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Ugly Things 30th Anniversary Event
On May 24-26, 2013, we celebrated Ugly Things’ 30th anniversary with three nights of live music at the Casbah in San Diego, and two afternoons of extracurricular fun at Jayne’s Gastropub. Three days and nights I will never forget.
From the start, Anja and I agreed we didn’t want to stage a typical Sixties/Garage Weekender with an exhaustive—and exhausting—roster of reunited ‘60s icons and popular newer bands. Too predictable, too stressful, and, without corporate sponsorship (which we didn’t want), too expensive. We wanted something different, something personal; something that celebrated the DIY spirit of Ugly Things. So we turned to some of our favorite musicians and friends—people who have played a role in the magazine’s growth over the years—and persuaded them to put together something unique for the weekend—something people had never seen from them before: a new repertoire, a new format, or a new configuration of players. We wanted to offer the audience an experience that could never be repeated. What a time it was.
Friday evening began with THE NEUMANS from Orange County, one of the best new, young garage bands on the scene. They delivered a great set of archetypal ’66 fuzz’n’Farfisa punk and mixed a mini-set of Missing Links favorites into their usual stew of original compositions. Next up, something special: EBBOT LUNDBERG flew out from Sweden to be a part of the event (he was trailed most of the weekend by a cameraman who was filming him for an upcoming TV/Internet reality show, Webbot). On the Friday night, Ebbot performed an acoustic set, accompanied by original Loons/Tell-Tale Hearts guitarist Eric Bacher. Along with numbers by Union Carbide Productions (cover story of Issue #16) and the recently disbanded Soundtrack of Our Lives, Ebbot also surprised us with a stirring version of Pink Floyd’s “The Gnome.” It was his performance of Union Carbide’s “Golden Age,” though, that really raised the hairs on the back of my neck—one of my all-time favorite songs and one I’d never seen him sing live before.
THE LOONS were up next (do you think for one minute we were going to throw a UT weekend and not have our own band play?). We bashed out a short set, bringing on Freddy Fortune to play ‘jug’ (an empty beer bottle) on “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” then reset for our special guest: GLENN CAMPBELL of the Misunderstood. We’d performed with Glenn once before in 2009 so were thrilled when he agreed to fly out all the way from Auckland, New Zealand, to do it again—this time with more intensive rehearsals. Campbell is one of those amazing, completely instinctive musicians whose sound is unique and instantly recognizable. When he tore into that steel guitar I saw people’s jaws hitting the floor all around the club. Opening with “I Can Take You to the Sun,” we played a set that included most of the Misunderstood’s classic songs— “My Mind,” “I Unseen,” “Children of the Sun,” “Find the Hidden Door” (the latter two with Carl Rusk helping out on vocal harmonies)—as well as a couple of Loons songs from our last album, ending with a loose and wild version of “Who Do You Love.” Performing onstage with Glenn Campbell remains one of the musical highlights of my life—indescribable!
With our own performance behind us, I now felt I could settle back and just enjoy the rest of the weekend. Of course, there were a thousand details to take care of every night (and day), but the atmosphere in the venues was so full of good will and good vibes that it was virtually impossible to feel too stressed about any of it. This held true throughout the weekend: everyone seemed to be in the best possible mood—all just enjoying a massive shared contact high from all the great music and cool people.
Saturday evening opened with THE ROSALYNS, an all-girl garage band assembled especially for the occasion, featuring Anja on bass, along with Amy Gore and Diana Death (guitars), Birdy Bardot (keyboards) and Lety Beers (drums). The played the ultimate ‘60s girl garage band set, including faves by the Pleasure Seekers, the Liverbirds, the Shangri-Las, Cindy & Bert (“Der Hund von Baskervilles”), and Suzy Quatro (“48 Crash”), and were the breakout hit of the weekend. They were followed by UT#32 cover stars, THE SLOTHS, who played a blazing set of Pandora’s Box-approved rock’n’roll, inevitably bringing down the house with “Makin’ Love.” Their resurrection has been a wonder to see.
The music of LOVE has been a mainstay in the pages of Ugly Things since the beginning, so it was a thrill to welcome JOHNNY ECHOLS (cover star of UT#33) and LOVE REVISITED. This band (essentially Baby Lemonade plus Johnny and, tonight, Probyn Gregory helping out on keys and trumpet) toured the world with Arthur Lee for years so they know the music and all its nuances inside out. To make it even more memorable, there were special guests. “King Arthur is no longer with us,” announced Ebbot, “so they brought Merlin instead!” Ebbot loaned his lead vocals and magnificent stage presence to a half-dozen numbers including “Stephanie Knows Who,” “The Red Telephone,” “AloneAgainOr” and “7 & 7 Is.” And another surprise: Michael Stuart-Ware took over the drums for “My Little Red Book” and “Can’t Explain,” demonstrating what an incredible player he still is. Somewhere out there, King Arthur was smiling.
A few words about the afternoon events because they were also a blast. Our friends at Jayne’s Gastropub threw their doors open to us all on Saturday and Sunday, and we enjoyed film screenings, book signings and a record swap. Tom Gulotta of Reelin’ in the Years Productions showed their fantastic (still unreleased) Pretty Things documentary, Midnight to Six, 1965-1970; Howard Berger and Susan Stahman screened an extended trailer of their masterpiece-in-progress, A Life in the Death of Joe Meek; Raul Sandelin shared excerpts from his upcoming Lester Bangs documentary, A Box Full of Rocks: The El Cajon Years of Lester Bangs; and Neil Norman of GNP-Crescendo gave us a sneak peek of his Seeds documentary, The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard. Eddie Shaw of the Monks was also on hand to sign books and pose for photos with fans.
By Sunday night I was pretty fried from lack of sleep, and my voice was shot from all the yakking I’d been doing onstage and off (Kim Fowley had originally been slated as the show’s MC but his health did not allow him to make the trip down from LA), but I was more than ready for what lay ahead.
THE UNCLAIMED hadn’t played a show since their breakup in 1987, and given the reclusiveness of leader Shelley Ganz, many thought they would never perform again. It took several months of persuasion, but we made it happen, and it was tremendous. Shelley was joined by long-time collaborator Dave Provost (Droogs, Sloths) on guitar, Lee Joseph (bass) and drummer Jose, who all did a superb job on a set that mixed tried and true Unclaimed favorites with a couple of excellent new songs.
My friendship with the members of THE NASHVILLE RAMBLERS—Carl Rusk, Ron Silva and Tom Ward—dates back to before the first days of Ugly Things. In fact, Carl was the mag’s first assistant editor. The Ramblers also happen to be one of the greatest live bands you’ll ever see. For the UT event, though, they were working outside of their usual comfort zone. For one night only they became THE RISING RAMRODS, playing an (almost) all-new set of ‘60s New England material, including songs by the Remains, the Rockin’ Ramrods, and the Lost. They nailed it, as I knew they would, bringing up Birdy from the Rosalyns to sing the Psychopaths’ “See the Girl [Boy]” and me for a somewhat croaky pass at the Squires’ “Goin’ All the Way.” And then it was star time: TY WAGNER made his way onstage for the first time since the ‘60s. With the able backing of the Ramblers, he channeled all his stage fright into a formidable stage presence and slayed us all with intense versions of “I’m A No-Count,” “Slander” and “Misery Train.”
To close out the weekend we turned to the music of the ultimate ‘60s party band, Paul Revere & the Raiders. Freddy Fortune and Michael Maltese (of Fortune & Maltese & Phabulous Pallbearers fame) formed the ultimate Raiders tribute band along with Rick Mills and Chris Flanagan (3-D Invisibles, Volcanos, Meltdowns) and Dave Knepp (Sights, Singles, Mitch Ryder). Calling themselves BENEDICT ARNOLD & THE TRAITORS, they cleverly designed the absolute greatest Raiders set list featuring the best hits alongside some of the choicest LP cuts from Here They Come through Alias Pink Puzz. From the moment the Traitors stepped onstage in full Raiders regalia, the place began to become unglued. Every song was a killer, and they had them all down note-perfect be they “Good Thing,” “The Great Airplane Strike,” “Cinderella Sunshine” or “Louie Go Home.” Then, just when you thought things couldn’t get any crazier, the back door opened and MARK LINDSAY stepped onstage.
Aside from the band and Anja and I, no one had any idea this was going to happen. “Surprise! Surprise!” announced Mark, who looked trim and healthy as can be, and—bam!—the band slid right into “Louie Louie.” Needless to say everyone in the audience completely lost it. Ape-shit to the max. “Kicks” followed, and then “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone,” at which point the roof of the building actually blew off almost clipping the wing of a low-flying plane—at least that’s how I remember it. We couldn’t have asked for a more exciting finale to the weekend. People left the club bathed in sweat and grinning ear to ear. I don’t know about everyone else, but I couldn’t wipe that grin off my face for a couple of weeks.
I should also mention the DJs: Howie Pyro, Michael Lucas, Russell Quan, Dan Electro and Jason Pandora all took a turn at the record decks over the course of the weekend.
Thank you to everyone who was a part of this 30th anniversary weekend, whether you were a performer, an audience member or one of the many who gave us a helping hand. I’d like to especially thank Tim Mays of the Casbah, and Jayne and John of Jayne’s Gastropub, along with Freddy Fortune, Amy Gore, Carl Rusk, Ty Wagner, Ebbot Lundberg, Mark Lindsay, Michael Stuart-Ware, and Glenn & Babs Campbell, all of whom went, quite literally, the extra mile to make this event so utterly unforgettable. (Mike Stax)