“That’s our production,” John Doe joked as the ginormous cruise ship that had just blasted him and Exene Cervenka into silence passed by the stage at the Lobster Festival in San Pedro Sunday. The ex (and now current again) X’ers who are also each other’s exes had been strumming and singing when the Royal Caribbean boat sounded its horn, rendering the musicians completely inaudible. Admirably, Doe and Cervenka stopped, saluted the decibel competitor, and lauded its hearty win — even while attempting to co-opt the ocean liner as a prop. It’s like that at the Lobster Festival; even musical semi-legends have to concede to the crazy, drunken commerce of life by the port.
The Lobster Festival is San Pedro’s county fair, an ode to dizzying rides, surly carnies, greasy food, and crustaceans. The latter cost $18, were surprisingly good for carnival food, and there were no long lines to buy them, as there were last year. This year, the festival also featured some good, local bands. On Saturday, Fitz and the Tantrums overcame sound problems to deliver their retro soul with sharkskin-suit style. Singers Fitz and Noelle Scaggs both have superb voices and an interesting dynamic; he’s all Bryan Ferry dapper, she’s all Tina Turner hot. The sexual and racial connotations of this pairing were a bit disturbing when, trying to affect some Southern soul man vibe, he called her “my girl.” But with songs as catchy and convincing as their KROQ hit “Moneygrabber,” I’m willing to risk political incorrectness and like FATT.
We could talk all night about the postcolonial ramifications of the Asian-pop-meets-indie-rock Dengue Fever, who followed FATT Saturday. All I’ll say here is that singer Chhom Nimol’s Cambodian diva wails were both sexy and heavenly, but the rest of the band weren’t keeping up.
I hadn’t seen John and Exene in many years; I was once a huge X fan. It was interesting to hear old punk songs like “Because I Do” and “In This House That I Call Home” stripped down, but even without the boat traffic, the acoustic guitars got a little lost in all that open air. Still, John and Exene have deep cultural history in LA; Cervenka, who was diagnosed with MS last year, saluted the region that has supported her art for 34 years.
Cole didn’t win any prizes at the water-gun balloon booth. But the weather was perfect, and when else can you see perfectly groovy hipsters wearing silly lobster hats.