Monday, September 26, 2011

Wig Wam Bam #96 September 2011

Graphix this issue © copied-right from:
Leela Corman, Subway Series; 2002
Gilberto Hernandez, Love & Rockets #3; 1985

Wig Wam Bam (by Captain America unless otherwise noted)
Just can’t leave well enough alone and may (or not) be found whenever I damn well please at the  Low Spirits, Blackbird Buvette, Cellar Door Gifts & Gallery, Revolver fine vintage clothing & accessories, Launchpad, Burt’s Tiki Lounge, Natural Sound music, but sadly no longer at Newsland which closed its doors after a decades-spanning run. Now just where the hell am I gonna find my copies of The Big Takeover, Ugly Things and NME??

Or  peruse the archives before they go the away at

PO BX 4865 Albq NM 87196



NM venues, bands from here or there

ACCORDION BABES 6/15/11 R.B. Winning
Missed most of this ‘cause such events -- coffeehouse, all-ages -- tend to start on time. I didn’t. It was pretty packed with mostly small ages and tall ages folk (kids & parents in other words) so I suppose that’s why the Accordion Babes  played down the pinup persona they present online and elsewhere.

Only heard a handful of numbers which weren’t as rockin’ as expected but when Amber Le Baker and Renee de la Prade played as a duo rather than solo, things got more rollicking and more interesting. I left at set’s end, kicking myself for not hearing more especially since I live a five minute walk away.

6/16/11 Low Spirits

Consisting of Pablo Novelas and N8 Daly, the Elevator Boys threw some rock and roll all over the joint, a rarity in guitar/ drum duos that usually concentrate on the rawk with (ugh) squealing up-the-neck solos. Mr Novelas provides a comforting mix of rhythm and leads while Mr Daly keeps a solid pop beat with not just rolls & fills per se but using all of his kit and mercifully just enough cymbals--again, unlike the usual drummers in these duos that spend too much time on the crash & ride trying to keep up with their wanking lead man.  The Boys aren’t showoffs like the White Stripes (Jack White being my favorite over-rated whipping boy), not as Northwest- indie as Mr Airplane Man, not as crazy as the Immortal Lee County Killers and not as Flying-V wanky as the Kill Spectors. They’re “just right”, like the fairy tale Baby Bear’s porridge but a Baby Bear that’s grown into a surly teenager with mustache stubble who’s behind the cottage smoking cigarettes and trying to get into Goldilocks’ pants.

The Scrams play the most vital rock n’ trashy roll in town and could go head to head (amp head to amp head that is) with any other maniac warehouse band anywhere in the country and emerge among the top of that ugly heap. They’re as raw as sashimi with a spoonful of sinus-clearing wasabi and none of that candyass sushi that has fucking cream cheese in your nori roll.

I’ve pretty much turned into a provincial hack. Ever since the Great Emo Deluge of 2000, I’ve cowered like a beaten dog from bands that exhibit any (and I mean any, not matter how little) stylistic influence from bands of the day that forgot how to write a powerful three minute song but instead meander all over the stage with too much of that chiming and gutless minor chord soft-loud-soft-loud formulaic pabulum. Like a terminal paranoiac, I  hear it everywhere in every band that’s made it big since then from Radiohead to Arcade Fire to Hot Water Music. I swear they’re out to get me personally. Really.

As a consequence, I stopped following all the rock mags that used to hip me to keen stuff. I used to read ‘em voraciously , from Magnet to AP and at least knew what was out there whether I wanted anything to do it or not. Mostly not. I still haven’t acquired the mp3 streaming/stealing habit although it appears to be the easiest way to find new sounds. That is, if you can wade through a glut that’s akin to a backed-up commode of every anemic bastard with a guitar or Apple notebook that’s decided he too is a musician and deserves his own youtube, soundcloud and dollar per song download site.

That’s why I gotta get out more. I’d never heard of the Bare Wires and was taken from note one. There’s a little psych in their rock, a little Chuck Berry, a little power pop and a little glam. In other words, their style is the best of rock and roll, when it was still based on its black roots. When music was for your hips and not your intellect.  No “progressive” compositions made while locating obscure chords (and making a few up as you go along).

Progression…that’s been the history of American popular music: nurtured from the grimy blues, raised in horny adolescence in the backwoods  juke joints, reached the masses with hot swing jazz, matured in soul/R&B and informed by drugs --informed, not strung out. But then..
the creativity crept in.

The Aeolian cadences, the tuxedoed symphony orchestras scratching their heads as they laid down backing tracks for long haired freaks in bell bottoms, the advent of (shudder!) “concerts”, the virtuosity of being an “artist “that does nothing but self portraits, “head” music that was to be listened to and appreciated like a Continental concerto. Appreciated? What happened to just digging the sound, man?

They all forgot about the audience that just wanted to dance whether it was the Black Bottom, the Lindy Hop or the Watusi. To be sure, some wonderful things in rock came out that trend (Beatles) as did some horrid crap (Emerson Lake & Palmer) but American pop-- which was always more black than white-- turned downright…Caucasian.

As little as I personally care for hip hop, at least it brought fucking back into the mix. After all, what is dancing but orchestrated sex? Surrounded by tedious and self important rock operas, junkie guitar players like Clapton who could see no further than their own pickguards and by arrested development thirty year olds in black t-shirts who thought record covers with fatal head injuries were cool, it’s no wonder the unwashed masses turned to the Backstreet Boys and Titney Spears. The soul was gone but at least you could dance again. And never forget that although the record collector guys know who played guitar on track five on side two of the second Built To Spill LP, the girls are and always have been the music buying public; the ones  who turn pimply geeks and “bad boys” alike into pop idols. The guys mostly just wanna go where the girls are, whether it’s the rock club or the discotheque .

Are the Bare Wires anything new? Not particularly but neither do they come across as derivative. Matthew Melton’s riffs are just long enough (let’s hear a round of applause for the eight-second lead! ). His vocals are growly with the plaintiveness of Eric Burdon, tempered by the white hippie soul of Canned Heat’s Robert Lucas and enunciation of a Marc Bolan. His guitarwork is Ron Asheton versus Chuck Berry. Bassist Fletcher Johnson and drummer Nathan Price are a great rhythm section, full but not flashy. The Wires’ show is like hearing Slade, Cheap Trick, the Chocolate Watch Band  and Ben E. King’s Lieber & Stoller songs perfectly meshed. It was a great set, one I hope to see again.  

As a bonus for a few of us there was a surprise appearance –in the crowd, not on stage -- by the lovely Jess Jones who stopped in for a visit. It might not sound like much but when you live in Asia, dropping by is a pretty cool thing to do.

MANBY’S HEAD  6/17/11 Blackbird Buvette

Manby’s Head: From Taos Manby’s Head pulled out some good ol’ rock and roll but they seemed to be playing it kinda safe. Axe slinger Peter Greenburg has great credentials (ex -DMZ, ex-Lyres) and good riffs but it was sorta like recycled Chuck Berry throughout the night. Don’t get me wrong, Chuck’s a good influence to have but for my money there wasn’t enough roar and slop which I prefer in “new” rock and roll bands (like, say, my heroes Reigning Sound and Dirt Bombs). Good but not enough chances taken. The first few numbers were explosive but things settled into a comfortable rockin’ groove rather than building up, the opposite of what one would expect.

Blood Drained Cows: By contrast to Manby’s, BDC led by ex-Angry Samoans Gregg Turner ripped it up a bunch more and yes brought some satisfying slop to the proceedings. The band also brings a bit of twisted humor that might remind of Dead Kennedys. The addition of Billy Angel (ex- Roky Erikson & the Aliens) and his electric autoharp is a major plus.

Seeing Things: somewhere in between the two other acts, Seeing Things --led by Joe Martinez—romp and stomp without much regard for being exactly in tune, vocally and instrumentally. Joe ain’t got a smooth voice but he’s got the best scream in the business. Think John Lennon on Twist & Shout in 1964. But cruder. Joe’s guitarwork is Chuck Berry vs surf, sometimes over the top and sometimes smooth and slow like some 60s garage band that didn’t make it in the Nuggets comp.

RED LIGHT CAMERAS 6/25/11 Blackbird 
MRDRBRD 6/25/11 Burt’s

Arrived way late for Mrdrbrd and between various meet-and-greets I managed to only overhear two songs but as I was waiting for my order at the bar, I was digging the drummer. I glanced to take a look and who do I see but Rob Regan (ex Pan!c; Gracchi). No wonder I liked it so much! Gonna have to catch the full set next time.

Everyone I knew had merely heard of Techtonic Movement rather than hearing them. It started out with a superb dancey electro number with Benito on a Roland keyboard but next song he switched to guitar and there he stayed except for one more number later on. He knew his way around a guitar pretty damn well although I wasn’t much digging the slidey extendo-leads and reggae riddims. I’m guessing these guys grew up listening to Sublime which is a deal killer for me. Next to last song he hopped back to the Roland which perked up my ears. The final number was -- so I’m told -- one by Radiohead who I’m quite ambivalent about so its value was lost on me. In all it was good polished set with professional aspirations and strong vocals by Abby but not something I’d go out of my way to see.

The Glass Menageries’ music is absolutely gorgeous. And apparently so is bassist Brahm ‘cause I got shanghaied into manning the merch table while they played and of all the photo buttons of each band member, his was the most requested.

As soon GM as finished, I dashed over to Blackbird to meet my lovely wife’s husband (it’s complicated) and was taken off guard with a kickass set by Red Light Cameras.Yow! I wasn’t crazy about their couple of shows I’d seen earlier this year but this killed, perfectly in synch with frontwoman Amanda’s powerhouse voice. Drummer Kristen was slamming it out and Barney and Chris were rocking. This is what I was waiting for. Well done! If this is the direction in which they’re heading, I’ll buy a GPS and set it to where they’re playing next.

7/2/11 Launchpad

I’ve said it before but seems to me it could be a real pain the ass to be a rockabilly cat. Like, can you even run to the corner for a quart of milk without having the right Zippo in your pocket? You can sorta slum it wearing a clean white tee and a pair of starched jeans but you certainly can’t drive a Geo. Its probably worse for the girls. Unlike trashy rocker & punk chicks, one run in your stocking and its time to go home. And all them fancy dresses (and quite nice ones I might add) ain’t cheap. Me, I’d rather spend my disposable income on records than all that gear. Besides, my fashion sense isn’t.. uh, well, it just isn’t.

This was the latest installment in the Weekly Alibi’s Group Hug series. The musical theme can-- and will be anything-- but the real theme is a carnival sideshow atmosphere, come one come all for complete and utter saturation in whatever’s happening. This edition was the Rockabilly Blowout featuring all kinds of related merch crowding the hell out of the joint. I hope the vendors took home some cash with all that competition. At the very least they got some exposure ‘cause the place was packed wall to wall with hot rod die-hards, curious tourists and ‘billy fans, amidst enough pomade to start a grease fire. 

DJ Lucky kicked things off with appropriate tunes but the Launchpad is not really a great spot for someone who’s spinning since they’re sort of in exile up there by the stage while the crowd is mostly up front, trying to get hammered before the band starts.

The Hi Lo Tones played a fine set not least because Tom Sanderson (Long Gone Trio) was slinging guitar. He was worth the price of admission alone. The man’s got class and though this isn’t a word one usually associates with rock n’ billy honk, he’s badass. There’s never a missed note or wasted movement. He’s all about musical economy, placing each lick exactly where it needs to be and for exactly the right reason and for exactly the right duration. Precision is his watchword.

Next, Cowboys and Indian get props for the audacity of their name alone, seeing as how Gerome Fragua (vocals, guitar) is in the band. Judging from his last name alone it’s a sure wager he’s from Jemez Pueblo (well, Pecos Pueblo if you wanna get technical but that’s a history lesson in itself ). There’s no doubt I’ve been fed by his relations over the past thirty years since I’ve sat at many a Fragua table, served countless bowls of chile and enchiladas at many, many Jemez feast days.  Tell the family I said thanks, Gerome!

The Cowboys and Indian sound is a lot more rock than billy but in the self-limiting world of rockabilly purism, that’s not saying much. The leads are a little longer and a little louder but Fragua’s voice is pretty damn good if not much more under control than his Chuck Berry inspired guitar breaks.    I mean that in a good way although during the set paid more attention to the quality of his voice than anything else. Next time, I’ll check the rest of the band out closer.

I managed to miss the other acts tonight because of the hobnobbing factor: standing around under the air conditioner upstairs with a few friends while overlooking the milling crowd beneath. Always a (ahem) model of discretion, I wasn’t gonna say anything about the cleavage show below as the rockabettys strolled by but what the hell, Elizabeth brought it up first

CHRIS ISAAK 7/3/11 BioPark Zoo

First things first. Chris Isaak has written/sung some of the most heartbreaking lost-love ballads ever, ones that make you want to down a handful of Flexeril while dozing in bed with a cigarette in your hand and a nearly empty bottle of scotch on the nightstand. So why would anyone in their right mind want to hear him play Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison covers all night? And obvious covers at that?

That’s the difference between going to a “concert” and going to hear some music at your local gin mill.  Concert goers are mostly media- fed zombies who like nothing better than to hear a live band cover a classic top ten song they just heard on the radio in the parking lot.

To his credit, however, Isaak did intro a song by saying

Here’s one by the king of rock and roll…” --long pause. we all know what the crowd is thinking -- “… Jerry Lee Lewis! ”

That was class. Too bad the song choice itself coulda been better. You can guess the title yourself easily. I’m not telling.

Isaak’s voice is still crooner smooth with great control, a voice that made the fifty year old ladies in the audience with pink straw cowboy hats swoon and their paunchy husbands in “Hawaiian” shirts swagger when bringing the wife to the bedroom after the show. I didn’t swoon or swagger but quietly appreciated that voice.

The band was merely good but no different than any number of session players from Hollywood or Memphis or Nashville who can capably play Sun Records licks but have nothing to add except playing them louder.

The band shell at the zoo delivers good sound all around the grounds. Too bad though there’s a stinking twenty foot fishpond/moat in front of the stage. The promoters had the presence of mind to offer bottle beer instead of flat and still- green local microbrew. It got poured into a warm plastic cup of course to avert trouble (“Oh no! someone just clocked Chris Isaak with an empty Corona!”) but I hadn’t expected the choice to pick up a cold Negro Modelo so bonus points awarded there. Overall, this “concert” got a B minus although Isaak’s voice always gets top grades.

Me, I got an F for not knowing where the fuck I was going. I drove to the gig which I didn’t realize was maybe five blocks from my escort’s house only to wind up parking about two blocks away after circling the lot and the ‘hood for an open space. Rita will never forgive me for getting there too late to hear Wicked Game.

7/21/11 Low Spirits

Saint Petersburg: I’ve enjoyed frontman Sloane’s solo acousti-sets but was wondering about the opportunity  --and hoping to-- hear him backed by an electric band. Now I know. There’s some fine alt.rock crunchy goodness behind his  excellent compositions. I’m looking forward to more of the same.

Suicide Lanes: A little cowpunk + a little poppunk + a little punkass attitude = ummm cow ass pop? Whatever, it’s a good time with some cool covers and/or originals and a killer high energy version of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow complete with ummm harmonies from Kenta and Eva.

Sin Serenade: We were all hoping for this set tonight but it wasn’t a foregone conclusion until it happened. That’s ‘cause today was frontman Lucky’s wedding day. Congrats to him and his lovely bride Ruza! The guy’s a sport to play and host a reception where he tends bar and has to see our ugly faces night after night anyway.

There were some other acts but between the pretty dang good catering from Make My Lunch, copious libations and photo booth retarded-ness, I can’t say I recall much about ‘em so I’ll shut up. For once.

the ELEVATOR BOYS, HIGH IRON 7/22/11 Burt’s

Much as I love the Dirty Novels in most of their incarnations, it’s cool to see Pablo rockin’ out in a different vein. It’s no rock and roll that inspires hip-swiveling like Las Novelas but down and dirty and surprisingly free of the wank that usually goes along with a lone guitar player. Too sad for us that Pauli (the name by which I met Senor Novelas) is soon taking off for..Philadelphia..Portland…or someplace…depending on what day of the week you ask him. I’ve hung out with the man in both of his hometowns  -- Chuco and ‘burque--  and hope he has a blast elsewhere for awhile.

How many bands can Kenta Henmi play in at once? Scrams, Suicide Lanes and now High iron fronted by his fiancé Natalie Bruce on vocals and guitar strummin’. There’s able assists by second front-lady Stefanie Enochs (vox and shaking things) and Wade Irving (bass), the latter whom has gigged round these parts just about as long as Mr Henmi which means, like, forever. Jon Reed pounds the beats and the entire band pounds heads. In a nice way.

FREDDY RAYGUN 7/27/11 Kimo Theatre

Apparently someone over at the Kimo had this great idea to bring in local bands. I applaud them for that but it was obviously someone who doesn’t know the local in and outs.
The six hundred and fifty seat venue was looking awful sparse at 7:52 for an eight o’clock show.

Don’t misunderstand.  I adore Freddy Raygun and think the man is a local treasure and near-genius in one tall-drink-of-water package. His lyrics are inventive, playful with sharp jabs to the kidneys and pleasingly off kilter, all delivered in a deep almost talking croon like Lou Reed covering Leonard Cohen. And here was the moment I’ve waited a decade for: Freddy on a mellowed-with-age baby grand in a sumptuous hall. The sound, the pitch, the was beautiful beyond words. That was worth the eight dollar cover alone.

But that brings us back to the beginning. There was another band on the bill that I missed, I think some kind of indie rock Latin-flavored funk something or another which I’m guessing was the reason the “crowd” attended. There were maybe ten paying customers all of whom most likely had no idea who Mr Raygun is and probably less appreciation for his talent even though it was handed to them on a lovingly burnished plate. The Kimo’s not conducive to loud carousing by any means but you could feel the place stiffen when Freddy’s vocals  bashed status quo conservative politics, close-mindedness and generally asked why there is such emptiness in our lives when there really is no need for such emptiness. I don’t think the word “fuck” went over too well either.

Here’s the rub: anyone who knows and wants to see local bands can find them within a few blocks of the Kimo any week of the year where the cover is cheaper and one can buy booze instead of bottles of those fructose and electrolyte-laden electric red or blue things euphemistically labeled “water” that the lonely concession stand was hawking.

Okay, so who’s gonna pack in a crowd to fill that lovely and cavernous historical landmark theatre?  Let’s see…Super Giant draws like chinga but none of their followers want to sit in cushy seats and listen, especially with no beer. The Handsome Family would do exceptionally well but they rarely play the ol’ hometown these days. Little Joe y Familia brings out the older folks but they need a dance floor at least as spacious as El Rey’s.

Sorry, Kimo, but your local series just isn’t going to make it especially when you have two or three ticket takers, a rent-a-cop, a couple of people manning the ticket office next door and the concession lady. Don’t forget the sound and light team. Besides that who the hell even knew this local series existed? Freddy was the one that told me about it. I saw no ads in the local weeklies and I doubt the theatre has or would even consider having some scruffy guy plaster flyers on lamp posts.

Thank you for the effort but an audience will not show up just because there’s a show. But I owe you big time, Kimo, for hosting Freddie at the baby grand. Now that I would attend on a regular basis.

8/20/11 Burt’s

Mauro Kemmerer is competing for the coveted plays-in-more-bands-at once-than-you have -in-twenty-years title. And wins in each one. A Five Star Motelle , Mauro here  adds her sweet vocals and keys to those of Gena Lawson in the Menageries , a sweet and dancey semi-electro  outfit while Lady Uranium is Ms Kemmerer’s solo keyboard /angelic- sounds project.

Both were lovely preludes to the ever-popular Portland’s pride the Prids.  They’ve been called synthpop, postpunk, noise pop, you name it but I call them...exquisite. The entire band is spot on but Mistina LaFave deserves extra kudos for playing lead bass. That is, playing bass like it was a lead and/or melodic instrument. It’s a thing of beauty. Mere words don’t do this quartet justice so do yourself a big, big favor and listen to their stuff (old and new) and marvel at their stunning virtuosity and range. It was rumored --and confirmed--that after over fifteen years of relentless touring , the Prids are gonna ratchet it down and gig the east and  west coast circuits almost exclusively, if at all. But (shhh! don’t tell anyone!) guitarist David Frederickson whispered to me that since Albuquerque adores the Prids they’ll do their best to come and see us from time to time. That’s a giant relief! I was already googling how to tie a hangman’s knot for myself when I first heard the no-tour news.

Not much to add to the previous Manby’s Head stuff (6/17/11). Good, rocking, tight… but, for me, lacking in the trashy excitement factor. In their defense, the two most well-known members have a few decades of playing between them so could be they’re tired of the noisy crazy crap immature boys like me want. 

The penultimate Dirty Novels show got me a little triste since the ‘pad was the site of many of their early shows almost a decade (!) ago when Pablo Novelas and Ernie Culver jumped into the scene with cool hip-swivel rock and garage roll and audiences were reminded that you could put on a tie & a pair of Florsheims or your best brightly patterned party dress and move your ass instead of skulking around in a torn hoodie and greasy backpack filled with--well I dunno what those emo kids kept in there anyway but they never seemed happy about it.

The earliest shows were pretty straight up Mick n’ Keith affairs with Pauli and Ernie taking turns at each but although they wore the Glimmer Twins on their mod sleeves, there was something about the energy and original songs that made us love ‘em anyway. In a way those shows were among my Novels favorites.


Purportedly one of the last Bigawatt gigs, Marissa pulled off a great set of unusual stuff that in less talented hands would scream out “Warning! Art student!”
She made percussion loops on the spot, added soulful singing and semi raps in a voice ranging from big and full to small and sweet. She added bells, cymbals, accordion,  various jangly bangles and a sonicscape that had the controlled operatic chaos of a crippled ocean liner slowly capsizing and sliding to the ocean floor. Impressive.  

Bigawatt was followed by Resonance, a duo  which did practically nothing for me. Singer Patti Littlefield and tuba player Mark Weaver have garnered local acclaim with a wide range: re-envisioned standards, folky jazz and some story-telling originals. While I adore brass in swing jazz and trad soul, the tuba is pretty low on my list of wind instruments, followed only by the flute. 

Weaver also played a homemade didgeridoo, an instrument that has never won me over although I could see enjoying it in the outback after a day of hunting wallaby. At least it wasn’t a rainstick. I would’ve double-timed it outta the joint.
It may not always work but its impressive --and imperative -- that musicians take an instrument out of its milieu and see where else it fits. This has sometimes changed the face of music. For example, besides its role in folk and cowboy music, the guitar was a lowly rhythm instrument in band ensembles, poised to be entirely drowned out in popular music when the overwhelming Big Band sound practically made it obsolete. But when electric amplification for individual instruments was devised  (rather than just for the singer or the ancient practice of one recording mic for an entire band) guitar playing was reinvented. Of course this wasn’t entirely successful. I’m forever grateful that we got Johnny Thunders as part of the deal but we also got Eddie Van Halen. It’s a double edged sword.

 HIGH IRON 9/16/11 Blackbird Buvette
I sadly missed the two song High Iron songs where Kenta’s bass amp erupted in a shower of sparks and smoky haze cutting the set short. Keith Moon was smiling somewhere up above. Or knowing the dear boy’s story, maybe somewhere below…

Somehow, Up the Holler jumped into the slot with their spirited murder- ballad medleys. Dunno how they were  recruited at the last minute but it made me think of star struck kids in the alley behind the theatre, just waiting for their big break as the star breaks her leg under the 10,000 candlelight proscenium.

I vaguely knew that drummer Cara  (Roxiehearts, Hopefuls) had something to do with Mother Death Queen but when she, Ella (I Is For Ida, Unit 7 Drain), Amy (Gamelon Encantada, Jenny Clinkscales, Hopefuls , eight zillion other bands in the last decade and a half at least) and Alexis (sorry! don’t know your band herstory) marched in with instruments I knew we were in for a raucous treat and a half. Apparently their first gig was at a recent party but this was the first club show. MDQ is working up some originals but the all-cover set tonight was killer.

Nirvana’s Very Ape, the Amps’ Tipp City (!!!), Sonic Youth’s Dirty Boots,  PJ Harvey’s Rid Of Me…They ripped! Dirty and heavy and --dare I say it--grungy with lots of fuzz and bottom end with screamin’  vocals by all. I was especially amped to see Amy up there, pulling from her bag o’ guitar tricks à la Neil Young meets Mick Ronson. I have a hunch Mother Death Queen is gonna be one of my new favorite locals.

To top things off, the Dirty Novels last show featured all the old faves but was deliciously trashy and sloppy and rollicking rocky roll. The ‘pad show a couple of weeks ago was the Auld Lang Syne set. This was the party down and have a blast set.

Pablo: ¡ Buena suerte, compa, y vaya con Dios ! …as if god had anything to do with it.

9/25/11 New Mexico  State Fair
Midway rides and gangstas ready to throw down because you disrespected them by looking towards the general space they occupy. Adorable blue ribbon winning doe-eyed calves that are destined to end up on your dinner plate. Plastic junk souvenirs and novelties worth a few pennies on their retail dollar value that your kids will tire of before you get back to the car that you had to park halfway to Bernalillo because the lots were full. Fried things on sticks that you would in no other circumstance ever consider putting in your mouth. And of course Dipping Dots, the Ice Cream of the Future. Where else can you be but the New Mexico State Fair?

And then there’s the Pavilion that hosts local bands. Conveniently located next to the beer garden --six bucks a plastic cup -- that stage is what decided me on going to the fair. I would normally prefer to have my skin peeled off slowly with a razor blade.

But so what. The fabulous Five Star Motelles haven’t played in months and I hadda be there. What a revelation! Who would’ve thought that the ladies were --are--the perfect state fair act? The wigs..oh excuse me..the hair do’s! The girl- group songs that everybody knows and even one grey haired couple got up to dance to!  A cotton candy and a caramel apple eating contest onstage for a first prize of a new Motelles tee shirt! (go, Mello, go!) That red dress of Coco’s that just popped visually,  first in the setting sun and then under the klieg lights!

A few long awaited originals that stood up to and even surpassed a few of the covers were a treat but it was way cool to see the former Bon Bon von Bon Bon in her secret identity as Minie Gonzalez,  Photographer Extraordinaire, running to and fro taking photos of the band as they played. I was secretly hoping she’d jump onstage for a number or two. The other revelation tonight was that Coco’s comedic stage presence --which we all know well from appearances at our local rock dives--was perfect for this gig. The heck with journalism, that gal’s got a future in vaudeville revival!

The seats were packed. Although it’s mostly passersby who just need a place to sit while their heart palpitations subside after that fourth corn dog, the applause was bountiful and well-deserved. If they desire it, the Five Star Motelles have a career in the state fair circuit. I’m not kidding.

It was nine o’clock by the time Ya Ya Boom took the stage for a substantially smaller audience. This was in no way due to their talent -- those Demarco sisters are a formidable alliance -- but of merely a matter of timing. There were a few people who were thoroughly enjoying the set, likely ones who would never have had an opportunity to hear this powerhouse outfit otherwise. But by this time of day the early crowd is plain exhausted, ready to take their weary carcasses home. The fair-goers  just arriving are younger and ready to check each other out as they stroll the midway (sort of the pedestrian version of Saturday night cruising on west Central)or maybe see if any of the “extreme” rides that would make anyone over the age of fifteen puke their guts are still running.  

It’s been quite a while since somebody else has come to play in the Wig Wam Bam sandbox. Please welcome aboard ‘burque’s own unstoppable Dancing Queen, “having the time of her life”.

Slumber Party Mix Gets Thumps Up:
Putting the Scratch Down on
DJ Wae Fonkey

        DJ Profile/Review  by Lizzy von Stange 

Music. I can’t think of anything that makes me happier, except dancing to music. If it weren’t for places like Blackbird Buvette who hosts some of the best dance parties I don’t know where I’d go. (Maybe to the Library for the booty shaking contest-ha.)
And who do we have to thank for keeping us on our toes. The DJ’s. One Duke City DJ I’ve had the pleasure of vibing to is the crowd-pleaser DJ Wae Fonkey who blends a mix of hard hitting jams in a variety of genres including pop, funk, indie rock and new wave. Wae Fonkey offers a full palette of flavor, which can be heard in his Slumber Party dance party mixes. In Slumber Party 1 Fonkey kicks it off with MIA’s “10 Dollar” then switches it up with After the Fires Derkommissar. He is nice enough to include the track list, which made this a bit easier. By track five Wae Fonkey definitely has my attention with Human League’s Don’t You Want Me? The 25 song set which lasts about 50 minutes has a little something for the danceaholics with hits like New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle, Anita Ward’s Ring my Bell and CSS’s Move.
The 27-year-old Jemez born, now ‘burque bound DJ, definitely reaches his goal of “bringing everyone together to have a good time,” as he told me in a recent chat. “I try to trigger what they’re feeling and mix what I like along with different genres; stuff everyone likes.”
Though Fonkey favors hip-hop most there isn’t a whole lot of it on Slumber Party 1. High on his list are Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy and DJ Jazzy Jeff. In fact he fulfills his definition of hip-hop quite ingeniously throughout the CD mix. He explained, “Hip-hop is trying to get everything from every genre and flip it into your own style.”
The lack of hip-hop doesn’t disappoint a new-wave loving dance machine like me. He does incorporate more hip-hop tracks in Slumber Party 2.
Half way through the CD I start to wonder, where the hell is Prince and he comes through with a triple punch with Raspberry Beret, eventually gets sexy with Erotic City, and groovy with When the Doves Cry. Speaking of groovy, Fonkey does mix in some Chaka Khan Feel for You and sends us home wanting more with Outfield’s Your Love.
With Slumber Party 2 Fonkey fast forwards to the 21 century opposed to the mostly 80’s and 90’s gems on SP 1 with acts like LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (favorite). SP 2 features a couple of more hip-hopish folks like Kanye West (gag) and Missy Elliott.
Wae Fonkey continues to surprise me with his depth of knowledge when he plays Ladytron’s Playgirl. And I am particularly tickled when I hear Maps by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs followed by Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back.
However I’m not as thrilled with Slumber Party 2.5, which feels a bit rushed and all over the place. For one he cuts the mixes a bit short and the mixing is not as smooth. For instance he goes from Prince’s When the Doves Cry (again) into the Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979. The first tracks by Boyz II Men and Bel Biv DeVoe don’t have me very hyped either. Thankfully he comes through with some La Roux, a little LCD Soundsystem and Morrissey. And Peter Bjorn and John’s Young Folks saves the day as the ending track. Shew!
All in all the Wae Fonkey mixes get my seal of approval. In fact I know when Wae Fonkey steps up to the tables I’m in for a good time.  You can catch Wae Fonkey mainly at the Planet Rock Dance Party at Blackbird, which still takes place on occasion, or if not DJing more than likely you’ll see him on the dance floor doing his Rerun dance.

Feel it Break (Domino Records; 2011)
 by Lizzy von Stange 
Austra was one of those bands that stuck out at SXSW, however I really discovered the Toronto synth-pop act after the fact when my brother left the recently released album Feel it Break in my car. Upon hearing Lose It I lost it and was hooked. Between lead singer Katie Stelmanis’ (ex-Galaxy) operatic vibrato vocals and the dark, yet danceable beats Feel it Break has enough intrigue to keep this on repeat in your CD player. Drummer Maya Postepski (ex-Galaxy), and bassist Dorian Wolf (ex-Spiral Beach) round out the Toronto-based trio, with two brunette-babe backup singers along with a keyboardist who join on tour. 
Like I said, Lose It takes the cake on this album, along with the tantalizing goth-like tracks Beat and the Pulse and Spellwork. Aside from those more popularized tracks Stelmanis and Co. have other notables including Hate Crime, The Villain and The Beast. Though mostly heavy synth-infected beats, Stelmanis returns to her classical roots on the piano in The Beast. Growing up she learned piano and viola, and to no surprise she has a background in opera. 
Having been in the pop scene for 10 years, and releasing the album Join Us, it’s evident Stelmanis’ hard work has paid off with the release of the Domino Records’ Feel It Break, which was mixed by Damian Taylor (Björk, The Prodigy).
Lucky for us her opera pursuit came to a halt once she attended a punk show and decided to take this route.
Feel it Break was by far one of my favorite albums of the summer. I even got my 22-year-old skater friend Johnny G. rocking it out non-stop and sharing with his friends.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A REAL COOL TIME: The Other Stooges

The Stooges: Head On
A Journey Through the Michigan Underground
Written by Brett Callwood
Foreword by Alice Cooper
Afterword by Glenn Danzig
September 2011
Wayne State University Press

Mention “The Stooges” and what immediately comes to mind is Iggy Pop, the brash and charismatic Street Walking Cheetah himself. His self-destructive persona (onstage and off) attracted an audience but like a crowd of onlookers at a horrific traffic accident, they drifted off when the bleeding stopped and the ambulance pulled away. Those few who appreciated the ferocious music stuck around to see what brothers Scott (drums) and Ron (guitar) Asheton were doing.
Iggy’s confident and go-getter personality would eventually have led to some sort of stardom or acclaim but it was the Ashetons’ musical fury that gave him the opportunity to pull out the stops. The Stooges’ earliest gigs were considered adventurous, dangerous and fun but you-had-to-be-there affairs that veered towards the experimental and psychedelic -- with emphasis on psycho more than the psyche. Iggy was just part of a chaotic ensemble and not the main attraction.
Ron’s innovative guitar attack was more dissonant and distorted than any of his contemporaries including “Sonic” Smith and Wayne Kramer of The MC5.  As neighbors and mentors of The Stooges, these ax slingers played tough riffs in the midst of a waning peace and love culture characterized by the tender harmonies of outfits like Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Brother Scott too was at odds with the current drum styles headed toward extended solos and “musicianship” at the expense of the steady heartbeat a good rock and roll drummer must provide. Although his style could be like severe tachycardia, he was deceptively simplistic and economic: hard hitting with no wasted moves.
Giving credit to the Ashetons is Brett Callwood’s triumph in The Stooges: Head On--A Journey Through the Michigan Underground (released this month). There are countless Iggy Pop bios (Paul Trynka’s Open Up and Bleed is my favorite) but these tend to treat the brothers as mere sidemen, something even Iggy himself did with alarming frequency.
Callwood managed to interview the reclusive Ron for the first version of this book (published in the UK in 2007 under a similar title) but outdid himself in getting the most extensive Q & A sessions ever with Scott for this new edition. Sad to say, it was Ron’s death in 2009 that spurred his equally reclusive brother to speak.
This new version is not a meager update but essentially a rewrite of the first edition, adding the interview with Scott and dropping Callwood’s own personal adventure as an Englishman prowling Detroit for info about his subject.
As much as Callwood’s interviews are a victory, as a writer they are also a defeat. He heavily relies on long passages quoted not only from his sessions with the brothers, Iggy and other Detroit characters but at times from other interviewers. Presented in the body of the book, verbatim record reviews from the pages of Rolling Stone, Creem and even the New York Times feel like padding. And the less said about the Afterword (two pages of poetry by Glenn Danzig ?!) the better.
The Ashetons’ words are valuable for musical and production details not previously well known but the brothers’ own personal stories are barely touched. Neither is Iggy’s since it’s been covered many times but Callwood purposely and wisely chose not to rehash the too familiar details that are easily available elsewhere.
If you've read any of the Iggy Pop bios, you already know what makes him tick. Sadly, except for a few tiny clues, you do not close the last page of Head On with any clearer understanding of who the Ashetons were and why but in their roles as Stooges.
To be fair, Head On is a biography of a band and not its members. As influential as The Stooges became  --“became” is the key word here; the majority of ‘70s listeners hated them-- it’s unlikely the band will ever attract another author who is willing to dig even this deep into the Asheton story. Ultimately Callwood is recounting facts, offering relatively little embellishment or opinion. In other words if he has story telling talent, it doesn’t come across here.
Head On is to be commended however for giving “the other Stooges” their due and for that alone, Callwood deserves praise. This book will find a cozy home on my groaning shelf sandwiched between similar but worthy efforts that provide more fact than insight such as Nina Antonia’s New York Dolls bio Too Much Too Soon. I’ve a different section for revealing and in-depth biographies like Eye Mind: Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators, Heroes and Villains: The True Story of the Beach Boys and, yes, Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed.