REUNITES PUNKERS FOR (MOSTLY) ACOUSTIC SETS
If you ask a bunch
of punk-rockers even punk-rockers 15 years beyond their sneering
prime to tone things down for an acoustic show, you just
know that somewhere along the way one of them is going to mess it
Sure enough, Sunday
afternoon's "The Masque Unplugged" concert, a class reunion
of L.A.'s storied punk-rock bands of the late '70's, erupted with
a spasm of the old anarchy when the Skulls disregarded the acoustic
edict and let fly with some fuzz-guitar punk. The energy jumped
a notch higher when they replaced their faulty drum machine with
a drummer from the audience and charged through their old "Victim"
and the Randoms' "Let's Get Rid of New York."
If the rest of the
four hour-plus event was sedate by comparison, well, that was just
another incongruous element in a day marked by incongruities: once-wild
performers strumming acoustic guitars, formerly disenchanted youth
turning out to support a political office seeker (the sold-out event
raised more than $3000 for City Council candidate Jackie Goldberg).
And the site, the
old Silver Lake area flamenco restaurant El Cid, was a long way
in ambience from Hollywood's subterranean Masque, the cradle of
L.A.'s original punk-rock movement. That scene generated many great
bands, some big stars and many a minor legend who exerted influence
and then faded from sight.
Some of the biggest
names, such as X and members of the Go Go's, were unable to appear
Sunday because of prior commitments, according to organizer Nicole
Panter of the Bohemian Women's Political Alliance, but this audience
wasn't on a star search. Someone quipped that it was like "a
high school reunion of all the really bad kids," but the constant
hugs and shrieks of recognition seemed truly sweet. These punks
were a micro-generation earlier than the rougher, rawer Black Flag
brigade, and their anger and alienation were informed by humor,
self-awareness and irony. On Sunday, they seemed downright sentimental.
More than a dozen
acts played short sets in the briskly moving program. Not surprisingly,
the ones that fared best musically were the ones that are still
working bands. The Last's folk-rock-cum-garage-rock style translated
especially well to the acoustic format, and, like many of the performers,
the trio combined the nostalgic with the current by following an
old punk anthem with a new tune, this one about the Gulf War.
who was known as Alice Bag when she fronted the Bags, is a member
of the popular Latin female trio Las Tres, and she offered a folk-jazz-cabaret
treatment of X Ray Spex's punk-rock classic "Oh Bondage Up
Yours!" Many of the performers demonstrated that when you play
punk acousticaly, you get something that sounds a bit like early
The Screamers, the
Alleycats' Randy Stodola, the Skulls, the Zeros, the Flesh Eaters,
Peter Case, Geza X it was like a comprehensive compilation
album come to life, and, while the musical quality itself varied
wildly, the point of the day was larger than that. Artists who questioned
the future so potently 15 years ago discovered that it does exist
and that their community endures.
That "trio" Last that performed was me, Luke & brother