Concert: Hootenanny in Silverado Canyon, CA
Way back in the '80s, kissin' cousins traditional country and rockabilly invited punk rock into bed for a threesome and cowpunk was born.
Influential bands such as The Gun Club, X and the Blasters were at the forefront of a brash new hybrid that sadly never gained much in the way of mainstream acceptance. Not that this mattered one bit to the rogue band of greasers, pin-up gals, homeboys, chicas, shitkickers, skins, rockabilly rebels and mohawked punks who ventured into the sweltering hinterlands of Orange County's Oak Creek Canyon on Saturday (7/2) for the musical hayride known as Hootenanny. Every summer since 1995, the slicked-back pompadours and piled-high bouffants make the trek in their pink Caddies and Buick Skylarks to witness the young and old break out the hollow-body guitars and sing tales of woe.
There was something for everyone at this summer's lineup, from the sweet Tex-Mex warblings of Rosie Flores to the drunken, comedic Oi-inspired musings of the Swingin' Utters. Big Sandy sang with a voice as sweet and spicy as roasted chipotles and Mojo Nixon sang about tying his pecker to his leg. Three Bad Jacks sang like the illegitimate sons of Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer. John Doe sang "It's the 4th of July" with a pensive melancholy that captured our national afflictions.
The Supersuckers delivered a crunching set proving that they are perhaps the greatest rock-and-roll band in the world you've never heard of.
Royal Crown Revue deserved meritorious service awards just for donning black suits in the blazing mid-afternoon sun. The band behind the swing revival of the mid '90s still kills it live. Frontman Eddie Nichols closed their much-too-brief set by suggesting that the crowd come out see them again some time, "like at night." Indeed.
Seattle's Murder City Devils delivered a spastic and wildly uneven set. But then again, wasn't that the point? We've seen better episodes of this sitcom before (At The Drive In, The Dwarves, Jesus Lizard), and its going to take a lot more than a sloppy man kiss (how daring) to make up for the lack of actual songs. Reckless youthful energy is endearing when you're witnessing a bunch of kids seek and destroy, but these cats are well into their 30s and its getting a tad contrived. Then again, the crowd loved them, so what do I know, I'm just an asshole music critic.
The Reverend Horton Heat opened his country-fried punkabilly set with the Morricone flavored "Marijuana," which particularly delighted the Orange County Sheriffs in attendance. As if on cue, several homeys blazed up joints, and one even brazenly explained that he was "a legalized bro" because had his medical marijuana card. To their credit, the sheriffs let it go and smiled. The Rev (who played the inaugural Hootenanny in 1995) performed one song from each of his nine albums in chronological order, and closed his set with a few crowd faves, including the July 4th-appropriate "Run, Run, Rudolph."
Sporting the freshly minted spoked B of the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins on their kick drum, the Dropkick Murphys tore into an hour long set that proved they are the kings of Celtic punk.
While the Murphys are directly inspired by the Pogues and as well as the traditional Irish tunes they listened to as children, a band like this could have only come from a place like Boston. They have become an integral part of the cultural story that is "The Irish in America".
This was big music and a big production. In addition to guitars, bass, drums, bagpipes, tin whistle, banjo, and mandolin, the Murphys brought along three violinists and an accordionist. What came forth was an furious bar brawl of sound that had the mosh pit at full boil. They may be Massholes at heart, but these lads are also as socially conscious they come. Songs like "Last Letter Home" and 'Take 'em Down" prove that they have more than the next pint of Guinness on their minds. Their anthem "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" (featured in Martin Scorsese's excellent "The Departed") has become a fist pumping favorite at sporting events the world over.
Sure, they may build more cars in Japan and make more electric guitars in China, but Saturday's festival proved that the good ole USA is still can't be outdone in terms of traditional rock 'n' roll, vintage Detroit steel and pretty girls dolled up in their best Betty Page dresses. That said, it is rather puzzling that Hootenanny hasn't blossomed into a national tour, given its longevity and success. Someone please get on that.