Tuesday, September 20, 2011

X Hits The Spot

Time to blog. But I have no idea about what. Do I bore "you" with medical updates about my back surgery? (walking with cane, can do about 3-4 hours normal routine then I am flat on my couch in pain). Do I continue my theme of To Love or Not To Love? (at this juncture I feel like I fell in love and no one else will come close to Mr.Heartbreak so I am no longer looking for someone to fill that missing...whatever. I am done. If God has a plan, I am just gonna let it happen and if it does it does, if not...then...whatever. I am too tired to fall in love anymore. *cynical laugh*.)

I think I would rather talk about music right now. Last Saturday I had the distinct pleasure to sit in a small, nifty men's clothing store in Orange, CA, called Moonlight Graham ( moonlightgraham.net ) to listen to some amazing live music. You might wonder that clothing stores and live gigs don't mix. It seems odd but it works. (They also sell vinyl albums, cds, DVDs etc., of mostly punk/rock...it's a small but powerful selection so worth the perusal. Not only did I replenish my cd collection with some TSOL and X discs, I also picked up a copy of Penelope Spheeris' movie "Suburbia." there. They have live concert footage DVDs as well. Oh, yes. This is SO much more than a clothing store. You owe it to yourself for a visit...and you don't even have to be a guy to do so.)

So...back to the story. I don't know the history, but somehow Exene Cervenka, co-lead singer of the Southern California punk band "X", has hooked into this retro store and has begun having regular gigs, called Exene's Hootenanny... once a month. Check out her Facebook page at Exenes-Moonlight-Hootenanny-at-Moonlight-Graham/224286210920135.

My first foray into this wonderfully intimate venue was to see Jack Grisham (TSOL frontman) do a reading from his book "An American Demon".  (http://www.facebook.com/yourfriendjack and  http://www.facebook.com/pages/An-American-Demon/177631685612892). It was there that I looked up and saw, standing not 10 feet from me, my music idol Exene, arms folded, listening intently. I sat still and composed but inside I was screaming in circles. I had know idea at first what I was participating in. I was about to find out.

From chitchat in the line waiting to meet Jack (by the way, read the book. But not at night. Not before bed. It is brilliant and unnerving and grim; an addictive, black fairytale for grown-ups that screams don't go outside and play) and sign my copy, I learned about these monthly gigs, especially glad to hear that Exene's gigs are very kid friendly. She has, in fact, announced that she does children's book readings there, and occasionally her Hootenanny is set up especially for little ones.

I bought tickets for the next month, which was a truly transformational evening of low-down bluesy acoustic rock with Zander Schloss (of Circle Jerks) and Sean Wheeler (the captain of Throw Rag). If you have ever seen Sean with Throw Rag, you'd understand my gratitude that Exene demands her gigs stay family-friendly since I had planned to take my kids to the gig which ended up NOT happening...but I digress as usual. I highly recommend their album "Walk Thee Invisible" which is raw, low-key and mind-blowing. I dare you not to fall under the spell of "Song About Songs" or want to sing in your car to "Retablo" or "So Low She Rose." Check them out on YouTube.com and iTunes and their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SeanWheelerandZanderSchloss.

Next hootenanny I attended was last week's magic: John Doe. I sat front row (there were only four rows of chairs, then standing room only amongst the shirts, jackets and other merchandise...) with opener Cindy Wasserman singing a couple duets with Exene, and occasional instrumental accompaniment with bandmate Patrick Dennis from Dead Rock West ( http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dead-Rock-West/8733817993).

Then came Mr. Doe, strummin' and pickin' his acoustic and electric gee-tars, stomping his cowboy-booted feet for emphasis. He sang songs of love, life and general societal quirks from his new album "Keeper" (from which I have gleaned a new favorite song, "Moonbeams"...that's going on my Love Touch Sex playlist...whew!) in a soulful, down-home way with his drawl that makes listening an almost sensual experience.

Exene and Cindy sang along in turns and I have to say, even as a fan of X who can't imagine John without Exene, Cindy was a natural match to Doe's lead. Where Exene blends with his voice in a higher, more ethereal way, Cindy brings her harmonizing a little closer to earth with her sultry voice.

The highlight of the evening, a few moments of utter awe in a night of being totally mesmerized, was when Exene got up and sang "See How We Are" with John. This song happens to be my favorite song from my favorite X album, by the same title. Having never seen X in their early hey-days, I was strongly moved by sitting mere feet away from these music legends - legends whose voices I have blared in my cars and headphones for 25 years. Yeah, if you were never into punk/alternative in the late 70s/early 80s you'd be asking "who??" (at which i shake my head in despair). But it's ok. Admittedly they aren't the legends that U2 or The Police or Prince became from those days but that is because they never drifted to mainstream pop. But in my smaller, more intimate world of punk rock, John and Exene are the reigning King and Queen of Southern California music. (ok, Jack....you are co-queen....)

Fortunately, X is touring now, and they are coming home to play locally at the end of the year. And with who else but Zander and Sean opening for them!! If you want to sit back and enjoy great music with a truly grass-roots all-American feel to it, book yourself a ticket at The Coach House for Wednesday, 14 December 2011. http://www.thecoachhouse.com/

Until then I will satisfy myself by attending Exene's Hootenanny next month and November. One of the things I love about these gigs is that Exene is so accessible, kind and just has fun. She - and Cindy for that matter - was so sweet to both my girls who WERE mutedly excited, but not fully understanding the magnitude of the evening...sitting at John Doe's feet while he played, or shaking Exene's hand, or telling Cindy they "like her singing," (the Cindy who was just on the stage a few days ago singing with Eddie Vedder).

No...they don't quite understand it, because John Doe and Exene are MY heroes. But, I am introducing my girls to these gigs and my music to show them a world beyond Disney Channel and Justin Bieber.

Well, this has been a review of a different kind. I'm no professional. But I do think it's time to write up on the albums I have mentioned...as well as Exene's latest solo "The Excitement of Maybe" and I'll have to get Dead Rock West (alas, MG was out of those discs when I stopped by this week).

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