his hip, SoCal region looked � on the surface - to be an unlikely place to discover exemplary roots rock. But the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles, hometown to hipper-than-thou folks like Beck and members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, annually hosts a two-day street fair, which this year dedicated one whole stage to sounds with deep musical and cultural roots.
Next year at this time, much of the attire warn by attendees will be long out of fashion. But chances are, these steady performers will still be going strong - with their if-it-ain't-broke don't-fix-it attitude - next year and many years to come.
The afternoon's clear highlight was, not surprisingly, Dave Alvin & The Guilty Men. Alvin's ace guitar playing was supplemented this time out by organ and harmonica, although he was also missing a fiddler.
But the man and his dynamic band were nevertheless in fine form. The crumbling Sunset Pacific Motel stood at one side of the stage, so Alvin spontaneously dedicated the lifestyle excesses explored within "Out Of Control" to this aging structure. He once dated a bartender at a bar across from the motel. As he further explained on his web site, "there would always be a scene at the Sunset Pacific involving the police and drug dealers or drug addicts or petty thieves or gang bangers or prostitutes or all of the above." Thankfully, none of the above attended his his show today.
To Alvin's left was a large Sav-On drugstore billboard featuring a glasses-wearing pharmacist and the slogan, "We'll always be there." Let's hope this slogan applies in equal measure to Alvin because he truly is a local treasure. He never fails to perform the tear-jerking "Abilene," as he did this day, which tells the sad story of a woman in a unending search for true love.
This former Blaster guitarist began his set with that band's "So Long Baby Goodbye" and closed with another Blaster rockabilly favorite, "Marie Marie." In between, he found room to perform his blues-d up version of Jackson Browne's "Redneck Friend," which is a track drawn from his recent "West of the West" all-covers release.
Candye Kane's bawdy presence earlier in the day was far more in tune with this hip locale's residents. Kane is a former stripper who started as a country singer. She switched to blues because its audience is far more accepting of her bluntly erotic persona. She said from the stage that the country music community was tired of seeing her dress like a cross-dresser.
But this crowd, which had about even numbers of same-sex and opposite-sex couples, clearly didn't mind this woman's outlandishly feathered attire. This proudly big woman's repertoire included topical songs like "Estrogen Bomb" and "Masturbation Blues." She also hearkened back to her country days with a traditional take on "It's Cryin' Time Again."
The Drive-By Truckers were one of this bill's rare out of town entries. They opened with the suicide anthem "Lookout Mountain" and then proceeded to fill their short set with winning, three-lead-guitar, modernized Southern rock. There was also an appearance from another non-SoCal resident, Hank Williams III, as well as festival closing music by long-standing local shockabilly standouts, The Cramps.
Sometimes great music is found in the most unlikely places. But Sunset Junction shone brightly as the perfect intersection of Hip Street and Traditional Avenue.