tore the roof off! Harpist Jeffrey is one of the best players I've seen since Magic Dick in the J. Geils Band, and I totally dig Wade's string wranglin' - whether it be on his Tele or his lap steel. Luke & Larry power and propel the guys through the numbers with great licks and dynamics. The boys said that they weren't overly pleased with their performance, but I was blown away, as was the rest of the audience! Always a good time!

Week nights get tougher & tougher on this old man, but I'm glad I made the effort for this fun night of rock'n'roll, country & blues! Whoo-hoo!

(PS - the room was way too dark to take any photos with my phone. I do wish that more Vegas venues would invest in lighting for their performance areas!)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The T.A.M.I. Show - DVD

Every hipster in the 80's had some version of this movie on a much-copied VHS tape, but it had not been released on DVD until this time. This is the entire 2 hour show with footage that was missing from many other releases (The Barbarians, The Beach Boys) and, of course, it has been cleaned up for DVD.

This concert showed the variety of pop music that was popular at the time - opening with the fantastic Chuck Berry, who bizarrely alternates songs with Gerry and the Pacemakers! Merseybeat is also featured by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, while American pop is handled by the fore-mentioned Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and Lesley Gore. Plenty of Motown is exhibited with the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (with a wildly politically incorrect dance sequence in "Mikey's Monkey"). The fiercest segment of the entire show is Moulty & The Barbarians doing the wild garage classic "Hey Little Girl" that for sheer raw energy beats damn near everything else.

But the headliners are James Brown & his Famous Flames doing a remarkable job on "Prisoner of Love", "Please, Please, Please", and "Night Train", with all of his patented showmanship and dance moves in place, and, of course, the amazing, original Rolling Stones. Shaggy, unkempt, a couple damn near ugly (though Brian & Mick look pretty great), they pay homage to Chuck Berry in "Around & Around", and run through several other early numbers before starting the big finale which brought out everyone from the show on stage at once.

The infamous Wrecking Crew (including Glen Campbell & Leon Russell) is the backup band for those who weren't self-sustaining units and there are a frenetic group of go-go dancers (male & female), led by Toni Basil. A terrifically informative booklet is included in the package, as well.

All in all, well worth the inexpensive asking price and something that every lover of 60's music should have in theit collection. Now, when is The Big T.N.T. Show coming out?!

Thee Swank Bastards - Motor City Cafe, Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thee Swank Bastards have been Las Vegas' premier instrumental band (also one of the only instrumental bands, but that's beside the point) for over a decade now. Dressed in matching black suits and often accompanied by a topless hula-hooping go-go girl, their mission has been to bring their own unique brand of surf music to the deserts of Vegas.

Unlike many surf bands, the Bastards actually have real songs (putting them in the same league as LA's Boardwalkers or the Black Widows, in my mind) and all three - Jesse del Quadro on guitar, Shaun Coleman on bass and John Holod on drums - are stellar musicians and showmen. Jesse spits out riffs and runs maniacally while interacting with the audience and joining people on the dance floor. Shaun, with a ZZ Top-worthy beard, holds down the bass and tells tasteless jokes while John propels it all with perfectly punctuated percussion.

These cats literally will play just about anywhere, any time, for any occasion - they have played all over the country and for all sorts of events - so there is no excuse for not seeing them. They will come near you before you know, so check 'em out and be sure to pick up their records, as well! Check 'em out on Facebook here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Great Rock and Roll Swindle - DVD

I first saw this movie the one time that it played in Los Angeles (that I know of) in 1980 or so, and sometime or another in the VHS days of the 80's, but hadn't seen it since. For some reason I was thinking about the Pistols recently and Amazon had this cheap, so I got it.

I didn't remember too much about it, other than it had manager Malcolm McClaren giving hindsight justifications for the mess that was the Pistols career (which, of course, was his fabrications for events that he had little or no control over), it had very little in the way of actual Pistols footage and it had too many post-Pistols filler songs.

And that's pretty much the way it is. There's almost an excuse for a plot, with Steve Jones as a detective on the search for McClaren, interspliced with Malcolm's ramblings and a bit of actual, historical footage. Certainly nothing remotely like a Pistols documentary or a completely fictional film. It was meant to be a swindle, after all.

There are some fun moments, a bit of good live & lip-sync footage and a couple early demos, but not much to write home about and the Sid, Jones, Cook and Ronnie Briggs outings are all fair, but nothing that you would want to listen to regularly. OK for cheap, but nothing too exciting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Stooges - The Authorized and Illustrated Story by Robert Matheu

Of course, there have been innumerable books about the Stooges over the last few decades and while this large format (9.5x12.5) entry doesn't exactly break new ground, or even pretend to be the complete story, there is some good writing here and plenty of high quality photos from the entire history of the group.

The format is as follows - a basic history of the group, reviews of each of the "official" albums (including, funnily enough, Metallic KO - presumably for its historical content), and a recap of the reunion. The hardest part about reviewing these albums today is trying to put them in the context of the time - pre-punk by a number of years - and just how weird they were to the average rock listener. Nowadays, everyone and their mom claims the Stooges were a big influence on them, but for those of us who were listening to them when these were released, we were considered way beyond outsider freaks. Once punk hit, and every one of the original bands were shaped by these Detroit maniacs, the world's perception of rock'n'roll changed, but this was damn near incendiary in the day!

So, don't buying this expecting to learn anything new (unless you know nothing about these cats, in which case it is damn time that you learned!) but it does give a well-written overview and again, some damn fine pix (many, if not most, that have not been printed before)!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Adam & the Ants - Hard Rock Cafe Sept 14, 2012

Melanie has been a hard core Adam Ant fan since the early 80's (and she still has the 1981 tour t-shirt to prove it!) and had a chance to see him numerous times back in the day. Last November, when she heard that he would be appearing in Vegas, she immediately picked up tickets, only to have him cancel (as so many do for their Vegas dates). We later found out that the show was being postponed, and, after almost a year since buying the tickets, the night finally arrived!

The Hard Rock Cafe on the Strip (not to be confused with the Hard Rock Casino, with its large venue, the Joint) is a smaller, more intimate venue (we're guessing about 500), so we were looking forward to the event. Unfortunately, the logistics of the club meant that the audience needed to line up around the corner, on the street (fortunately it was a nice night) and wait as they slowly let groups of people in, who then had to climb 3 flights of stairs to the space. Our wait was 45 minutes or so. The show was scheduled to start at 8:00, but actually began around 9:00, as people were still straggling in.

The opening act was an unusual guitar/drum duet called the Brothers From Brazil, who claimed that they really were both, playing flamenco/samba in a White Stripes vein. Talented musicians, but not very interesting in the songwriting department and while they tried to be entertaining visually, just didn't click with either of us, though many in the crowd did seem to like them.

Adam finally made it on at about 10:00, making a grand entrance with the song "Plastic Surgery", singing the intro with his back to the audience, before turning around for the upbeat section and revealing his new, updated, "Pirates of the Caribbean" look, complete with pirate hat. His band (no one from the original Ants) was relatively nondescript, other than a lovely blond female drummer as the "Adam" drummer (there was also a male "Ant" drummer), and a sexy, sultry brunette back up singer who went through several costume changes - I assume that she was the eye candy for the guys, as Adam is for the girls.

For the next two hours - one of the longest sets I've seen an act do since Bruce Springsteen in the 70's - Adam ran through his hits and many obscurities from his early days. I've always liked some of his early work, but never been the devoted fan that Melanie was, so I didn't know many of the songs, but appreciated the oddness and angularity of the 70's work. Definitely a set for the hard core fans - and, I'm sure, for Adam himself.

Although getting to the club was insanely, stupidly, annoying, the space itself is not bad and the sound is pretty good, overall. Not someplace that I would care to visit again, though, unless someone truly special was playing.

But, Adam and his new Ants are a real treat for fans and he is doing a big tour now, so this seems to be the time to see him.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Charlie Musselwhite – Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite’s South Side Band

Charlie Musselwhite (Vanguard Records spelled his first name wrong) was already a music veteran by the time this 1966 album was recorded and released. He was born in Mississippi, moved to Memphis in time to witness the birth of rockabilly & rock’n’roll and then traveled to Chicago where he hung out with the masters – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Buddy Guy and more – and became good friends with John Lee Hooker. After Elektra Record’s success with the similarly-styled Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Vanguard signed Charlie and executed this blues masterpiece.

Leading a band consisting of Harvey Mandel on guitar (a major talent, who went on to many more things, including playing with Canned Heat at Woodstock, John Mayall and even the Rolling Stones!), Barry Goldberg on keys, bassist Bob Anderson and legendary drummer Fred Below, Jr. Charlie sings and blows a mean, powerful harp – again, not unlike Paul Butterfield. And like Paul, this is pure Chicago blues, dirty, gritty, and utterly terrific. You would never think that this was a young (22 at the time!) white man – this oozes just like the “real” thing – he obviously learned his lessons sitting in with the leaders of the scene.

This set combines Musselwhite originals, a couple by other band members and some well-chosen (and now well known) covers. Mining some of the same material that Johnny Winter used early on (for instance, “Early in the Morning”), Charlie makes this his own, from his distinctive (and great) voice and amazing harp playing to the superb backing from the group. He covers the range of the blues, with cool instrumentals (“Cha Cha the Blues”, “Chicken Shack”), minor chord moodiness (“Christo Redemptor”), stompers (the oft-covered “Help Me” – man, what a harp tone!), upbeat (claiming Elmore James’ “Stranger Blues” as his own “Strange Land”), slow and sultry (“39th and Indiana”), and just plain rockin’ (4 P.M.). All around great stuff!

Any fan of Chicago rock’n’blues should own this one and display it proudly right next to all of the giants!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Ugly Things #33 Spring/Summer 2012

Mike Stax has managed to keep Ugly Things going for decades (!) now and, unlike most products this old, has only managed to improve the zine over the years. You know what you're getting into when you pick up an UT - great reporting on great music and you are pretty much guaranteed that you will discover a band, a record, a book, a DVD, a something, that you have never heard of before! This issue's cover story is on the band Love, with an extensive interview with guitarist Johnny Echols, but there is plenty more on top of that! Columns by members of the Pretty Things, Flamin' Groovies and the Downliner Sect, a story on Ed Sanders of the Fugs, 80's group the Leopards, Holland's Group 1850, Freakbeat bands, a glam rock retrospective by Greg Prevost (Chesterfield Kings), Barrence Whitfield, the electric eels, innumerable reviews and that doesn't even cover half of the mag! This is one of the highest quality zines you're gonna come across, as well as the most informative! Every issue is a must-have for anyone interested in garage, punk and/or underground music in general. Here's hoping that Mike (along with his wife Anja and many contributors) keeps it up for decades to come! You can contact UT through their Facebook page.