- November 2014 -

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Another Fein Mess
AF Stone’s Monthly
November 2014

‘Round Town

10-5
Just can’t get enough of the Skip Heller Experience. Went with sweetie Diane to Farmers Market on Fairfax, 8:30 show when the stores are closing down. Late in the set, the Roswell Sisters joined in.



10-14 Went to a friend’s house to see a screening of “Ferry Cross the Mersey” with ten other people. I yearned for the film’s end after the first 10 minutes, but the shared suffering created a foxhole-like closeness with my fellow viewers.

10-15
Went with Diane to the 9 pm Jeff Goldblum show at Rockwell restaurant on Vermont Avenue. About 200 people - most in their 20s - watched him roam through the audience asking questions, many of them true/false about himself. The impromptuness and camaraderie felt not unlike the last day of summer camp. He sang with his jazz quartet - his sax player is from Fritz & The Tantrums - and played piano. If you like Goldblum, you’d like this, though it’s probably best if you’re over 30: several of the “quiz” questions seemed designed to reveal a young patron’s ignorance. For $25 - twenty bucks for ‘restricted viewing,’ i.e. behind a pole - and no pressure to buy drinks or dinner, it was, as Diane said, an OK one-time bizarre experience.



10-16 Diane and I took the subway out to South Pasadena to see a 7 pm performance by PF Sloan, part of the South Pas Public Library’s music and culture series. Phillip is a singer and storyteller both fabulous and fabulistic. Toward the end he was joined by onetime Grass Roots singer and ‘The Office’ actor Creed Bratton who sang four songs or the same song four times, all I know is I’ll never get that 20 minutes back. Then they were joined by another Grass Roots 1 founder Warren Etner who croaked along good-humoredly, not having sung in 40 years. It was grand vibes all around. Also on hand were Steve Kalinich, Donna Loren, David of the South Bay Surfers, Carlos Guitarlos, Eric Boardman, the Andrew Sandovals and a lot of other people I see often or wish to.

1 Sloan wrote several Grass Roots hits, and sang lead on their first one, “Where Were You When I Needed You.”



Sloan (right) and the Rooters

10-23 Moseyed out to Joe’s in Burbank to see Rip Masters and got double my money’s worth, with Ray Campi sitting in on a couple of songs. Cheaper than going to europe where Ray and Rip so often play.



10-27 Why does everything happen at once? Saw Skip Heller at Bob’s Espresso at 7 then dashed over to Viva Cantina to see Jimmy Angel and Troy Walker, only to have missed Jimmy’s set. No matter, I can see him every other weekend at the Smoke House in Burbank, and it looks like big things are afoot after his recent stint opening shows for Sha Na Na.

10-29 Did not go to see Barry Goldberg perform. A Chicago boy named Goldberg - what’s not to like? But my few memories of The Mint involve standing, uncomfortably craning to see the floor level ‘stage.’ I’ll see him next time.

10-30 I “owed” Madame Pamita a visit to her weekly Thurs night rockabilly show at Viva. It had been months; I just get lazy. The street was lined with custom cars, the place packed with people born in the ‘90s dressed like the ‘50s, many in Halloween gear, plenty of them Chicano, rockin’ to the rhythm of Three Bad Jacks. I wish everyone could experience the surge of joy I felt.

Madame Pamita

In red, Elvis - his real name - of Three Bad Jacks

Music

When I was 13, my friend’s older brother told me that a kid in his class made a hit record. “Look,” said Zeke, pointing to a name under a picture in his high school yearbook. “Jerry Keller. He’s the guy that made ‘Here Comes Summer.’“ For several years I was suspended between belief and disbelief. (Zeke lied) ... I have most Dickie Goodman break-in songs on CD. But the ‘70s ones suffer not only from my scant familiarity with the music sources but also the elaborate production of records from then onward. 2-word “grabs” were incomprehensible in the sound glut ... In “Unfaithful Servant” by The Band, Danko sings “take it like a grain of salt.” Was that a Dylan lyric, or a mistake. Should be “with” ... Docu says “When it was revealed that the Monkees didn’t play on their records there was outrage.” Where exactly was that ruckus? In Hit Parader? On the nightly news? There was no Rolling Stone, FM rock was just starting. Who thought they were different than the Archies? Good productions with singers. There was no rock press ... Why does every issue of old music get remastered? Is it rote? Each remastering seems to be a slap in the face to the previous remasterer ... When I started my tv show in the mid-1980s, ‘50s music acts could be found. To get anyone from the 1940s was iffy, those people were old. The ‘30s? Not a chance. Now the ‘30s equivalent is the 1960s ... A 2000 bio of Groucho Marx points out that because of Elvis’s death August 15, 1977, Groucho’s death three days later was hardly noticed. Like John Lennon and Darby Crash ... Who’s foolin’ who? I quickly recognized the melody of the Skatalites instrumental “Christine Keeler” as the basis for “Comin’ Home Baby” by Mel Torme. Which came first, the reggaeist or the Fog guy? ... Hope you like the Lost Bayou Ramblers (Live) song. Someone just alerted me to them. Love Cajun, and this hard-rock edge - it's Bandish.

“Elvis Day By Day”

I respect the learned - and I mean that - assemblers of the 2007 book “Elvis: Day by Day.” But recently I referred to it (not "referenced!") to check on his whereabouts in 1969 and realized that it is far from a record of Elvis’s days.

I was envious when I heard that Guralnick and Jorgensen had access to a train-car worth of Col Parker’s documents and private photos. Man, I’d like to play in that pile. Peter had written three stellar Elvis bios, and this seemed to promise to fill in the holes from that set. But what emerged was not what Elvis did day-by-day, but what he did some days, and many of them were spent shopping.

“Elvis buys three guns in LA” took a minute, maybe fifteen, one day, but is the only entry for that date. “The Colonel bills RCA for decorations” is not a landmark moment I will carry til I die. These emerged from a study of receipts.

“Elvis: Many Days, Many Bills” might have been the better title.

Columbo

For my convenience, I wrote the star’s name on each dvd box from the first five seasons of Columbo. The only ID they furnished on the first season was the episode titles, like ‘Death Lends a Hand.’ Which goddam one was that? Later episodes contained actor information.

But looking at an online list, I discovered a disturbing trend. I wanted to find the one with Donald Pleasance as the foppy winery owner who kills his brother. I found the promising title “Any Old Port In A Storm” in the third season and recognized the plot, but not the ‘stars’ -- George Gaynes and Dana Elcar.

Who are these people? Did they go on to fame? It omitted Donald Pleasance outright. Do they think current Columbo buyers were born yesterday?

Well, for the most part, yes. The consumer today, browsing the package, needs to see younger names, not Leslie Nielsen or Jack Cassidy. In A Pig’s Eye. (Not an actual episode title.)

TV

When Time-Warner reassembled its station list to add no stations I want, they moved low numbered Turner Classics to 631. A drag - though I don’t actually turn a dial 631 times. 632 is another movie channel and then 633 is porn, so when you look at the station program list it’s 1/film, 2/film, 3/“Masturbating Moms.” Very classy, from the hyphenate that disgraces both its names ... On election ads, some candidates speak their piece and then add, “I approve this message.” Say what? ... A couple of years ago youtube was a possible source of old footage. Today it’s near certain.

Business

A guy who manufactures one-size condoms says Trojan’s 34 styles confounds customers. Worse, the super-large Magnum size spreads disease and pregnancy. Guys feel pressure to buy them and they slip off ... I’m sorry, but when I buy my own ticket online, why am I charged a service fee? I provide the service. I should get a fee ... Greeting card sales are down. Crazy. Does anyone actually feel loved or honored by an online greeting card?... When I returned my rental car to Enterprise they handed the keys to a waiting man. He looked apprehensively at me, as he should. Did I just get out of the gym and smell up the car? Are there half-eaten tacos under the seat? No class ...

Cars

I parked the rented mini-van next to a 1934 Dodge 2 at the restaurant and had an epiphany. ‘Vans’ are just cars true to the original design - tall spacious seating for front and rear passengers, like before cars sank to knee level.

2 The Dodge Brothers logo was a 6-pointed star. The ‘34 Dodge’s owner told us that they were Jewish and used that design to piss off Henry Ford. In fact the weren’t Jewish, and the best explanation of the logo was that its two deltas were two D’s for the two Dodge brothers.

Bring back maps!

Driving to a bldg in western West Hollywood (Beverly Hills-adjacent, if you’re a realtor), I zigzagged down a couple side streets to avoid the vexing tangle of one-ways bordering angular San Vicente Blvd.

Going south on a residential street abutted by stoplights on the penultimate leg of my journey, I was surprised to be squeezing my way through traffic coming and going on this technically but barely four-lane street. I didn’t remember it being so busy.

Then I got it, shamefacedly: we all used Google mapping.

A friend has a hillside home on a 1.5-lane road in the hills above Beachwood Drive. Below in the flats, Beachwood consists of apartments, and a tiny business district. He says traffic has become unbearable because Beachwood can lead to the Hollywood sign.

“It is now a tourist destination like Universal or the Hollywood Bowl. Five years ago it was barely visited because it was so hard to find. Now with Google ... we’re trying to get the hills gated.”

You don’t get TO the Hollywood sign, it’s off limits. You can get only to a view point. Or so I’m told.

Words

Say goodbye to the verbs fix, oblige, orient.
It’s fixate, obligate and orientate.
The more syllables, the smarter you are!

These are the Times of L.A.

10-4 A guy’s “alleged affairs” - thus far, wholly hot air - ARE being examined, implying they exist, in connection to his murder by his wife. If found, it’s good news for wives - he sees another woman, bang bang. And, all things equal, good for husbands who want to shoot their cheatin’ spouses 3...10-5 Like we aren’t insulted enough from the east, a front-page LATimes hed gushes “L.A. commercial properties appeal to N.Y. investors.” Oh, please come here ...

10-17 Dylan Hernandez, Sports: “There is widespread speculation” that something will happen. Not news, reporter jibber jabber ... 10- 22 Mikael Wood: “The a cappella group Pentatonix is built on the unaccompanied interplay of its five members’ voices.” I see.

10-27 - Randall Roberts' review of a recent Bob Dylan concert was written with equanimity, bemoaning Dylan’s razor-gargling singing and erratic performance while Roberts helplessly confesses his enduring devotion to his idol. His "mixed-up confusion" is heartfelt.

3 The woman who shot her husband in an argument was described in LA Times headlines as “widow.”
Imagine a man who killed his wife getting the “widower” tag.

New Yawk, New YAWK times

Catching up.

I have not seen $$$-groveler Carol Vogel’s tales of the swells who sling dough lately. Is there a depression in the art-investment world?

5-26 Jim Rutenberg, Sunday Styles, opens that “The most coveted summer property in the Hamptons is not” real estate. “It consists of tables No. 20 to 27 in the front room of Nick & Toni’s at 136 Main Street.” Please go on. Even “Front-room regular Martha Stewart” knows she must kowtow to the room’s rules. From this distant coast, it’s hard to believe that that newspaper prints such drivel without mockery.

6-13 The woman who in 2011 was made executive editor of the NYTimes was fired. “Some published accounts speculated whether gender played a role.” Published speculation is no weightier than oral. The firee must have an ironclad record of shortcomings to be let go in today’s pro-fem media atmosphere, but Ravi Somaiya might have been blackballed if he didn’t mention sexism.

8-6 Emily Steel, on Big Bang Theory’s big salaries, quotes “people with knowledge of the outcome, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations were private,” then asserts - I jest - that delayed production “may” resume “as soon as” a time, “depending” on some things, “one person said.” Why not apologize for that argybargy, too?

8-14 Jennifer Medina, regarding a California shooting, quotes an LA police rep who said “he knew that the man had some kind of arrest record” but “it was unclear what the arrests had been for or whether the police had any evidence of mental illness.” “It” was not unclear:, the facts were not available to her. Shouldn’t she hold the story til she gets them? Their absence doesn’t merit news space.

9-14. Style magazine cover. Angelina Jolie’s “Hot New Crush,” a tattooed guitar-slinging goatee-wearer in a strap undershirt. The hed, “Rebel,” was superfluous: you could tell by his uniform.

10-5 Katharine Q. Seelye describing a tempest in Boston over Edgar Allan Poe’s legacy, writes that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s snippy “jingle man” ridicule of Poe relegates the 19th-century author to someone today “writing television ads for toothpaste.” Kinda cute.

10-7 hed exclaims “Scenes of exultation” when gays marry. Calm down. It is not profound, just a societal arrangement benefiting the persons concerned.

10-11 Choe Sang-Hun reveals that a ‘hint’ by the North Korean govt lends “support to one of the many theories swirling among analysts, the media and others who closely watch” NoKo. That newswriters waste hours conjecturing ain’t news at all.

LAT Generalities

All LATimes death stories open with weeping details. “She stared at the photo of her daughter, taken just days ago.” I am not hard-hearted, but these maudlin easy-shots are not news. Laughter or indifference is news: man bites dog.
Worst-ever death sendoff was the 10-30 California-section hed “Slain officer had winning smile.”

The May smear campaign based on Donald Stirling’s private conversation with a blackmailer was gutter journalism. Giant front-page-hogging quotes and derision vomited for weeks. The Times snatched ignominy from News Of The World.

There are sections called Local Briefings and National Briefings. Both consist of short reports of murders, rapes and mayhem. Too bad about that fire in Arkansas, but why is it in our local-news starved paper?

Old News

Around the first of the year the LATimes reported that “L.A. helicopter noise” was being debated. Gee, thanks. In the 1980s I wrote and called the police department nightly about the unmuffled chopper engines over my head. Wrote to this newspaper and the city but nobody responded.

Nobody polices the air. A realtor could, and did, squat over my house for an hour dumping grinding toxic sound while talking with a client. Gee, don’t those noisy machines run on spark plugs and stuff? One crashed in a parking lot and its pilot was commended posthumously for avoiding the adjacent school. Oh, really? What right did that fucker had to fly NEAR a school - or anyplace humans gather?

You and I have mufflers on our cars. The unmuffled sounds would cause civic stress. So why are these unmuffled noise-bangers given a pass? Mufflers are available, but they don’t bother. Why, when you’re king of the sky?

I’m still in the same ‘hood and the sound has lessened significantly. But nothing should be suspended in the air over a crowded city.

Here's a "protest" show from 1995

Baseball

I ate a lot of watermelon this summer. Had my fill as the season wore on. I wonder if I’ll get back into it next June.

Similarly I got worn out watching the Dodgers all season.
I may have had my fill.

Baseball is in trouble for its slothlike pace. A low-hit one-run game being celebrated as a pitcher’s duel doesn’t cut it. It isn’t non-stop action, it’s much-stop inaction.

How about rotation baseball. Every inning every player shifts one position. The catcher goes to left field, to work his way forward. The pitcher catches. The first baseman pitches. All players could train for all positions. So some catchers won’t pitch great, but every nine batters you get an actual pitcher. There would be many runs and many errors. The best team will be the most well-rounded. It’d be hellzapoppin’.

History

A WWII docu states that Wake Island, way west of Hawaii, “became part of the U.S. after the Spanish American War.”

This reminds me of John Cleese’s tribute in “Meaning of Life” (?) to soldiers who died “for the cause of keeping China British”.

Yeah, well

The Ralphs (no apostrophe, family name) grocery chain is an LA major. In the 1960s and 1970s the one on Sunset west of La Brea was open 24 hours and became an oasis for after-club goers, acquiring the tag “the rock & roll Ralphs.”

It’s not that so much anymore, but recently the chain decided to hold a ceremony October 25 to officially put that name on a huge banner over the entrance.

I asked a manager how they marked the event, thinking they might have found Rodney Bingenheimer or did a phoner with Kim Fowley.

“We had an Elvis imitator” he said.



Rockin’.

- 57 -

Mark On The Move by Mark Leviton
 
During the October 24-26 weekend I was at the 4th annual Hangtown Halloween Ball, a music festival organized and headlined by the "alt-jam-bluegrass" band Railroad Earth. 

I thought "Hangtown" was just a name for a cool place to "hang out," but I was wrong.  The 1848 discovery of gold in Coloma started the California Gold Rush, and lots of little towns sprang up, including one provisionally called Dry Diggin's (for a method of using soil to separate gold). 

By 1849 the burg was widely known as Hangtown due to the high amount of executions that took place there. (For an amusing view of how "wild" the Wild West could be, see Mark Twain's "Roughing It").  The local temperance society and civil leaders argued for a more family-friendly name, and The City of Placerville was chosen and incorporated in 1854.  But the spirits of those who found doom at the end of a rope still haunt the area!
 
The festival took place at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, cozier and smaller than the High Sierra, Kate Wolf or Strawberry Music festivals, with two daytime stages and about half the attendance. 

Arriving at 8 a.m. on Friday, I had no trouble finding a campsite just within the gates, and had my stuff hauled in and set up in a jiffy, in time to see the first band, Sierra Drifters from South Lake Tahoe, at 10:30a.m.
 
For early Halloween, the event encourages dress-up, and I saw plenty of zombies, bug-eyed aliens and cowboys with nooses around their necks, along with those dressed as a pineapple, carrot, deviled egg, Pac-Man, dragon, Harry Potter, nurse, princess, rabbit. . .all incessantly captured on cellphones of course.  Lots of alcohol and drugs were in play, with the inevitable result of people wandering around lost, tripping over the chairs we oldsters were using, yelling incomprehensibly outside their tents at 3 a.m., and inexplicably introducing themselves to sober, costumeless people like me. 

I was there solely for the music, and at times did have trouble focusing on the stage with 24/7 partying swirling around. . .but hey, I was young and stupid once.  I think. 

But really, do stilt-walkers dressed as hookers have to walk through the crowd at every festival nowadays?
 
One of the best things about such multi-day festivals is the mixing of musicians from different bands for one-off collaborations.  Railroad Earth's Tim Carbone (singing, violin, guitar) showed up the most, and never failed to blend in and spice up whoever he joined.  Joe Craven (singing, violin, drums, banjo and whatever else isn't nailed down) came in a close second.  Danny Barnes (ex-Bad Livers) and Jeff Austin (ex-Yonder Mountain String Band) were also called upon several times during the weekend, and never failed to deliver, even on tunes they'd never heard before.
 
Highlights
 
* ALO changing the words to "Ziggy Stardust" to honor New Orleans drummer Joseph "Ziggy" Modeliste, who was slated to hit the stage a couple hours later.
 
* Modeliste, Leo Nocentelli, George Porter Jr. and guest keyboardist Robert Walter (performing as The Meter Men) locked into telekinetic grooves for nearly two hours, including a supremely funky "Cissy Strut."
 
* Achilles Wheel jamming with local hero Joe Craven on the beautiful instrumental "Stones to Sand."

* Leftover Salmon integrating Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne into their weird bluegrass, mixing in several Little Feat tunes, including Lowell George's "Fat Man In the Bathtub."
 
* New-to-me San Francisco group Front Country smokin' on their arrangements of the Bob Dylan 1962 rarity "Long Ago, Far Away" and Utah Phillips' "Rock Salt & Nails."
 
* Railroad Earth's three solid 2-hour sets, most especially Friday night's, during which they invited many guests onstage (including Dan Lebowitz from ALO on pedal steel, Joe Craven on fiddle and Allie Kral singing and fiddling).  They performed spectacular, lengthened, jammed-out versions of some of their best material, including "Long Way to Go," "Mission Man and "Just So You Know," and really showed how they have elevated bluegrass roots to another level.  In a concluding run of songs in tribute to musicians who passed away this year, they did a beautiful version of Jesse Winchester's "Yankee Lady" with Zach Gill (ALO) as guest vocalist.  On Saturday night they specifically invoked the local Hangtown ghosts, finishing the set with the imaginative "Hangtown Ball" from their most recent album "Last Of the Outlaws."
 
Lowlights:
 
Too many groups playing standard bluegrass with weak songs.  I'm quickly bored by the predictable succession of solos from mandolin to banjo to guitar to fiddle, in the manner of "classic" Bill Monroe-era line-ups. Harumph!
 
When it rained on Saturday, my tent leaked.

- Mark Leviton
 
(Mark’s sixties-themed radio show Pet Sounds can be heard alternate Wednesdays 10pm-Midnight PST on KVMR-FM 89.5 in the Sacramento area and streaming at www.kvmr.org .  You can access his latest podcast and playlists at www.petsoundsmusic.com)

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