from: The Los Angeles Times


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 up.

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.

Alice Armendariz, 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 Dylan.

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.

—Richard Cromelin

[Joe sez: That "trio" Last that performed was me, Luke & brother David]