The second annual benefits concert for Jail Guitar Doors promised guest artists, and last night at the scenic John Anson Ford Theatre, Rock Out 2! delivered. From Ben Harper playing slide with mom Ellen at his side, to Jackson Browne and Tim Robbins bashing out Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law” (smart thematic choice for the evening), to show organizer Wayne Kramer and Tom Morello kicking out the jams, it was an evening of surprising and surprisingly tasty collaborations.
The concert took a while to find its groove. But when Jill Sobule sang her funny sweet song “Jetpack,” well, the music got air. The plucky songster also traded electric barbs in an ax faceoff with Kramer, the former MC5 guitarist and JGD main man. The Harpers plucked and twanged a protest lament about Monsanto. I have to admit I’ve been lukewarm on the son in the past but am now smitten by this charming man. Ditto Jackson Browne: The Big Rock Star of the evening was humble and musicianly, duetting beautifully with Harper. “Running on Empty” was maybe unnecessary — isn’t he sick of playing it? — but still, I now want to see him again at Way Over Yonder.
Former Rage Against the Machine guitar god Morello finished the evening with a blistering set with his band the Freedom Fighters Orchestra. He unveiled a timely new song, “Marching on Ferguson,” and did his usual de/reconstruction of “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” I can never see him play that enough times, with or without Bruce. (Natch, I’d prefer with.)
Then it was time for the obligatory all-star finale. Harper failed to answer Morello’s calls for a historic jam — wisely, since instead of playing “Bulls on Parade” WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN THE PERFECT SONG FOR A NIGHT ABOUT JUSTICE IN THE AGE OF FERGUSON (sorry, got overheated there), they played — OMG — Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Sigh. Maybe rock really is dead.
Fortunately the eclectic ensemble closed with the MC5 classic “Kick Out the Jams.” Typical LA overload: There were so many talents on stage — including pioneering punk siren Adele Bertei, and singers Harper Simon and Cody Marks — that some of them didn’t even get their moment to shine.
I went into Twin Towers Correctional Facility with Jail Guitar Doors in May. They played a great show and Wayne gave a rousing speech before a couple hundred inmates. The nonprofit, founded by Billy Bragg in England, goes into prisons, giving residents guitars and teaching them in songwriting workshops. So not only was it a night of generous, rousing music in a gorgeous venue under a clear sky, it was all for a good cause.
Cherie Currie posted this on her Facebook page last night:
Life is ironic. Kim Fowley was moved into my home a week ago Friday. I have been a 24/7 caregiver for him. Funny, I have not been a fan of this man for decades but time is the great equalizer. It has been an honor to be there for him. He is ill so please send prayers to him. He is as brilliant now as he has ever been. Caring for him keeps me from FB. Know I love you all and please send positive thoughts his way.
Kim has been sick for several years now, but apparently his condition is dire. Every time I interviewed him for Queens of Noise, he was furious at Cherie for her depiction of him in her book. But last year they made up and began working together again, and now, she is taking care of the man who for decades she hated. This is a sad story, but also a redemptive one. I wish them both strength and peace and healing.
I finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy last night (remember; I spent the summer in the woods, a good hour’s drive from any movie theater). It’s a solid little family film, with a smart script, funny characters, sublimely ridiculous sci-fi special effects and shoot-‘em-up action, and of course, a rocking soundtrack. A mix tape given by a dying mother to her son drives the narrative and the beat; I wonder how many parents had to explain to their children what a Walkman and a cassette tape are.
The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” provides the soundtrack for one pivotal scene in the movie, the song earning its rightful place as a savior of the universe. I hope songwriters Kim Fowley and Joan Jett are getting some nice payout on this product placement — and that a new generation of kids find themselves dancing to the Queens of Noise.
There’s nothing like seeing two of your heroes on stage together to get you back into city living. On Saturday, August 16, original LA punk Alice Bag joined original grrrl Allison Wolfe and her band Sex Stains for a tear through the Bags song “We Will Bury You” at the Echo Park Rising festival. After watching a number of sui generis alt-rock bands plod through their Arcade Fire and Pixies routines, it was so refreshing to see two front women whose kinetic energy lifted them off the stage. Note that only one foot out of four is on the ground in this great photograph by Tim Maxeiner.
It’s been way too many years since I’d seen Allison perform in a band, though she has spoken to my students at LMU a few times — she’s an inspiration to a new generation of fearless musicians. Wearing a paper shark dress that I think she told me Kathleen Hanna gave her, the erstwhile Bratmobiler still pogos with that manic cheerleader energy, ponytail flying. She has a fascinating foil in androgynous co-singer Mecca Vazie Andrews. Sex Stains reminded me a lot of the Slits, and made me miss dear Ari all over again.
It was a great way to get back in my groove, after two months of being off the grid in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Sorry for my radio silence. Stay tuned.
I subscribed, even before I read this letter. I’ve read Bitch since their first issue. The Punk Singer is right; they’re that important.