koi and swan, sepia

Monday, March 30, 2015

Glen Ross Campbell

I went clubbing Saturday night. You may not appreciate it but it is hard for an old guy pushing sixty to go to a nightclub and listen to loud music past one in the morning. Our constitutions get too tender for this sort of thing and most of us have long since eschewed any party favors or study aids that would either help with general alertness or reinforce the intensity and drama of the aural and visual experience.

So I went home early Saturday and took a nap. Drove down to San Diego and met Chip at Lotus Thai and after dinner we hooked on down to the Casbah. Why did I subject myself to such an experience, and a sober one at that? The answer is simply, because I was chasing a legend.

Some of you know that I am a bit of a musicologist. I collected a lot of vinyl in my youth, and have cycled through practically every musical style imaginable this side of polka and banda.

You want to know about Bulgarian Choirs and Mongolian throat singing? Just ask me. Or visit my collaborative music blog, Birdseye Music. And join if you wish or think you can keep up.

I have been to the Casbah four or five times, have seen Baby Lemonade a time or two there in the past.

Being a hayseed from the provinces who really doesn't get out much, it is hard to compare it to other similar venues, if there are any around. I used to go the Skeleton Club and that was definitely punkier. But that was then.

The Casbah seems like it has a crowd of regulars, think black boots behind starched cuff blue jeans and maybe a black military jacket. Some interesting t-shirts on in the crowd. Obviously many old friends hanging out.

A nice, friendly crowd, equal parts smart and somewhat disaffected. There were actually a lot of rather drunk women the other night, which can really add to the general ambience of a joint.

The first band was I believe called the schitzophonics. Rail thin and elastic lead singer guitar who seemingly played his guitar without ever touching the strings, quite well I might add. Whole trio was good, great girl drummer. Hot band. Richard Hell meets James White.

I tried to be a fly on the wall when I got there and happened to be sitting next to a couple guys guys recounting their worst drunken puke stories. One guy went on and on about this incredible night getting chased by cops across golf courses and having to run and throwing up in the car and cap it all off at Denny's at 3:30 a.m. with biscuits and gravy. Guy was pretty funny and we talked for quite a while and it turned out that he was a writer but I could actually tell that from his meter alone.

He ended up sharing a pretty chilling story about visiting his aunt in Long Beach as a child and finding her dead in her swimming pool when they got there, a suicide. His father fished her out and she had evidently strapped herself down with scuba ankle weights. Kind of vision that I suppose never goes away.

His wife was a tad bit tweaked on beers and shots and she figures into my story later on.

The main band was the Loons, Mike Stax's band, a record release for their new LP Inside out your mind. Mike Stax is on one of the highest echelons of musicology, founder and publisher of the widely read and respected Ugly Things Magazine, revered and renowned, justly. Knows more than I will ever know and knew it a long time ago. Great bass player for the Crawdaddies, compelling singer, backed by his wonderful wife Anya on bass.

Tough to describe the Loon's music, not really totally my thing. I like the concept, equal parts garage punk, psych, elevators, british invasion, there just seems to be something too consciously vintage or retro about the whole thing and the musicianship is occasionally a little repetitive. Dense sonic wall that could use a few more rhythm changes and a few more blank spaces. The look is great and the energy is high, the sound doesn't kill me but as I said, I'm old. Can see why some people undoubtably love them. Decent music, fun.

The reason I went to listen to them was because they were joined Saturday night by one of the esoteric legends of rock music, a demigod in many circles, one Glen Ross Campbell. Campbell was a part of the legendary sixties band from Riverside, the Misunderstood. A magician on psychedelic pedal steel, the man who just may have invented the light show.

Many experts consider the Misunderstood the most underrated sixties band, their second single I can take you to the Sun is on many greatest song of all time lists for the genre from some serious rock critics including John Peel. Campbell, not to be confused with the session celebrity of the same name, has been called Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page all wrapped into one.

The Misunderstood moved to London in 1966, had manager problems, split up and did other things, Campbell starting the short lived but excellent band Juicy Lucy. He eventually splits to New Zealand, where he has been living for decades but somehow is coaxed by Mike Stax every once in a while to leave the rabbit hole and come out and play.

And play he does. This guy is absolutely phenomenal. Born in '46, that means he is pushing seventy. Missing a tooth (he told Chip it was knocked out long ago in a tete a tete with a road manager) and bearing a beret, he treated us to a sonic smorgasbord that was freaking incredible.

The guy finds notes and sounds that his peers have never even thought about. Would love to hear him play with players of his caliber, but who really is, short of Jerry Douglas? Amazing talent, I am so glad I finally got to hear him. He played with Cocker and Rod Piazza for a while too. An older guy that knows where to find every possible sound on the spectrum.

They did a pretty smoking version of Who do you love where things got slowed down and goopy for a while. Very cool.

It is great to me to think of a bunch of local guys from Riverside, CA, just up the 215, making such an impact internationally, and how few people in America have ever even heard of them. Astounding.

I was in the second or third row when Campbell joined the Loons after their opening set. I had a pretty obnoxious and definitely unconscious young woman keep walking right in front of me like I didn't exist in space. Maybe pretty high. Look at me, I'm a tree. Poser type, trapped in a convoluted inner script. Didn't respect anyone else's space.

I was trying to be a good sport and not say anything, just be mellow Robert, do not engage when out bursts the drunken guy's now even more drunken girlfriend who suddenly emerges and plows into the chick that thinks she can occupy the space in front of me and be a tree. Accidentally, mind you. Forearm shiver, exit stage right and never to return. Lawrence Taylor never delivered such a hit. Cosmic vindication t'was.

Ricardo, Dave - remember this night?


island guy said...

Can't say as I do, funny since a trip down to Market would have been a rare event in those days. I certainly miss good live music in abundance!

Ready for some banda fusion?

Blue Heron said...

BigD says it was Jeff Whitt with us that night. Sorry!