Monday, August 29, 2005

stuck in the middle with you

went down to the sunset junction, to get my fair share of abuse ... .

didn't get any abuse -- unless you count the relentless blaze of the sun, even at 4:30 on sunday afternoon -- but caught the weirdos punkin' the bates stage at 5. leader john denney is a friend of mine, but that has not influenced my opinion that they were awesome! john was fully committed, man, flinging himself about the stage like a man half his age, despite skin-melting heat. they played "we got the neutron bomb" and "shining silver light" and a ramones tune, and all kinds of rad stuff. i think i enjoyed it the most, even though seeing the new york dolls a little later that night was pretty fucking cool.

we wandered around the fair's many blocks of wildly splendored humanity, checked out the retail madness -- every sort of silver trinket, attachable to every body part you could think of; all kinds of colorful clothing; a wide array of musical recordings; temporary tattoos and other body adornments; tchotchkes of many ethnic origins; etc. etc. etc. -- and considered our options for food. finally settled on a $5 torta (each for 00soul and our pals TG and C) and a $3 pupusa (for moi). ohhhh, man, was it good! i wanted a tamale from another stand, but i was too full by the time we were done. bummer. the beer cost twice as much as dinner, but for once i was happy to drink a couple of brews ... something i never do. must've been the heat.

back at the bates stage, the crowd thickened for a set by the eagles of death metal, one of seemingly thousands of side projects to come out of queens of the stone age. leader josh homme and his pals affect a '70s-era "rawk" band persona, which was fairly well executed but became painfully one-note, mainly due to the mustachio'd-and-aviator-shaded homme's limited jokey stage patter: "this one's for the ladies ... we love all the ladies here ... we love all the ladies in los angeles!" -- along with repeated proclamations that various stuff/people rock(s) so hard, and such. it reminded me a little of tenacious d, except the tunes were better. (though they were best when doing covers, like the stealers wheel song that's providing the title of this entry.) and then JACK BLACK hisself came out of the wings to celebrate his birthday (and it really was his b-day) by singing some wacky tune. i thought it was a tenacious d number, but not sure: something about loving the devil and this song?

so then the suicide girls came out and did their lowbrow, high-concept hoochie-coochie thing. my favorite was the one who did a heavy-metal-stripper-chick routine to AC/DC's "you shook me all night long." she wore electrical-tape x's on her tits, shook up beer bottles and sprayed/poured beer all over herself and the audience, and, most incredibly, STAGE-DIVED WHILE NEARLY NAKED!!!! now, that took serious ovaries, man. my least favorite routine was the duo who playfully reenacted the torture scene from reservoir dogs, to the aforementioned "stuck in the middle with you." i guess i'm just not bent the right way, but i don't find pretend pistol-whipping, mutilation, and immolation to be particularly sexy. but, hey, whatever turns you on.

the SGs always give me a slightly weird vibe. they are adorable enough, sure, and i know their "amateur" approach is part of their charm, but many of them don't dance all that well, and their routines are often curiously un-erotic. much has been made in the last few years of the "art" of the striptease, and events like the velvet hammer shows seem to emphasize that element. whereas the SGs can sometimes have an almost desperate feel ... to me, the artful striptease has a bit of a private element to it, something just out of reach of the gradual exposure of flesh, something secret that's going on in the woman's mind, even just something as simple-yet-impenetrable as, what is she thinking about? there is a sense with such a performer that she is taking pleasure in her own routine. whereas the SGs seem so much more outward-reaching (hence, my perception of desperation, i suppose), like they can't enjoy themselves unless they have approval from the audience.

in any event, they made an appropriate opening act for the new york dolls. between their set and the dolls', the sound system played girl groups and opera and country-blues -- singer david johansen's doing, theorized 00soul. it certainly seemed like it. this soundtrack also served to keep the crowd in a mellow mood. the street was packed, and tons of people pushed past us to get closer to the front, but there were very few bad vibes ... although an LAPD helicopter circled around the general area a couple of times.

the dolls were pretty great. johansen and guitarist sylvain sylvain were very funny, telling outrageous lies in between songs -- "memphis minnie wrote this song for us..." ("in my girlish days," great choice); "david wrote this song..." ("pills," actually a bo diddley tune); and (my favorite) "of all the bands that have been influenced by us, the one that really got it right was ... big brother and the holding company!" (just before launching into a sing-along of "another piece of my heart"). they even did a new tune, along with totally killer versions of "who are the mystery girls?," "trash," and "personality crisis." oh, and a shangri-la's tune, "out in the streets," i think, complete with sylvain making motorcycle noises in the background.

they finished up just before 10, and we ambled off to hike the mile or so back to the car. we were just at the edge of the little midway of cheesy carnival rides when there was some more PA noise, and the dolls came back to do "human being." TG fetched us all some bottled water from a nearby vendor, and we stood where we were and just listened. while standing there, we heard a whistling pop come from down below sunset -- it bridges over some small street, not sure what, maybe manzanita? -- and a single strand of orange firework arced through the starry night sky. it sailed into the air and explosively blossomed in a huge red, blue, yellow burst. the ashes rained down on us as the colorful little fires flamed out earthward. the cops to our left looked around dutifully but stayed where they were. we shrugged and laughed and continued on our way.

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