I first met Adele Bertei when I accompanied Wayne Kramer’s organization Jail Guitar Doors on a visit to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. Jail Guitar Doors brings guitars and musical instruction to the incarcerated. There was a group of musicians that day, putting on a show, and one pixie-ish woman was introduced as Adele. “What’s your last name?” I asked, and when she answered “Bertei,” I got all fangirlish. Bertei was a pioneer of the New York postpunk scene, playing for the Contortions and the Bloods, the infamous all-girl band. As a solo artist and songwriter, she has kicked around the underground and pop scenes on both coasts and in Europe since. She also acted in the incredibly ahead-of-its-time film Born in Flames. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Jail Guitar Doors
Fast cars. Rock stars. Street art. The San Pedro International Film Festival rolls into my hood this weekend with an especially cool lineup. The festivities start tonight with the usual monthly highlight of the Peedrow social calendar: Art Walk. October’s iteration features the opening of a SPIFF-sponsored pop-up gallery featuring works by artists in the documentary Dark Progressivism, about LA’s graffiti and mural arts history (which screens October 15). There’s also an exhibit about the Brotherhood Raceway, the defunct street-racing venue on Terminal Island, culled from the photo archive of Eddie Meeks and curated by my good friends Laurie Steelink (Cornelius Project/Track 16) and Tim Maxeiner. The gallery will be open during box-office hours throughout the festival, at the SPIFF Lounge at 446 W. 6th Street.
On Friday guitar legend Wayne Kramer (MC5) and his wife Margaret Saadi will talk about their work bringing music to prisons with their organization Jail Guitar Doors (named after the Clash song which includes Kramer as a subject), as well as play some music. Some of the greats of Latin jazz, including Michel Camilo and Chucho Valdes, are showcased in the documentary Playing Lecuona, about the influence of the Cuban pianist Ernesto Lecuona, screening Oct. 15. Other festival highlights include Lunafest, the collection of short films by women that usually contains some gems, and some virtual reality fun. This is the most diverse and probably the hippest SPIFF ever. Full schedule at www.spiff.org.
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.