Hootenany 2002: never a dull moment
Hidden Valley, Ca., July 6, 2002
HIDDEN VALLEY, CA - There was no small measure of punk nostalgia running through the lineup at this year's roots-rock Hootenanny 2002, as it was co-headlined by former Clash leader Joe Strummer and LA punk pioneers X.
And although these two acts aren't what you might characterize as twang titans, you may recall how Strummer was in a rockabilly band before starting The Clash, and don't forget that X guitarist Billy Zoom's rockabilly riffs are oftentimes the driving force behind much of this explosive band's smoldering material. Both Strummer and X relied upon older material this afternoon, but while Srummer's choices lacked a lot of his old band's natural intensity, X didn't sound like it had lost one ounce of juice since its heyday in the late '70s.
Roots for Strummer, on this post-4th of July weekend, were primarily of the reggae variety. His violin-accented world music/rock band played Toots Hibbert's "Pressure Drop," as well as other Jamaican-influenced Clash tunes. One of the few non-Caribbean selections was a run-through of "I Fought The Law," a big hit for Bobby Fuller and also a Clash favorite.
Throughout, Strummer sang in that familiar ragged-but-right rasp of his, and performed using multiple hand gestures - as if he were leading a union rally. And while he deserves credit for making the effort, his show nonetheless clashed with better memories of his former band.
X, on the other hand, looked and sounded like they'd never - like Elvis - left the building. John Doe relentlessly lunged into the microphone as he pounded his bass through a 17-set song of X favorites. Exene Cervenka (who also performed earlier in the day with her new band Original Sinners) mixed in her familiar off-kilter harmonies and leads with Doe's singing, DJ Bonebrake was his usually rock solid self on drums and Billy Zoom made the music go bang as he ripped off lightning fast leads without ever losing that smarmy Cheshire grin off his face. Highlights in the set were many, but the best moments came on the outfit's more aggressive songs, like "Hungry Wolf," "Blue Spark" and "Los Angeles."
This wouldn't have been a Hootenanny without a little authentic old time rock & roll. Retro rockabilly was served up by former Stray Cat Lee Rocker, who honored the legacy of Sun Records in dedicating one song to Carl Perkins, and closing with "Mystery Train."
James Intveld (who also performed his own set) joined the Kingbees during a back-to-basics bit of rockabilly.
Russell Scott was his usual reliable self, even when faced with the unenviable task of performing to a sparse crowed that was just starting to file in.
The group on the bill with the most politically incorrect name, Nashville Pussy, created an appealing blast of Southern boogie noise. Even some of this group's song titles are unprintable, to say nothing of the lyrics themselves. Still they made a positive impact on this sun-soaked audience through the pure power of their guitar rock attack. (Having two young and good looking women in the band didn't hurt either, one supposes).
Tiger Army was another band that took roots elements to the extreme, as it raced through a performance of what the band described as psychobilly. After a while, though, the novelty of its punk 'n billy wore thin.
Reverend Horton Heat closed out this concert for the faithful with a platter of his revved up biker rock.
The Blasters, who were advertised to appear, didn't, and nobody could say why.
There is more than one way to skin a cat, and as this daylong rock variety show displayed, there are countless ways to interpret the meaning of roots rock. With so many different flavors to choose from, there was never a dull moment during this 2002 edition of The Hootenanny.