California Rocker

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Best LA Concerts of 2016: Big Stars in Small Venues, Young Trailblazers, and California Rockers

Bob Weir, Desert Trip, Eagles of Death Metal, The Cure, Make Beautiful Music in 2016

Jesse Hughes and Eagles of Death Metal put on a high-voltage show - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jesse Hughes and Eagles of Death Metal put on a high-voltage show – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Eagles of Death Metal at The Teragram Ballroom

The band members in The Eagles of Death Metal have coped with a lot and keep going. The most recent excellent performance was a benefit for Dave Rosser, held at Teragram Ballroom. Frontman Jesse Hughes AKA Boots Electric, is one of the most compelling performers — or poseurs — today and holds the audience spellbound with his wild maneuvers, great voice and excellent guitar work. We got an extra bonus on this night: Josh Homme debuted a new song.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Eagles of Death Metal

 

 

The Reluctant Apostles with Katey Sagal: An impressive crew - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Reluctant Apostles with Katey Sagal: An impressive crew – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Reluctant Apostles at Molly Malone’s

The Reluctant Apostles have come a long way in a short time.  The Katey Sagal and Bob Thiele-fronted band like to play at Molly Malone’s and was formed based on their teamwork during Sons of Anarchy.  The Reluctant Apostles are an offshoot of The Forest Rangers, which came to prominence during the uber successful run of SOA. But new things on the horizon from this star-studded cover band: A new Pledgemusic album and more shows to come.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of the Reluctant Apostles

 

Dick Dale gives his fans all he's got - Photo © Donna Balancia

Dick Dale gives his fans all he’s got – Photo © Donna Balancia

Dick Dale and Se7en Reasons Why at Whisky A Go-Go

Where would modern rock and roll be without remarkable performers Mick Scott and Se7en Reasons Why and the ultimate surf guitar master Dick Dale?  Dale’s varied health issues seem to fade away when Dale is on stage, never far from the watchful eye of his wife, Lana.  New Year’s eve at the Whisky A Go-Go has never been better. Dale comes from an era when you performed no matter what ails you. He led the way in the development of the California sound and he’s a true California Rocker.

The CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Dick Dale at the Whisky A Go-Go

 

The mystical Robert Smith and The Cure are enduring - Photo by Craig Hammons for CaliforniaRocker.com

The mystical Robert Smith and The Cure are enduring – Photo by Craig Hammons for CaliforniaRocker.com

The Cure at The Hollywood Bowl

On one of three sold out nights at The Hollywood Bowl, The Cure would cover over 37 years of Cure songs including the hits, rarities and two unreleased tracks. Reviewer Craig Hammons noted that the set list changed each night with The Cure digging deep into their catalog of impressive material.  Robert Smith and the crew would cover 35 songs in just under 3 hours.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of The Cure at The Hollywood Bowl

 

Nick Waterhouse fuses jazz blues and rock and roll, he's depicted here performing from his Never Twice album - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse fuses jazz blues and rock and roll, he’s depicted here performing from his Never Twice album – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse at The Regent Theater

We can’t say enough good things about Nick Waterhouse and His Tarots.  Every time we see Nick, the performance gets better if that’s possible, as was demonstrated at The Regent Theater a couple of weeks ago.  A multi-faceted musician, who writes, performs, and produces others, Nick is a California Rocker on the rise. Openers Sad Girl and Cutty Flam impressed.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Nick Waterhouse, Sad Girl and Cutty Flam

 

The Black Angels were among the bands at Desert Daze - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Black Angels were among the bands at Desert Daze – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Desert Daze

Desert Daze, the enduring fest where up-and-comers and veterans alike kick around in boots, bandanas and shorts still reigns supreme.  An eclectic mix of newbies and veterans, the fest offers a chance to hear new music and gives veterans a chance to show their stuff. Television, Primus and Thee Oh Sees mingled with Brian Jonestown Massacre, L.A. Witch, and Thee Commons.

The CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Desert Daze

 

Gavin Rossdale of Bush on a speaker at The Observatory - Photo © Donna Balancia

Gavin Rossdale of Bush on a speaker at The Observatory – Photo © Donna Balancia

Bush at The Observatory

Gavin Rossdale is a high-energy performer, leaping into the audience and jumping on speakers.  Bush performs all the favorites and this particular show at the Observatory was extremely interactive. After a few rounds of hugs and kisses among his fans, Rossdale jumps onto a speaker and finishes “Monkey” from high above.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Bush at The Observatory

 

Robert Plant - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robert Plant – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Robert Plant at Theatre at the Ace

Robert Plant and his audience share a special bond and that was illustrated clearly at the Theatre at the Ace.  Bringing flowers, love letters and gifts, Robert still has the gals on the edge of their seats.  Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters put on a show that is Led Zeppelin inspired, but takes us to a new and earthy place.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters

 

Soul Asylum takes off at Whisky A Go-Go - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Soul Asylum takes off at Whisky A Go-Go – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Soul Asylum at The Whisky A Go-Go

Dave Pirner keeps going. Whirling around with his guitar and speaking honestly to the audience, with little regard for his sweaty appearance, Pirner is happy to be on stage.  If nothing else Pirner and Soul Asylum are truthful in their performance and the crowd appreciates it. Soul Asylum’s tour started with The English Beat and wrapped solo.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Soul Asylum at The Whisky A Go-Go

 

The English Beat draws the crowds with great performances - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The English Beat draws the crowds with great performances – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The English Beat at The Canyon Club

The English Beat hits a home run every time.  There is not one song from all their famous hits that goes unheard at an English Beat concert and the crowds are devoted.  Dave Wakeling drives the band that has undergone some changes over the years, but the musicians on board are top talents.  Fortunately, The English Beat plays a lot of dates and 2017 shows are all set.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of The English Beat at The Canyon Club

 

Michael Franti and the Soulrocker tour - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Michael Franti and the Soulrocker tour – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Michael Franti and Spearhead

Michael Franti and Spearhead at the Pacific Amphitheatre spreads the message of love and compassion for all. The show was such a warm experience that reviewer Craig Hammons said he felt like he left the stadium with 7,000 new friends.  The crowd interlocked arms, danced and sang songs of inclusion and love.  What’s better than an uplifting performance?

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Michael Franti and Spearhead

 

Fartbarf puts all the electronic bands to shame - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Fartbarf puts all the electronic bands to shame – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

FartBarf, David and The Curse at El Cid

Who would think with name like Fartbarf this band would be amazing?  Something must have happened along the way for three guys in caveman masks to call themselves something so silly but play so good.  The electronic music we heard at El Cid blew us out of our shoes.  This is a talented group that does the creators of the Moog proud.  Opener David and The Curse shows how it’s done as this young veteran gives us a new sound that blends Americana with pure rock.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Fartbarf and David and The Curse

 

Kam Franklin and The Suffers triumph at The Echo LA - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Kam Franklin and The Suffers triumph at The Echo LA – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Suffers at The Echo

The Suffers bring you to your knees, they’re that good.  Whether you call it, “Gulf Coast Soul” or good ol’ rock and roll, Kam Franklin and the band bring a blues-influenced power sound to the masses. We caught The Suffers at the Echo, one of our favorite venues, and the place was busting at the seams trying to contain the adoring fans.

The CaliforniaRocker.com Review of The Suffers at The Echo

 

Sad Lovers and Giants - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Sad Lovers and Giants – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Sad Lovers and Giants at The Echoplex

Sad Lovers and Giants put on a show for a lifetime at our well-loved venue the Echoplex, bringing 80s new wave to a young, enthusiastic crowd. It’s sad for fans that this beloved British band may not return to the U.S. any time soon, but we are thrilled to have caught Garçe Allard, Tony McGuinness, Nigel Pollard, Ian Gibson and Will Hicks at least once.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Sad Lovers and Giants at the Echoplex

 

The Who - Photo courtesy of Desert Trip for CaliforniaRocker.com

The Who – Photo courtesy of Desert Trip

Desert Trip

Reviewer Bob Busby called Desert Trip one of the best experiences of his life.  That comes from someone who has been to thousands of shows and festivals. Aside from Roger Waters’ rantings, the moon appearing during Neil Young’s performance of “Harvest Moon,” was a highlight.  And how can you do much better than Sir Paul McCartney sharing the stage with the pop princess Rihanna? Stay tuned for next year.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Desert Trip

 

Mike Campbell and Jason Sinay - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Mike Campbell and Jason Sinay – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Dirty Knobs at The Echoplex

Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs put on a fun, upbeat show, complete with cover songs you haven’t heard in a while. Jason Sinay and Campbell play off each other as “Gator” and “Ape” in a band where nicknames are abundant as dolphins in Florida.  The Dirty Knobs is a band to check out when they play their few gigs every year. They haven’t recorded anything so go live or go home.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of The Dirty Knobs at The Echoplex

 

Bob Weir on tour with 'Blue Mountain' album - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Bob Weir on tour with ‘Blue Mountain’ album – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Bob Weir at The Wiltern

The well-worn co-founder of The Grateful Dead only gets better as the years go on. He introduced a new album and played to a crowd at The Wiltern that was comprised of not only Grateful Dead veterans but young, rainbow-clad and dread-sporting fans. Bob still has the verve and enthusiasm and the sounds ring true.

See the CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Bob Weir at The Wiltern

 

Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In leaps into the air during a performance at the Hollywood Palladium - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In leaps into the air during a performance at the Hollywood Palladium – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

At The Drive-In at Hollywood Palladium

It’s a rare treat to get to see At The Drive-In, but frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala is one of the most entertaining performers in the business. It’s clear from his leaping at The Hollywood Palladium last summer that he’s got a background in skateboarding and he’s a no-holds-barred, balls-to-the-wall musician, saving nothing for himself and giving the crowd his all.  See our award winning-shot of Cedric Bixler Zavala.

The CaliforniaRocker.com Review of At The Drive-In

 

Teri Le Butcherettes Photo by Donna Balancia

Teri of Le Butcherettes surfs the crowd – Photo by Donna Balancia

Le Butcherettes at Hollywood Palladium

Teri Gender Bender is the most physical female performer out there and her shows at The Regent Theater, The Echoplex and opening set for At The Drive-In prove it. There are few who can compare to this precious young rock and roll veteran whose demeanor after the show is remarkably calm compared to her rebellious and taunting onstage persona.  Despite personnel changes over the years, one thing remains a constant: Teri’s talent.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review for Le Butcherettes

 

Joe Bonamassa performs during celebration of B.B. King - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Joe Bonamassa performs during celebration of B.B. King – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

GRAMMY Foundation Honors BB King at Wallis Annenberg

BB King may be gone, but The GRAMMY Foundation hosted a bevy of blues slinging rock stars to honor him at The Annenberg: Slash, Tedeschi Trucks, Joe Bonamassa and a heavenly host of blues performers sang and played the blues in BB’s honor.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review for B.B. King at the Annenberg

 

Wayne Kramer and Marshall Crenshaw - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer and Marshall Crenshaw – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer’s Jail Guitar Doors at The Ford Theatres

Wayne Kramer, Don Was and pals put on an amazingly entertaining show at The Ford Theatres to raise money for their charity that serves those behind bars.  The show featured Marshall Crenshaw and a slew of talent to help Wayne raise money for the charity that is close to his heart.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Wayne Kramer and Jail Guitar Doors

 

Bad Boy Eddy - Photo by Donna Balancia

Bad Boy Eddy Rocks Cruefest – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cruefest 2016 at Whiskey A Go-Go

Cruefest Hollywood 2016 brings the kindest hearted metal performers to the Whisky A Go-Go stage each year.  It was a Who’s Who of metal with  Heartbreak Heroes from Oklahoma and Los Angeles; Snake Bite Whisky from Brisbane, Australia; Bad Boy Eddy from Northern California; Stonebreed; Wreking Crue from Detroit, and Mick Scott and Se7en Reasons Why; Blacklist Union, Lunden Reign, Westfield Massacre, and L.A. Story; all of whom are from Los Angeles.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Cruefest 2016 at the Whisky A Go-Go

 

Brian Wilson and band at Hollywood Bowl - Photo by Craig Hammons

Brian Wilson and band at Hollywood Bowl – Photo by Craig Hammons

Brian Wilson at The Hollywood Bowl

Brian Wilson never disappoints and his performance at reviewer Craig Hammons said his performance at the Hollywood Bowl was one of his best.  Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds, considered a unique collection at the time of its release, Wilson held the Hollywood Bowl audience enraptured.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Brian Wilson at The Hollywood Bowl

 

Iggy Pop destroys the mic stand during his show at The Hollywood Bowl - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Iggy Pop destroys the mic stand during his show at The Hollywood Bowl – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Iggy Pop at The Greek Theatre

At a time when most people are slowing down, Iggy Pop is going strong, having his best year yet. The “world’s forgotten boy” has a GRAMMY nomination for Post Pop Depression, there’s a Jim Jarmusch movie out about him, and also a new book released about his life.  He’s a 69-year-old anomaly in the world of rock, proudly resplendent in his hard-earned success. Via his partnerships with the young and hip, Iggy continually adds new admirers to his list of longtime fans. It doesn’t hurt to have the “Ginger Elvis,” Josh Homme and the rest of the crew on stage with you.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Iggy Pop at The Greek

 

Burning Spear, the legendary reggae rocker - Photo by Craig Hammons

Burning Spear, the legendary reggae rocker – Photo by Craig Hammons

Burning Spear at The Hollywood Bowl

Reviewer Craig Hammons says Burning Spear is one of the best shows of the year simply because Burning Spear is a solid reggae performer.  The legendary musician among a sea of young upstarts bid adieu to his fans as “I Man” takes a step down from the stage. Over the many years, with grace and dignity Burning Spear has brought new fans to the reggae flock.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Burning Spear 

Jackson Browne at Lucky Strike Live - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jackson Browne at Lucky Strike Live – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jackson Browne at Lucky Strike Live

It was a pleasant shock to find Jackson Browne appearing at Lucky Strike, which hosts mostly metal-style rockers every Wednesday night during its weekly Lucky Strike Live events.  Browne is a good-hearted type who shows up for a good cause and for the fun of the performance.  At Lucky Strike Live, he gave the regulars — plus about 600 others — a thrill, jamming with some regular players and he had fun to spare.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Jackson Browne

 

Glam Skanks release new album, "Glitter City" - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Glam Skanks release new album, “Glitter City” – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Glam Skanks at MIME

Where are the young women in rock and roll? Answer: The Glam Skanks are right in Los Angeles and they put on a terrific show each and every time. Climbing on speakers, throwing glitter, taunting the audience. Their show at MIME in Echo Park put on by Echo Box heated up the room and had fans screaming for more. There’s a new album and they’re going on tour with Adam Ant.  Stay tuned!

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of The Glam Skanks 

 

Smash Mouth duo Steve Harwell and Paul DeLisle hang together - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Smash Mouth duo Steve Harwell and Paul DeLisle hang together – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Smash Mouth at The Canyon Club

Say what you will about the in-your-face frontman, but Smash Mouth has made it in a tough rock and roll world. When Paul DeLisle teamed with Steve Harwell, as odd a combination as that may have appeared it worked.  With a little help from a hit animated movie, Smash Mouth reinvigorated “I’m a Believer” from The Monkees and a whole new generation was jumping at The Canyon Club. Openers Paper and Strange Case lit a fire.

CaliforniaRocker.com Review of Smash Mouth, Paper and Strange Case

Editor’s Note: The “Best Concerts of the Year” coverage only includes the performances CaliforniaRocker.com staff attended during 2016.

Wayne Kramer and Jail Guitar Doors Concert ‘Rock Out 3!’ Bring Humanity Out from Behind Prison Bars

Don Was and Marshall Crenshaw - Donna Balancia California Rocker

Don Was and Marshall Crenshaw – Photo by Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA

Wayne Kramer still champions the underdog.

Kramer, founder of MC5, the legendary band that started the punk revolution, is still raging — to help those behind bars.

He was joined by Don Was, Marshall Crenshaw, Gilby Clarke and a host of others at The Ford Theatres at a concert called Rock Out 3! to benefit Jail Guitar Doors USA.

The organization brings musical instruments into prisons and youth camps, teaches inmates music, and creates hope for those behind bars.

Wayne Kramer and Marshall Crenshaw - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia for California Rocker

Wayne Kramer and Marshall Crenshaw – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“We give them a guitar to pick up so when they get out they won’t pick up a gun,” Kramer said. “The music takes them out of their surroundings and gives them hope.”

Rock Out! 3, the third annual Benefit Concert for Jail Guitar Doors USA drew fans and rockers alike.

Jail Guitar Doors is a California non-profit organization that provides musical instruments and opportunities to help rehabilitate prisoners.

In 2009, musicians/activists Kramer and Billy Bragg created Jail Guitar Doors USA, which puts on music based prison outreach programs that work to help minimize prison violence and give hope to inmates.

‘Personal Subject’ for Kramer

Wayne Kramer, Alma Robinson and Larry Brewster - California Rocker

Wayne Kramer, Alma Robinson and Larry Brewster – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

It’s a very personal subject to Kramer who was incarcerated on drug charges. In 1977 The Clash recorded “Jail Guitar Doors,” a song detailing the imprisonment of their hero and fellow musician, MC5’s Kramer.

There are devoted volunteers who all showed up at the Ford Theatre event. While there may be a stigma about working with “tough guys,” volunteer Donna Jo Thorndale said when she goes into the prisons she has no preconceived notions.

No Judgment Zone

“The inmates have been judged enough, they don’t need me to judge them.”

Donna Jo says she’s seen progress as a result of the work of Jail Guitar Doors.

Larry Brewster and Donna Jo Thorndale - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Larry Brewster and Donna Jo Thorndale – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“When they focus on the music it helps them to develop self confidence and that’s an ‘inside job.'”

Prof. Larry Brewster said after going into the prisons, he comes away with “new best friends.”

“I’ve made some good friendships,” said Larry, a professor at University of San Francisco.

Teaching volunteer Cody Marks agreed.

“It feels good to get through to the guys,” Cody said. “We form bonds with the prison population and when one guy might be transferred we’ll see sometimes them again at another prison.”

Wayne Kramer: ‘Progress Being Made’

Don Was said he’s been working with Kramer on Jail Guitar Doors for several years.

Wayne Kramer - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Was gets a great deal of satisfaction out of seeing progress.

“It could be anyone of us in there,” said Don Was, who was a headliner at the event. “We tend to believe that the prison population is some other species, but if one or two things didn’t go the right way, it could just as easily be me or you in there.”

A couple of years ago, we went in to Sing Sing Prison and we played a concert,” Was said. “Some people screw up and people tend to forget that about this population.”

Jail Guitar Doors lobbyies against unjust lengthy prison sentences, the privatization of prisons for profit, and seeks to restore humanity in a forgotten segment of our citizens: Those incarcerated.

Wayne, Cody and Jeff - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne, Cody and Jeff – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Program Growing With Number of Inmates

From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled, skyrocketing from roughly 500,000, to 2.3 million, according to the US Bureau of Statistics.

Kramer said Jail Guitar Doors is in 65 prisons, there are songwriting workshops in four.

Kramer was joined at the event by Jill Sobule, Elainie Mandel, Crenshaw, Clarke, Keith Morris, Jason Heath and The Greedy Souls and The Wild Reeds.

Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Pinfield were special guests with Goldthwait as emcee.

Jason Heath, frontman for Jason Heath and The Greedy Souls said he was happy to participate.

Wayne Kramer and friends - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer and friends – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“It’s important to remember the people who are serving prison terms,” Heath said. “And we’re honored to play this show.”

Highlight of the evening was an all-star version MC5’s “Kick Out The Jams,” with all the musicians doing their own thing up there

“We do this because we care and we want to let them know inside the prison that the people outside care,” Cody said.

No Easy Job

The Jail Guitar Doors is not an easy undertaking.

Cody said that there was an extensive process to bring in musical equipment in to work with the prisoners.

Wayne Kramer and Jill Sobule - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer and Jill Sobule – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“They check everything,” Cody said. “They even count the strings that you have for the guitars, they look at the picks,” she said. “One time we broke a string, you have to be careful everything is accounted for.”

Songs ranging from The Who cover “We Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by Clarke, to “Television Light,” by Crenshaw, Eleni Mandell’s “I Belong To Someone New,” brought out the best in the evening before the showstopper finale.

For more information, go to jailguitardoors.org

 

 

Iggy Pop at The Greek: While Not a Tragedy, He Took The Long and Uncompromising Road

Iggy Pop and the Stooges - Photo © Heather Harris

Iggy Pop and the Stooges: All The Right Moves – Photo © Heather Harris

By DONNA BALANCIA
and HEATHER HARRIS

LOS ANGELES – Iggy Pop wrapped the U.S. segment of his Post Pop Depression tour at The Greek Theatre with a few more fans than he had — and maybe that was the simple idea.

Iggy is a master of appearance and that 69-year-old appearance is holding up well.  He has the stance of a confident but undervalued pugilist who has paid the price for his uncompromising artistry.

But these days, his signature has been teaming with younger rockers to keep current, keep himself in the press and to stay sharp.

He’s learned a thing or two after being knocked around on the ground. And maybe his time has finally come.

“I love Iggy, he really won me over,” said a 20-something fan who was among the thousands at The Greek Theatre Thursday night. It was a sold-out last night of the Post Pop Depression tour he’s shared with prominent band mates Josh Homme, Matt Helders and Dean Fertita, Troy Van Leeuwen and Matt Sweeney. Now it’s on to Europe.

Iggy’s Revolution

These days Iggy’s goals are not as lofty as they were when he started a music revolution in the early 1970s.  The excesses of success are for those younger than him, he’s accumulated a great deal of wealth and he has a beautiful wife and home life in Miami.  He doesn’t party and he sticks to a regimen to make it through at least this one last big push on touring. And he could always use a few more fans.

 

SEE IGGY PERFORM AT THE GREEK ON OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

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The David Bowie Songs

It’s no coincidence Iggy’s band mates are at least 30 years younger than he is. The prolific punk rock progenitor was looking for a shot in the arm and just maybe a new raison d’etre.  Yes he’s been doing an amazing job as D.J. on BBC6 with insightful thoughts about a range of music. And he’s been going through the catalogues of others.

But since the death of former collaborator David Bowie, Iggy has dusted off the classics from The Idiot and Lust For Life, which Bowie produced for him.  While most Pop fans know “The Passenger,” his beautiful tunes “Everything Will Be Alright Tonight,” “Here Comes Success,” and his own, less well-known rendition of “China Girl” have long been overlooked by the masses.  These are songs that have gotten a lot of us through the tough times for a long time. So hearing them live is a treat; it’s remarkable that Iggy is singing those songs in concert only now that Bowie is gone, and there is probably a reason.

Overbooked Star

During the days leading up to his outstanding show at The Greek, Iggy must have been overbooked as he made a harried appearance at Mr. Musichead art gallery in Hollywood, across the street from Guitar Center and the Sunset Grill.  Many people arrived before the 6 p.m. start date for the showing of American Valhalla, the photos of Post Pop Depression.

Iggy Pop and Don Was - Photo © Heather Harris for California Rocker

Iggy Pop and Don Was – Photo © Heather Harris for California Rocker

Around 70 percent of the people who bought the $30-something ticket were disappointed to find out that by the time they walked through the gallery doors, Iggy, his wife, Nina, and Josh and his family had vamoosed out the back. After all, how much mugging for the cell phone camera can a guy do.  He had to have had 22 different two- or three-word conversations with those in line, after all.

We didn’t have the heart to stand there and stare and bother him with questions, seeing how Iggy looked a little drained from the experience.  When we offered him some water, he responded with a decidedly polite “No thank you.”

Then came the  “How much longer?” to his manager.

And with that, the group was gone from the makeshift tent that held a range of black and white photos of Iggy in his Post Pop desert days with Homme boy and pals. The photos are lovely but clearly Iggy was the attraction here.

Jammin’

Connie, a friend of Iggy from the old days, said she wanted to see Iggy and didn’t get the emailed update that came to ticketholders warning them if they wanted to catch a glimpse of King Pop, they had better arrive at 5:45 p.m. The email said Iggy and his team would be leaving for The GRAMMY Museum precisely at 7 “for a nomination.”

And yes, while deserving of a nomination, we’re not so sure that was entirely accurate.  We’re not aware The GRAMMY Museum gives out nominations for anything.  Nonetheless, those who bought tickets to the gallery showing were bummed when Iggy and crew were not there.  It’s free admission to Mr. Musichead on any normal day.

Wayne Kramer talks Super Group - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer talks Super Group – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

A major positive: At Mr. Musichead, we got to have a good heart-to-heart with Wayne Kramer, founder of MC5 and that made the event well worthwhile.  MC5 was the “big brother” band to The Stooges back in the 1960s Detroit.  Wayne is a gem, who spoke to us at length about his charity work.

He’s truly got a big heart and he’s a remarkably humble guy, especially since Wayne and MC5 are arguably the true creators of that Detroit punk sound, as “Kick Out The Jams,” is still the battlecry of every garage rock punk rocker wannabe, or never was, and even a dead music superstar or two.

Iggy and his crew piled into their black SUVs and jammed on out of the gallery. It’s probably not Iggy’s fault he was over boooked and that he and his crew tried to grab as much gusto from the Post Pop Depression tour push and the merch and monetizing opportunities. After all, Iggy came right out and said this would most likely be his last tour ever and possibly last album as well.

Iggy’s not an easy one to get along with, say his pals.  He’s a perfectionist and a little hard-headed — possibly even a – gasp – Republican.  Except for the Republican part, his idiosyncracies all probably come as a result of many years of leaping off the stage and sometimes not getting caught.  He innovated an entire niche of rock music in the 1970s that those hippies and others just didn’t understand. And it took a gargantuan effort to get where he is today.

We’re talking about a guy whose first claim to fame was walking on the audience like Jesus walked on the water, and smearing himself with peanut butter.  Even his bandmates, Ron and Scott Asheton and Dave Alexander, didn’t see the peanut butter coming.

Iggy Pop - walking on the crowds, use of peanut butter among memorable practices

Iggy Pop walking on the crowds and innovative use of peanut butter among memorable practices – Photo courtesy Midsummer Rock TV

Iggy Pop, Gadget User

Iggy has come a long way from recording vacuum cleaners and blenders for that authentic sound of Detroit, from whence he hails.  And The Greek Theatre is just about as far away as any performer could get from Detroit, on many levels.

You hear stories of rock stars and celebs donating money secretly to charities in their home towns, only to find out their benevolence upon their death.

Something tells us this will likely not be the case for Iggy, but he has definitely left an undeniable legacy of music.

“Iggy Pop feels underappreciated,” said one longtime acquaintance. “People are coming to his shows now and that’s wonderful. But even when ‘The Passenger’ had a modicum of success on the radio, Iggy couldn’t grow the fan base.  Maybe it was the marketing or something.  I never thought the Halloween-style drip-letter posters at The Ritz that said ‘Come see the Bizarre Iggy Pop’ were going to draw them in.  Especially when The Clash were playing up the street. It’s like even though Iggy’s one of the best performers in the world — and he was back then too of course — he couldn’t reach the audience that today has come to appreciate him the most — and that’s those people who are in their 50s now.”

Iggy Pop at last Stooges gig - Photo © Heather Harris

Iggy Pop at last Stooges gig – Photo © Heather Harris

Commercial Appeal

But Iggy Pop is certainly making up for lost time.

In the last 10 years, Iggy has done more to promote himself to the mainstream than he did collectively over the course of his life.

He’s headlined a record number of music festivals. He’s a perfume model.

He was a pitch guy for a British insurance company teaming with a puppet that bears his name — a gig that brought him a hefty dose of ridicule but lots of money. Iggy’s done voiceovers on kids cartoons and he even made then-judge Jennifer Lopez gaze admiringly when he performed on “American Idol.”

Then there’s the music. The classic “Search and Destroy,” the anthem of every punker that ever lived, written by Iggy with longtime collaborator James Williamson has been featured in several movies including “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” several TV shows including “Lost,” and “Dexter,” video games like “Guitar Hero,” and “Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland,” as well as the the new ad campaign for the Audi A4.

Iggy has some hi-falootin’ famous friends, and hangs around with Henry, Johnny and Jim. Kings and queens. He even sat down for a meal with Tony Bourdain, who now uses “The Passenger” as the theme to his CNN show “Parts Unknown.”

Iggy and Tony - Courtesy Tony Bourdain

Iggy and Tony – Courtesy Anthony Bourdain

 

Iggy Pop and His People

Iggy said one of the reasons he likes to team with young people is because it keeps him fresh but he also said that when he partners with people like Kesha or Best Coast, he also gets a bit of free recording time also.  But the Post Pop Depression album is by all accounts a self-funded project produced by the likeable desert rat Homme, who cuts a striking if not gigantic appearance, particularly when holding hands with the 5-foot-something-inch Iggy.

Mr. Humble, Mike Watt - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mr. Humble, Mike Watt – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Iggy apparently doesn’t discard his friends for no good reason, as at The Greek we ran into several old pals of his whom he’d invited to attend.

Mike Watt said he was honored to appear at The Greek, “Iggy asked me to come,” Watt said.

One of the guys who have been there the whole time, Watt is a humble sort who simply loves the music. And he misses The Stooges. “I loved that band,” Watt said emotionally.

Meanwhile, Iggy’s new band is sharp, young and extremely cool, looking dapper in lounge jackets and dancing around him on stage. Successful musicians in their own right, the guys clearly enjoy reciprocal benefit of touring with the veteran Iggy.

Tossing the Mic

On stage at The Greek, Iggy still showed with great bravado the shades of the anger issues that got him here in the first place. With his advanced age, they come across as funny and cute today compared to the days when he really was an angry young man with issues and wild performance antics.

Iggy mic stand pulverizer - Donna Balancia California Rocker

Anger issues; Iggy beats up on the mic stand at the Greek – Photo 2016 Donna Balancia

During the triumphant performance at The Greek last Thursday — a show that was completely entertaining and gave hints of what it must have been like to see him at The Ritz in the old days — he dropped F-bombs, shoved his hand down his pants, jumped into the crowd and beat up a microphone stand.  Then a song or two later, he went and brought it back and cursed at it.  When he stood it upright, it was bent in the middle and that got a laugh from the adoring crowds.

And maybe through his fits of celebrity, Iggy feels vindicated for all those years of starving, sleeping on other peoples floors and living a hard life — the most difficult life: That of an artist who won’t compromise his work.  On to Europe and a hearty Bravo to our own truly and uniquely American musician, and nevermore to be known as “The World’s Forgotten Boy.”

 

MC5 Founder Wayne Kramer, Stooges’ Mike Watt, Headline Jam Session at Whisky A Go-Go

New Music Brings Fans to The Sunset Strip

Sean McNabb and Joe Retta perform at jam session at Whisky - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Sean McNabb and Joe Retta perform at jam session at Whisky – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Wayne Kramer and Mike Watt are among rockers who gave the Sunset Strip a shot in the arm at the Whisky A Go-Go Tuesday night.

A weekly jam session has been welcomed on the strip, where the weekly night of all-star jamming got a new home and new night, relocating two weeks ago from its previous location at Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood.

“This is the Whisky A Go Go, where (the jam session) belongs!”  cried emcee Paulie Z, who along with the rest of the “regulars,” perform a high-energy show to tear the house down, week in and week out.

“This is one of the most fun nights of the week,” said Jesse, who drove down from Ventura to see some of the most talented side men in the business.  And a few women contributed to the success of the night as well including Debby Holiday who has become a fixture in the festivities.  Holiday knows how to bring the house to its collective knees and she did not disappoint Tuesday.

Punks at the Whisky: Wayne Kramer and Mike Watt  - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Punks at the Whisky: Wayne Kramer and Mike Watt – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The new room is a perfect fit for the event, which draws and over-21 crowd that appreciates current as well as classic rock.

Ralph Saenz, known for his wild glamrock sendup as lead singer in the big-haired, babe-bustin’ musical comedy troupe Steel Panther was on hand to sing Van Halen as a burlesque artist did her thing.

“I used to be in a Van Halen tribute band,” Saenz admitted.  Honestly the guy can do anything and make it all funny.

Paulie Z and the house band; The Disreputable Few; Joe Retta; Micki Free; Alex Kane; Mitch Perry; Chuck Wright; Joey Malone and a host of all-stars move on and off stage during the four-hour evening.  It’s a free night but even if they charged, it would be well worth a ticket to see this kind of talent. One moment to note: Paulie Z. asked for a moment of silence for the recent passing of Rainbow chef Miguel Murillo.

Joey Malone, Chuck Wright, Matt Starr, Walter Ino, Debby Holiday and Mitch Perry - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Joey Malone, Chuck Wright, Matt Starr, Walter Ino, Debby Holiday and Mitch Perry – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“It’s great to see these guys jamming and the fans digging the music,” said Little Caesar frontman Ron Young in an upcoming interview with CaliforniaRocker.com . “It’s a cool jam night and it’s great to see the Sunset Strip get people jammin’ again.”

But the first set belonged to special guests Watt and Kramer who in the late 1970s set the tone for punkers yet to come.  Kramer is a founder Detroit innovators MC5 and Watt was with The Stooges.

Vionlinist trio, known as V3, were featured on Love Reign O'er Me and I Am The Walrus - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Vionlinist trio, known as V3, were featured on Love Reign O’er Me and I Am The Walrus – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

With their frontman, Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing, the trio put on a rave-worthy performance of “TV Eye,” “Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating,” and the raucous “Kick Out The Jams.”

“All these super musicians get together and have fun,” said Loren Molinare of The DoGs of Detroit, who doubles as a rep for Blackstar Amplification, a show sponsor.  “This is a great addition to the Sunset Strip, the audience and music fans really want this.”

 

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