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The Black Lips, Starcrawler and Timmy’s Organism Throw and Get Thrown at The Regent Theater

Stage Diving, Sex on Stage, and Masks Rule

By DONNA BALANCIA

The Black Lips brought the toilet paper and opener Starcrawler cleaned up the accolades at The Regent Theater.

Timmy’s Organism was in keeping with the punk-themed night with an interesting if not completely bizarre performance that included blue paint on the frontman’s face, a blond-haired-mask and silver cape on the floor. They’re worth checking out.

Black Lips put on a bone-crushing show at The Regent - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Black Lips put on a bone-crushing show at The Regent – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The headlining Black Lips never fail to bring the stage divers, but the people jumping were bigger than usual this time around. Some of the many leapers ended up on the floor or squishing smaller people in the front.  The carnage is a good reason to have a stage-dive weight limit.

But it’s all part of the fanfare as the Atlanta-born band has endured the afflictions of many punk bands — personnel changes as well as the ups and downs of a fickle music industry.

Black Lips – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Cole Alexander, on vocals and rythm guitar and Jared Swilley on vocals and bass have been around since 1999, enduring the toilet paper being hurled on stage as well as the occasional accidental tumble into the pit.  They are complimented by Jack Hines on guitar and vocals who was with the band in the early 2000s and then again from 2014 until now and Oakley Munson on drums and Zumi Rosow on sax, both of whom came on in 2017.

Jumpers about at Black Lips show at The Regent – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The band has been faithful to Vice Records and its 2014 album Underneath the Rainbow hit No. 143 on the Billboard 200.  Its latest is Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? also on Vice Records.

The band played some of their classics and mixed in some new cuts.  On the set list, which was so mangled it can’t be printed: Raw Meat, Smiling, Scab, New Direction, Rebel Intuition, Occidental Front, Family Tree and more.

Starcrawler’s Arrow de Wilde – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Starcrawler opened for The Black Lips and put on a performance that left mouths agape as front woman Arrow de Wilde threw herself — and the crowd — into a frenzy. Included in the act is the singer-cum-mental patient look, autoeroticism as she has no problem touching her own body parts in public, stage-lying and visits into the audience.

Starcrawler – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

In the case of Starcrawler, not only is the song a good punk song, the performance is outstanding. Arrow de Wilde with her wide-eyed gaze and bone-thin appearance is the ultimate front person, she takes on an androgynous presence and slams the audience with her wild physical act.

Starcrawler – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Henri Cash doesn’t fool around either, leaping sky high and his half of the aggressive act takes on a whole other, but complimentary tone.  Drummer Austin Smith should be applauded for driving the wild sound and keeping the energy high.

British Punk’s Prolific Colin Newman: The Band Wire is Not Just Some Heritage Group from The 1970s

The Drill Fest by Wire Packs the Echo

By JOHN NORRIS and DONNA BALANCIA 

Wire held its Drill Fest at The Echo and Echoplex, and it was a rare opportunity to see some of punk’s originators tell it like it is.

Judging by the attendance at the fest, which ran over three days and included performers like Mikal Cronin, Bob Mould and of course headliner Wire, it’s easy to see punk is very much alive today. Or it’s making a “curated” comeback at the very least.

The Pink Flag Guitar Ensemble – a roaring finale – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Drill Fest is not just Wire playing on tour, founder Colin Newman told CaliforniaRocker.com.

“Drill is curated by the bands,” Colin said. “It’s just another aspect of what the band do.

Colin Newman: 'Being influential is a double-edged sword' - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Colin Newman: ‘Being influential is a double-edged sword’ – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Wire: Not Re-Living The Past

“The importance is it’s partly to us,” Colin said. “One of the things about Wire is we’re not doing the heritage circuit. We’re not trying to relive our past. It’s about us making connections to other artists, not necessarily younger artists, but artists of different genres, with different ways of working and in a way it’s putting ourselves in a situation and saying this is what we are, we’re not just some band from the ’70s living off our past.”

Great musicians curated at Drill - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Great musicians curated at Drill – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Newman On Being ‘Influential’

Wire has been so influential to so many bands, but that’s an interesting conundrum, Colin said in typical fashion.

“It’s a double-edged sword, really,” Colin said.

Why?

“Because you don’t like everything that you’ve influenced,” he said. “But everything influences everything else in music. Music is a dialog.”

Musicians and friends - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Musicians and friends – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

That dialog connected this weekend as the crowds at the Echo and Echoplex appreciated the music of many favorites.

Among those who hit the stages were:  Malka Spigel (Minimal Compact), Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (Luna), Jason Falkner (The Grays, Three O’Clock, Jellyfish), Jessica Lipstate (Noveller), and Jess Labrador, and Shannon Sky Madden (Chasms).

Not just 'Part-Time Punks' The Drill is the real deal - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Not just ‘Part-Time Punks’ The Drill is the real deal – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Other friends and players on hand included Rafe Mandel, Caroline Borolla, Geoffrey Halliday, James Hamblin, Stefan Nelson and Sandy Yang. Wire is Robert Grey, Matthew Simms, Graham Lewis and Colin Newman.

 

 

The Orwells, The Walters and No Parents Take No Prisoners in Physical Sets at The Regent Theater LA

Three Strong Bands Prove Punk Still has Legs

By DONNA BALANCIA

When The Orwells play a show, it’s more like a PE party.

Friends, fans and strong opening bands are the name of the game here and there are no disappointments.  The songs are good, the show is physical and the fans have a great time. The Orwells are touring to support their new album, Terrible Human Beings.

No Parents - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

No Parents – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

The show at The Regent Theater last night was no different as punk performances were the order of the night and the fans loved every minute of three solid sets.

The Walters – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

You’ve got everything here — new punk music, fun performances and cute guys — and no shortage of girls on hand in the audience. After getting a load of the guys in the bands it was no suprise there were so many young women.  But The Orwells, The Walters and No Parents didn’t fool around and got straight to work.

 

Check out our review and additional photos at EastCoastRocker.com

 

 

See more at EastCoastRocker.com

The Alejandro Escovedo Band Takes Its ‘Burn Something Beautiful’ Tour to the West Coast

Escovedo and Jesse Malin to Play Federal Underground

By DONNA BALANCIA

Alejandro Escovedo has had an interesting career. He may come from the famous musical Escovedo family, but he’s punk rock through and through.

He’s worked with East Coast punker Jesse Malin for years, and the two of musicians — seemingly from different parts of the world — take the time to tour around and make music for music’s sake. Check out Escovedo’s website

Escovedo hails from a Mexican-American family via Texas, and Malin is a punk rocker from New York. But somehow the friendship and the music-making works. On Tuesday, Escovedo and Malin will play the Federal Underground in Long Beach. 

Escovedo and Malin’s tour launched February 16. In tow are a range of great musicians. The Alejandro Escovedo Band is comprised of Jason Victor on guitar, Shawn Peters on drums and Aaron McClellan on bass.

Throughout his career, Escovedo has worked with many people and has earned many distinctions including Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Performing in 2006.

His latest album, Burn Something Beautiful, which was released last October, highlights his talent. His musical gifts are revealed across a lifetime spent to faith in the hard work of life and music and its possibilities.

Escovedo and Malin play the Federal Underground in Long Beach on Tuesday. For tickets and more tour information go here.

Punk Rock Legend Chip Kinman and his New Band, Ford Madox Ford, Release Single, Announce Tour

Guys Behind Rank and File Create ‘Blues-Punk’ With Ford Madox Ford

Chip Kinman and Ford Madox Ford release a new single, "Expect It" - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Chip Kinman and Ford Madox Ford release a new single, “Expect It” – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA

Chip Kinman, the power behind Rank and File and The Dils, is using his new band Ford Madox Ford to take the Blues into the future.  The innovator behind “cow-punk” has re-envisioned “blues-punk” and is taking it on tour.

Kinman, the well-known SoCal punk legend, has put together Ford Madox Ford with guitarist — and son — Dewey Peek, bassist Matt Littell and S. Scott Arguero on drums. His brother, Tony Kinman, produces and writes the music.

Ford Madox Ford plays The Pike in Long Beach on June 18 and La Cita on June 24; there’s a live radio gig on KXLU on June 29 and then they’re off to tour Canada in July with the band Three O’Clock Train.  Ford Madox Ford returns to The Pike on July 30.

“We’ve got a great single and we’re going on tour,” said Kinman. “I’m happy to be playing music again.”

Dewey Peek with Chip Kinman during a Redwood gig - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Dewey Peek with Chip Kinman during a Redwood gig – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

On The Road

Kinman had taken a break from performing — a 10-year break — but is coming back strong; just wrapping a residency at punk hangout, The Redwood Bar and Grill, with his cool band.

The new Ford Madox Ford single is called “Expect It” written by Chip and Dewey, and on the B side is the tune “Before The Fall,” written by Chip, Dewey and Tony.  Tony also produces. The music is on Porterhouse Records.

Ford Madox Ford has been bringing its music to the people, playing gigs all over. Tony, too, has been on the scene, recently belting out “Big Train,” one of the Kinman boys’ most famous and most covered classics.

Watch Tony Kinman sings "Big Train" at Redwood - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Watch Tony Kinman sing “Big Train” at Redwood – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Chip and his brother are coming back into music at a time when technology has taken over. A lot of things have changed.

“There are a lot more outlets for social media, but there’s no substitute for a good band,” Chip said. He feels his music relates not only to died-in-the-wool punkers, but to music lovers in all age brackets.

“Our band ranges in age from 58 to 21,” Kinman said. “But I have rules: No one can be older than me, no one can be fatter than me and no one can play shittier than me.”

From Country to The Blues

The Kinmans set the West Coast punk rock standard in the late ’70s.  The Dils were famous for their politically-energized songs like “I Hate The Rich,” “Class War” and “Mr. Big,” which were covered by all sorts of famous, and not-so-famous bands too.  Their band, Rank and File, was a departure into country, a genre that was getting no attention, but the Kinmans blew it up.

Chip said while Rank and File put a punk spin on country, he’s trying something new this time around in adapting the blues to his punk style.

“Blues is a great form, open to interpretation,” Chip said.  “It’s something I’ve never done before and I knew I had something to offer.”

Chip and Matt Littell - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Chip and Matt Littell – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

While he says there are a lot of good up and comers out there, Chip said that among the younger bands, he’s into the Katellas and Florida Mistakes.

“They’re two great young punk bands,” he said. “All punk bands should be young. It’s noooooooo place for old people, sorry.”

And given that, what does Kinman think of vinyl making a comeback?

“It’s great fun,” he said.  “Vinyl is perfect for the blues and punk.”

Carlsbad Guys

Chip and Tony grew up in Carlsbad and moved to Burbank years ago.  But they have fond memories of growing up in the San Diego County village.

“Carlsbad’s a lot different than Burbank,” Chip said. “We didn’t go to the beach, we were always punk rockers.”

Chip Kinman looks to see if guitar is OK after slamming it to the ground

Chip Kinman hurls his guitar down on the ground to end the Ford Madox Ford set at the Redwood – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

But in general, Kinman is pretty easygoing and it seems like he and his wife, Lisa, would be happy living anywhere in Southern California. Lisa’s the one behind the merch table at most shows.

“We’re really excited about Ford Madox Ford,” Lisa said. She’s Dewey’s mom, so she brings a new appreciation for the family band.

“They’re really happy playing in the band and the audience really likes the music,” she said. “They’re getting ready to record and that makes the guys happy.”

Chip said he’s looking forward to touring again.  And he has a special affinity for logging miles along the Great White North.

“They always loved us in Canada,” Chip said. “And we’re ready to bring our music out on the road.”

 

Modern English: All These Years Later, Legendary New Wave Band Does More Than ‘Melt With You’

Robbie Grey of Modern English - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robbie Grey of Modern English – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robbie Grey: ‘I’ll Melt With You’ is ‘The Song That Pays The Bills’

By DONNA BALANCIA – Modern English may look a little different than back in 1981, but the music is better than ever.

The British band known for superhit “I’ll Melt With You” is tight and gave a stellar performance at The Echoplex Sunday night.

The iconic band performed its 1981 LP Mesh and Lace in its entirety to celebrate the 11th-Year Anniversary of the excellent Part Time Punks program. Underpass, Soft Kill and Sextile brought diversity of alt rock sounds prior to the headliner.

Mick Conroy on bass, Gary McDowell on guitar and Robbie Grey on vocals set the pace as Colchester, UK’s first punk band, The Lepers, back in 1979.  When keyboardist Stephen Walker and drummer came on board, they became Modern English and took on a more new wave-style sound.

Gary McDowell of Modern English - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Gary McDowell of Modern English – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Still Together

It’s fantastic the band is together again after some ups and downs, unlike many of their colleagues from the era like Joy Division, Depeche Mode and Gang of Four.  Hugh Jones, who also produced Echo and the Bunnymen produced Mesh and Lace and had a good deal to do with the band’s post-punk sound. The UK produced most of the well-known punk/new wave bands in the late 1970s-early 1980s.

And while they may look a little older, a little more heavily tattooed, Modern English band members have a young appearance and a lot of stories to tell.

The members of the band who have broken up, gotten back together, tried to go separate ways and tried different music projects realized they’re cherished by not only the generation they’re from, but also by today’s younger fans.

Bassist Mick Conroy gets the handoff from Robbie Grey during Modern English performance at the Echoplex - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Bassist Mick Conroy gets the handoff from Robbie Grey during Modern English performance at the Echoplex – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Advertising Income

That could in part be because of the popularity of the group’s 1982 superhit “I’ll Melt With You,” which has had enormous commercial success and has been played in everything from U.S. TV commercials pitching cheeseburgers, chocolate and tacos, to feature films.

But the band says the new wave song is really about a couple making love as a nuclear bomb is dropped. No matter, the song closed out for the evening as Robbie called it “The Song That Pays The Bills.”

Favorites of the night taken directly from the Mesh and Lace album are the classic upbeat songs “Smiles and Laughter,” “Gathering Dust” and “Swans on Glass.”  The songs were badass in the day and still hold up today.

With Modern English you get what you expect. It’s refreshing in that they call themselves what they are.  With the exception of drummer Roy Martin, who handled the kit with amazing agility and blend, the band is comprised of all the original members.

Gary McDowell of Modern English - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Gary McDowell of Modern English – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Long Run

In the never-ending quest for to make a living, there are many bands out there with only one remaining member who call themselves the name they used to go by when they were four.

But it should be determined at what point would it be considered false advertising to call a band with departed anchor members by its original name.

Joy Division evolved into New Order, then split into two bands, New Order, and Peter Hook and the Light. Let’s hope Modern English will never have to endure a similar fate.

But it’s clear that Modern English has their colleagues on the brain — with Robbie sporting a Joy Division T-shirt and changing into a David Bowie T-shirt to honor the departed musician.  And he performed happily — even when a gal came on stage and started hugging him. But Robbie is a good reflection of the band — seems Modern English will withstand the test of time and simply shrug and carry on.

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California Rocker Names Top Shows of the Quarter: Pandoras, Marley, Hearts

Veterans and Young Performers Whose Recent Shows Brought Out The Best

By DONNA BALANCIA – There’s so much to do in Los Angeles – let alone the state of California –  no one person can possibly see every great band or memorable performance.

California Rocker has hand-selected some solid performances of the last four-to five months (a fiscal quarter give or take a month) that may possibly have flown under the radar.  The talent didn’t escape us.

 

The Pandoras and the Woggles

Photo © Donna Balancia

Kim Shattuck – Photo © Donna Balancia

THE SATELLITE — The Pandoras have undergone a host of band member changes but the current lineup is tops in our books.  Kim Shattuck has got what it takes as a powerful and compelling front gal; she’s had a lot of experience having played in a host of great bands including the Muffs.

In theory, girl bands shouldn’t be differentiated from guy bands — or mixed gender bands — but they are, let’s face it.  We don’t know when it became a crime to use your good looks to help propel the music.  But in an effort not to be sexist let’s just say it’s an attractive group of fun people who play some great tunes. Women or not these are true musicians who have a natural affinity for one another and a love of the performance. (See the Pandoras’ Facebook page)

The Woggles have been around for years, but it’s amazing how they never fail to delight the audience.  Tamborine-banging perpetually tow-headed front man Buzz Hagstrom leaps to the highest heights and drops to the lowest lows in his performance.  Physically. It’s hard to keep your eyes off these guys and even the squarest of square can’t help but groove to the beat. Learn more about The Woggles at their page.

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Tommy Keene and Eyelids

Tommy Keene - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Tommy Keene – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

THE SATELLITE — Tommy Keene is a perpetual favorite and has amassed an impressive collection of fans who have remained faithful through the years. He’s a perfectionist with some great upbeat powerpop tunes that get you grooving.  His latest album is a great listen with some high energy hits done in great Tommy Keene style. See Tommy Keene’s website

Not to be outshone in the same night at the Satellite were The Eyelids whose avant garde but extremely melodic songs knocked out the crowd.  Onstage antics, like flying hair and guitars on the ground keep things interesting.  Can’t say enough good things about Eyelids.

The Eyelids are John Moen Chris Slusarenko, Jonathan Drews, Jim Talstra and Paul Pulvirenti. They really pack a punch as their lively show is full of surprises! See Eyelids website.

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The Flamin Groovies and The Zeros

Flamin Groovies © 2016 Donna Balancia

Flamin’ Groovies © 2016 Donna Balancia

THE BOOTLEG — The Flamin Groovies are an example of longevity and success. Cyril Jordan Chris Wilson George Alexander Victor Penalosa put on a show that’s fun and uplifting in purely American fashion.

(See the Flamin Groovies Facebook Page)

They’ve toured the world since the 1960s in one iteration or another, but they are all-USA in their approach.  The Flamin Groovies have had their share of hits, notably Shake Some Action and they’re still going strong.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”45″ gal_title=”Flamin Groovies and Zeros Donna Balancia”]

 

Daniel Bambaata Marley and Fishbone

Daniel Bambaata Marley - Photo © Donna Balancia

Daniel Bambaata Marley – Photo © Donna Balancia

THE ROXY — Daniel Bambaata Marley has more going on than being the grandson of Bob Marley. He is a musical talent with wit and — despite his young years — he shows a good deal of wisdom. A singer-songwriter, Marley has a range of topics he covers in his music and he takes us with him through his life’s journey. (See Marley’s Facebook page)

At the Roxy, warming up for Fishbone, he showed a mixed-age audience his musical capabilities and the crowd reveled in the experience.

See our Fishbone coverage in the story ‘Fishbone Takes Stage Diving to New Levels.’

Marley has the lineage as the grandson of Bob Marley and the son of Ziggy — but he is carving out a style all his own.  Marley marries the enthusiasm of hip hop with reggae and the results are compelling.  He’s got the right stuff and We expect more to come from this young talent.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”43″ gal_title=”Daniel Bambaata Marley”]

 Space Cream

Space Cream - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Space Cream – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

THE VIPER ROOM — With a voice like a rock n roll angel, Savannah Pope of Space Cream belts it out like few others can. Pope has a flair for the theatrics and puts all her passion into the songwriting and the show. Space Cream marries rock and roll and glam, but adds a Gaga-esque front woman who can actually write interesting songs. Pope is surrounded by top musicians –Dizzy Joan on guitar, Saul Slotnick on bass and Zak Ryan on drums — and has a new album, Pterodactyl Sky (see their website). We’re not alone in our fandom for this band: SpaceCream won the gold medal at 2014’s LA Battle for Vans Warped Tour at House of Blues Sunset.

 

Turbulent Hearts and Barb Wire Dolls

Turbulent Hearts by Donna Balancia

Suzy Moon of Turbulent Hearts – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

THE WHISKY A GO GO — Turbulent Hearts is one of the best up-and-coming bands in the L.A. area and you can expect a lot out of this group. Suzi Moon, Mark Johnson and Jay Skowronek put on a wild show and bring back the excitement of a true frontwoman-led punk band reminicent of the 80s.  Suzy Moon will go to great lengths to get a reaction out of her audience and the crowd swoons over her looks and talent.  Turbulent Hearts (see their website) has a new album out, check out their Facebook page.

The Barb Wire Dolls (see their Facebook page) has a solid gig with Whisky as the house band, but is taking a break in their native Greece.  Must be nice. Comprised of Krash Doll, Isis Queen Doll, Pyn Doll and newest member JJ Doll, the band is expected to return in October.

 

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The California Rocker Interview: Richie Ramone Talks New Album, Family and Life in the Suburbs

Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Richie Ramone – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Richie Ramone may be one of the last of the Ramones, but today he’s creating new traditions.

The former drummer of the Ramones has his own band with whom he tours the world, he has a true family, and lives in the heart of Southern California.

Richie Ramone and his band will be playing the Hi Fi Rockfest at the Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on Sept. 26.

At the day-long show, he joins bands including the Dead Kennedys, Naked Raygun, Street Dogs and The Two Tens.

“The Rockfest will be a great time,” Ramone said. “It’s gonna be cool playing with the Dead Kennedys and the rest of the bands. We’re looking forward to it.”

With a new record on the horizon and a steady gig as a touring musician, Ramone, born in New Jersey as Richard Rheinhardt — says things ain’t half bad.  A few years back, he relocated for the warm weather of the valley, where he lives with his fiance, Tiffany, and their three rescue dogs.

“I got it pretty good,” Ramone said. “I’m writing music, I’m touring and I’m not in the snow,  Life’s good.”

As a drummer and songwriting member of the Ramones from 1984-1987, he learned a lot from his band mates.  During 500 live performances with Joey and the crew, Richie watched and took it all in.

Joey Ramone credited Richie with helping steer the band into new territory during the later years.

The creator of such hits as “Somebody Put Something in my Drink,”  Richie also wrote “I’m Not Jesus,” “Can’t Say Anything Nice,” “I Know Better Now,” “Humankind” and “Smash You” the title track the Ramones’ re-release, Smash You: Live ’85.

Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Richie Ramone played a recent gig in Hollywood – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

He went from playing in some hit-and-miss New York-area bands to being the drummer of choice for the punk icons and he played some 500 live performances with Joey and the crew.

And during that time, he watched and learned. The experience was invaluable for eventually running his own band.  Ramone released his first solo album, called Entitled in 2013.

While he’s a talented songwriter, perhaps the best part of the job, Ramone says, is performing.

“I love touring all over the place, but I love Europe, it’s more rowdy,” Ramone said. “I think it’s because it’s a different culture and the people don’t stand around with their arms crossed.  In the U.S. it’s more reserved, and even in the U.K., it’s more reserved.”

He’ll be touring in Europe starting in February to support his band’s new record called In The Neighborhood, Ramone said.

Why is it called that, and what’s on the record?

“Hey, I’m not giving away my secrets,” he laughed.

It’s a safe bet the record doesn’t have anything to do with Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood — or his own block in the valley.

But we won’t know what’s going on with the record because he said he’s not going to play anything off In The Neighborhood at Hi-Fi Rockfest, and he’s not giving any hints about the product.

Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Richie Ramone – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“I don’t do that because really, you yourself have to know what’s good,” he said.  “Some people will love it, and some people won’t and that’s that.”

But Ramone’s looking forward to getting on the road, and that’s for more than the big reason of playing to the crowds.

“I love checking out the food from all over the world, like when we’re in the U.K., we’ll have Bangers and Mash, and of course, I love the food in Italy.”

Speaking of Italy, it’s also one of Ramone’s favorite places to play – he says the crowd really gets into it, it’s more rowdy he says.

Meanwhile back home in the valley, Ramone and Tiffany tend to the three rescue dogs — Greta, a boxer, and two miniature pinchers Jack, and Curley.

“Three dogs, that’s enough,” Ramone said.

At Hi-Fi Rockfest, expect to see Ramone alternate between drumming and fronting. Ramone says it’s the way he likes to do it.

“That’s how we keep it real,” said Ramone after a recent gig at Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood.  “I’m a drummer first.  But I can’t sit behind the drums all night, I need to connect.”

Big Ups, Small Wigs, The Herms Bring Controlled Chaos to The Echo Club

Small Wigs at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Mikki Itzigsohn of Small Wigs at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA — It was a mixed bag of cool performances at The Echo, with Small Wigs, The Herms and Big Ups in a triple-header designed to knock your head off.

Small Wigs have a good singer in Elvis Kuehn and an experienced bassist in Mikki Itzigsohn.  With Matt Zuk on guitar and Max Kuehn on drums, together they’re an interesting group with an unassuming surfer-rock style.  Itzigsohn has been around the block once or twice in the musical arena and has played with some bands in the Southern California area.

The band is just getting off the ground, and has been together for a bit now with a lead single “New Wig,” which is super catchy.  Good things to come.

The Herms at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Herms at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Herms, originally from Northern California, have taken up residence in Los Angeles and it was a good move because their music is welcome in L.A.

“I love Northern California, but they take everything too seriously,” said frontman Matt Lutz. “Here, people like to play music and have fun with it.”

Clearly that was the idea behind the performance at The Echo the other day.  The guys enjoy themselves while playing music that is pretty intense, going back and forth between a standard beat to blasting wild, free form, fast avant-garde compositions.  And the audience loved it.

The Herms are fun and worth checking out, some of their songs include Record Machine, Volleyball, Now Everyone, $ Shot.  The guys drift between surfy and mellow to rapid-fire and frenetic.  It’s an enjoyable show.

Big Ups at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Big Ups at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Big Ups is big fun.  These guys have a cool disdain towards almost everything, but the self-deprecating humor really underscores some serious poetic talent.  Frontman Joe Galarraga of Big Ups gets you laughing and then takes you to some really deep places.  While we’re not exactly sure where we’re going with the performances — which is part of the fun — we know there are a couple of topics from Galarraga that relate to his life … and his mother’s life too.

What we like the best about Big Ups is the way Galarraga moves around the stage and how he communicates with his band mates.  The guys are comfortable with each other. And Galarraga is comfortable wrapping the microphone cord around his hand, his head and then uncoiling like a snake and sneering and yelling at the crowd assembled.  The crowd takes it in stride, smiling, with  some people reciting the words to the well-written and thougtful lyrics.[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”16″ gal_title=”Big Ups, Small Wigs, The Herms”]

Big Ups at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Big Ups at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Little Caesar And The Rise of Biker Rock: Interview With Ron Young

Ron Young of Little Caesar - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Ron Young of Little Caesar – Photo for California Rocker © 2015 Heather Harris

Photos © Heather Harris; Donna Balancia asks Ron Young, the dynamic frontman for Little Caesar, the important questions.

DB: Your band put on a great show last week at Paladino’s. What are your touring plans for the summer?

RY: We are headed over to Europe mid-June. We start out in Spain for a Motorcycle rally. Then we head to Holland, Belgium, France, Germany and then back through Spain.

DB: Is there a new release we can look forward to?

RY: We are working on new material we will hopefully finish when we return from tour. We will probably release an EP online … actual CDs are a way of the past. It also helps us get new material out faster and directly to our fans. Things have changed!

DB: How are the new guys working out with the band overall?  What talents do they bring?

RY: The new guys, Carey Beare on guitar and Pharoah Barrett on bass are working out great. They are both incredibly talented and have a long touring and recording history.

Ron Young of LIttle Caesar - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Ron Young of Little Caesar – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Carey plays with Deanna Carter as well and that country blues sensibility fits us really well. His influences in blues-based rock really helps as well. Pharoah is a killer bass player and singer. I toured with him up in Canada when I did a tour with the Four Horseman years back. 

DB: How did you ever develop your style?

RY: I always loved Blues, R&B, Soul and the the Rock and Roll it influenced. The combination of guys in the band bring  such great elements. Loren is the “punk rock” Keith Richards in the group and brings a great edge to our songs. We emerged in LA during the “hair band” explosion and it really wasn’t any of our “cup o’ tea.” We were gritty dudes riding motorcycles and loved more traditional blues and soul based Rock…which was not the mantra of Pop Metal bands on the Strip in the Eighties. We put the band together to not lose our minds and to pay tribute to the type of Rock we grew up on in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.

DB: What is the significance of Detroit in your history?

Loren Molinare of LIttle Caesar photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Loren Molinare of Little Caesar – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

RY: Loren is from Detroit and was a big part of the scene back there. He was in a seminal Punk/Hard Rock band there that did shows with Bob Seger, the MC5, and the Stooges. Mitch Ryder and his take on RnR was a big influence as well.

DB: Who are some of the bands you used to follow in your the formation days of Little Caesar?

RY: We loved to do shows and listen to bands like Junkyard, Rhino Bucket, Little Kings, Bulldozer etc. They were very honest and gritty bands that side stepped the make up and hairspray like we did. We all played in great joints like Raji’s, The Scream, the Shamrock etc. There was a great communal scene in those days.

DB: Why did you cut your hair?

RY: For me, long hair became a parody. As I grew older it felt like leaving it long was a desperate attempt to cling to my youth. I have silvery curly hair and I would have looked like Santa if I let it stay long. I’m not a big fan of hiding my age behind L’Oreal blue black hair dye. RnR should exude confidence, and when you age and dye your hair it looks obvious and insecure to me. 

Pharoah Barrett - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Little Caesar at Paladino’s – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

I cut my teeth on the great innovators of Blues and Country Rock like Johnny Burnette, Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent.  Short slicked back hair looked very cool to me and was a tribute to the real roots of Rock music….plus, it’s not a pathetic attempt to try to convince our fans that I am still 29 years old. This isn’t 1988 anymore.  Our fans know that too and have evolved in life and fashion….except if you hang out at the Rainbow four nights a week. That place is in a great time warp lol.

DB: How do you come up with song ideas and what inspires your songwriting?

RY: I write all the melodies and lyrics. I will take a guitar riff or chord progression and do my thing over it. Will we openly say things like, “let’s write Bad Co feel type tune, or a “Stonesy” song. We make no claims to be innovators. We have such a love for great Rock that was innovated by earlier bands, if we can capture an essence of some of our idols and hybrize them all together, we figure it will be a song that’s good to listen to.

Little Caesar Set List

Little Caesar Set List from Paladino’s

DB: If you four dream bands for whom you would open who would they be?

RY: Bad Co, AC/DC, The Stones and Skynyrd … Who we did have the great honor and pleasure to open for in ’91 with our buds Junkyard.

DB: How does living in California influence your style and the band?

RY: I hate what the music scene has become in California. “Pay to play” has ruined live music in LA. It’s very hard to do a good show with other good bands that people want to come and see. Now if a band has $500 to get on an opening slot, the promoter takes it and doesn’t care if the bands sound good together or if they have talent. We rarely play in LA because of it … But the weather is great if you want to go see something like that!

DB: I hear that you are an amazing talent also when it comes to fabricating, engineering and creating. How did you ever get involved with making cool things? Did you make the microphone you were holding the other night?

Ron Young of Little Caesar - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Ron Young of Little Caesar – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

What makes that microphone you had different and/or better than others?

RY: I DO love to fabricate. I build custom cars and bikes, I do custom metal work like gates and architectural pieces and I’m building a custom home as we speak. I did “make” that mic. It’s the next level in an evolution of various designs of my vocal mic. The mic capsule is a Telefunken M80 mounted inside a chromed Shure Beta 56a housing with a Sennheiser ENG wireless block transmitter. It’s a very crisp yet warm mic … similar to a condenser … but with really good rejection … Too nerdy and techy for ya?

Weapon-X Sets Summer Dates in Santa Ana, San Diego

Weapon-X Black Rose Tavern

Weapon-X played Black Rose Tavern on Robertson and Pico May 24

By DONNA BALANCIA – LOS ANGELES — Coming off a successful performance at the Black Rose Tavern in LA, WEAPON-X has announced two new summer dates.

On July 26, the Victory Music Academy, founded by Dan Clor of Weapon-X, will play at Malone’s in Santa Ana.  The academy was started by Clor, a former Marine and music enthusiast to teach kids that success in life and in music can be achieved in through practice and structure.

Weapon-X will play The Jumping Turtle in San Diego on Aug. 23.   The band will be the featured act during The Jumping Turtle’s Craft Beer-Barbecue and Music festival for the Marines, the Navy and the Public.

Weapon-X has been working on recording a new EP and will be playing new songs at the upcoming shows. 

Also a part of the Weapon-X shows has been Victory Music Academy’s Cranked Amps N Loaded Mics program, which features young students who are hungry and ready to put on a great show. Victory Music Academy and Strength In Numbers started the program as a way to help musicians in the Los Angeles area who are missing band members and gets them out playing shows as soon as possible.

Weapon-X Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/weaponxband

 

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