I’m in Denver (cool) en route to Chicago (cold) en route to Miami (hot) on the “no sleep” express which is to say Southwest airlines at god awful early flights in foreign time zones that is zapping my energy and yes, my will to live. Thank God for coffee.
Assuming I survive this 15-20 city tour of duty I hope to be back in LA in time for a couple of cool events coming up from our good buddy Von Badsville. He’s the guy that put on the kick ass Calavera reunion show last fall. If you missed it, catch it HERE.
If you are in the LA area, are a bit of a psychobilly nut then you may want to hit them up to as these are some 1st class psychobilly bands. More info on the show can be found here.
If I don’t survive and can’t make, then please by all means, carry on with out me.
Hopefully I’ll see you there.
Psychobilly show in Los Angeles
Then, the very next month in March, Valentin and some friends from Klubfoot USA is putting on a big 3 day psychobilly event called the KLUBFOOT STOMP around St. Patrick’s day weekend (March 15-17th) and you can bet your lucky charms, if we’re in town, we’ll be there, camera in each hand to cover it for ya.
This event is still taking shape so keep up with them on their webpage HERE and their Facebook event page HERE.
Looks like it’s going to be a psychotic 2013 in Los Angeles.
Been reading the book “White Riot… Punk Rock and the Politics of Race” for the past few weeks. I’m almost finished and more on it later. It’s an intense book that is proving to be valuable in terms of the history of punk and of getting another perspective than the typical Ramones, Sex Pistols, Clash history we so often are told over and over and over. I’ve got a lot to say about this book, mostly good, with a few criticisms, but for now I just want to bring to your attention an all Latino punk band from Chicago in the 1990s “Los Crudos”.
They were one of, if not the first U.S. punk band to sing almost 100% in Spanish, though as you can see form this clip, they also spoke fluent English. Also, as you can tell by the clip they are (surprise) very political and as you can tell by the short, burst of lyrics that are hard to understand regardless of language, very hardcore.
Not my favorite genre of punk music so I would have probably never stumbled upon these guys with pandora or ipod or any of that type of music had these guys come along a decade or so later. Yet their perspective as their self proclaimed “We’re that spic band” probably would have landed them on “American Latino TV” or “LatiNation” alongside NOFX, Tiger Army, Calavera, Madball, No Way Joseand any other semi-well known punk, pysychobilly or rockabilly hand that had a decent Latin following.
I was always trying so hard to counteract the popular notion that Latinos only cared about R&B, Rap, Hip Hop and “Latin” (Cumbia, Meringue, Salsa, etc.) music. We tried really hard to showcase underground communities where Latinos were so instrumental and that includes punk which, if you’ve been following us for a while, has a huge Latin American and American Latino (U.S. Latino) following as well as a history of participation.
Punk history is rich with Latinos in the scene including bands like Black Flag, Iggy & The Stooges and many, many more I won’t go into here today.
When I Executive Produced those shows, I was very involved in getting our producers to target these subcultures very strategically, covering not only bands but events like “The Warped Tour” and “Viva Las Vegas”from a U.S. Latino perspective and it worked beautifully.
Not only did I feel good about representing this ignored part of Latino culture, ratings in cities from California to Texas increased dramatically. We had successfully added to our following which was really important for a small, indie TV Show with no marketing budget to speak off airing in most of the country in the most fringe of late night or early morning weekend time periods.
Now, sadly, and predictably the new owners and producers have cheezed it up again. The shows look like a cheap version of TMZ, with nothing but pop culture after pop culture references. They even changed the show logos and theme music to gaudy, loud metallic purple and silver colors and cheeze ball electronica music.
But hey, the shows are in their 11th & 9th seasons respectively so I understand that change is inevitable. It’s ok. There are a couple of people there that do try to represent (Agnostic Frontwere featured last season and one of the editors is from the Colombian band “La Pestilencia”).
In the meantime, I leave you with a couple of videos of “Los Crudos”. I would sure like to interview these guys for “Punktology”documentary. If anyone knows how to get in touch with them, please hit me up.
In June/July I traveled to Budapest, Hungary and was blown away by some of the excellent psychobilly bands there. One of the bands I was most impressed with was Silvershine. Their live performance simply rocked. Missed the write up? See it HERE.
I’m heading to France & Spain next in my continuing effort to bring you pics, video, sights and sounds from the global punk, psychobilly and rockabilly scenes and I’m pretty excited. But I’m also pretty bummed that I’m going to miss our friends from Silvershine as they head to the U.S. and Los Angeles to be part of what looks to be a damned good line up which includes the Rocketz, Los Difuntos, Los Creepers and more.
If you are on the west coast of the U.S., don’t miss your shot to see these guys who are more than a little bit punk and more than a little bit pyschobilly, but still not really 100% punkabilly either. I don’t know how to describe them. I guess you’ll have to see for your self. More info on the show HERE.
And here is a little video clip we took of the guys when we were in Budapest in June.
Von Badsville’sVoodoo Lounge promotion cranked up last Saturday night at the Airliner in Los Angeles. Doors opened around 9:30 and things got rocking pretty quickly as the downstairs crowd was treated to a little traditional rockabilly from Mad Dog & the Smokin’ Js and folks strolled around the outdoor patio shopping at the vendor tables or getting their photo snapped by Jorge of JMV Photos, the pinup photographer extraordinaire.
But it was the upstairs that was rocking with traditional California style Psychobilly, which is to say, a pretty heavy Mexican influence. Bands “The Quarenteds”, “Cannibal Mad Men”really warming up the crowd to a fever pitch. One guy even took the occasion to storm the stage and propose to his girlfriend, she said yes, which let out an wild, uninhibited party scene like I haven’t seen since my Latin American travels. Even the girls got into the act with a fearless female only wrecking crew that had me and the Russians cowering in a corner, fearfully snapping pics from a safe distance (too dark for video, sorry).
You can’t really mention the words “Mexican” and “Psychobilly” without mentioning Calavera. This legendary pyschobilly band plays a raucous, in your face punk style of psychobilly (2 blasting guitars, standup bass and a drum), that forces your limbs, no matter how much they might reisist, to move.
Calavera took the stage well after midnight and the packed crowd seemed to let out all their pent up frustration at not seeing the band play since the latter part of the last decade.
Why is that you ask? Well Ceasar, the founder and the one constant for the band has been traveling around the world, living and traveling in Singapore, Malaysia and the Phillipines before finally returning to Tiajuana Mexico, his current abode.
Ceasar and I got a chance to chat before the show and I have to say he looked really rested and ready to go, like the break did him good. He also seemed really excited because he says the band is working on some new stuff that will incorporate some of the global rhythms and sounds he’s been exposed to these past few years while traveling the planet.
Ceasar was speaking my language. Travel the world, absorbing cultures and influences and then come back home a changed person. He deserved some time off and he deserves another shot at creating some of that “can’t help but wreck in the pit” psychobilly music Calavera was so known for in the 90′s and early 2000s’.
Calavera cranked through their well known songs like “Brains on Fire”, “Tiajuana Rain” and one of my favorites “Ain’t That Loving You Baby?” (See video)
From the crowd reaction it’s not going to be a difficult journey back. Hell, from the crowd’s reaction, on this unusually hot California night with music so loud that even with my heavy dose of wax in the ear earplugs… my ears are still ringing 2 days later, I think it’s safe to say, Calavera is indeed already back!
Special thanks to Ceasar, Ito and the whole Calavera gang and to to Brando Von Baadsville and his crew for hooking us up at the show.
Enjoy pics and video from Saturday nights show.To see all the pics go HERE.
Romania, land of Dracula, vampires, werewolves and Vlad the Impaler. Also, land of “punk music?”…. Yes, well lets just say, it’s getting there.
Not that long ago, Romania was a communist country where a pair of jeans could be traded for almost anything. Punk music was outlawed and just getting your hands on some rock-n-roll meant some serious under-the-table bartering. If you were a guy with long hair, the police could arrest you, give you a nice, short state-approved hair cut and then, maybe after a fine or stern lecture, they let you go… sans long hair of course. No hippies or individualism allowed.
Everyday Romanian Architecture.. Spooky Right?.. buwha, ha..haa, hahh,hahhh!!!! (is that how it goes?)
Maybe that’s why of all the places I visited, it seemed in Bucharest, Romania I saw more male ponytails per capita than any other place, even some in the punk scene were sporting them. You know what, I get it. It’s the ultimate form of rebellion for a society where there was never a hippie movement or flower power or any of that stuff.
I decided against a 14 hour train trip with a sleeper car to Bucharest, Romania from Belgrade, Serbia partly out of my spoiled sense of comfort, partly because I found a really good last minute airfare and partly out of the fact this would be the only way I’d get to Bucharest in time to cover the Summer of Punk IV concert at the famed Underworld Club featuring “Just Another Lie”,“Nuggers”, “Raizing Hell” and Argentina band “The Argies”. (Big thanks to Casian, a punk promoter in nearby Timisoara who filled me in on the event and to Ati from Silvershine in Budapest for referring Casian).
Underworld has an upstairs bar and terrace cranking rock tunes and a downstairs underground live music venue in the basement with a stage and state of the art sound system. It has become THE go to place for any type of underground music the last few years it’s been open and for good reason.
Underworld is owned and run by Gabby, the former sound guy for many years at the famed NYC punk club CBGB’s up until it’s final years and lead singer of the legendary NYC hardcore / punk band (and one of my personal new favorite “old” bands) “Molotov Cocktail”.
(DIY Certified) Gabby working the sound & lights @ Underworld
Underworld quite fittingly is a DIY club and when I first met Gabby he was too busy doing sound check and getting ready for the show to speak to me. But later in the week, when things had calmed down a hair, I finally got a chance to sit down with Gabby and get his impression of the punk scene in Romania which he described as slightly confused and small but making strides.
I got that sense too. Not quiet like a toddler making it’s first tentative steps, more like an adolescent going through puberty and figuring out if it should shave or grow that faint mustache. There are classic Romanian bands like Zob, which are Green Day-ish and have been around since the late 80s communism was losing it’s grip. Like Green Day, Zob inspires debate about whether they are “punk enough” or not.
For Gabby, there is no such debate. He is perhaps the epitome of punk. My man has run around with GG Allinand other legends of punk while growing up in the “2nd wave” of NYC punk. Gabby is a fascinating character and I could have talked to him all day, but he’s quiet a busy chap.
Gabby escaped communist Romania with his parents as a child and eventually moved to NYC’s lower east side where he spent most all of his adult life, spending some time in C Squat in Alphabet city. He moved back to Romania in 2010 because he said he needed a change but he’s been associated with Underworld since day 1, even before moving back.
Gabby still gets back to NYC and we both be-moaned the scattered punk scene there thanks in part to the closing of places like CBGBs, but he keeps his fingers on the pulse of the punk & hardcore scene with his buds Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law and of course his pals in Molotov Cocktail (who are celebrating over 20 years together and getting ready to drop a 20 year anniversary CD).
Raizing Hell before the show
On this sweltering Romanian Saturday night, Summer of Punk IV was set to begin at 8pm and I arrived a little early so I could interview a couple of the bands recommended by Casian (turns out concerts here start more or less on time… go figure).
My first interview was with “Raizing Hell” a self described horror punk band somewhat new on the scene (2010). They cite a variety of influences including Motorhead, Misfits, Plasmatics plus some in the psychobilly genre like Horrorpops, Meteors and Demented Are Go as well as any horror b-movies as obvious influences.
The band is fronted by Liv Decay (vocals/guitar), a talented and eloquent fearless female (yet another in Eastern Europe!) and bandmates Vlad (guitar, backing vocals), Vlash (bass guitar,backing vocals) and Oly “Sinnister” Sinn – (drums).
The guys filled me in on what it was like to grow up in communist Romania compared to a Romania that has embraced capitalism today. My favorite quote was from Oly that went something like and I’m paraphrasing here “I’m glad to live in a democracy, even a fake democracy is better than a communist Romania where I couldn’t wear jeans or long hair”. When Oly mentions “fake democracy” he was referring to the rampant corruption and political strife in Romanian politics that I can’t even begin to touch on, so I won’t.
The guys indicated their lyrics, similar to psychobilly, don’t focus on government corruption (which they readily admitted could be scarier than a vampire… hmmm, I’ll resist the temptation at a ‘sucking’ reference here) or social issues, but they do focus on “other things that scare people”. You know things that go bump in the night. This seems fitting given were in the land of Dracula tales, monsters, werewolves, zombies and the sort.
Of course one of the “technical” things that separate “horror punk” from Phsychobilly is the fact that “Raizing Hell” doesn’t play with a stand up bass, which is maybe why Raizing Hell’s set felt like a good old fashioned punk show or if you’ve ever taken in a Rob Zombie show without the pyrotechnics.
I got the sense that while Raizing Hell dances on the fringes of pyschobilly, I felt I was watching an old fashioned, straight up rock-n-roll band at work. Raizing Hell sings in English which they said felt exposed them to bigger audiences outside of Romania (English is pretty much the international language of Eastern Europe and how many communicate between countries as close in proximity, but divergent as say, Hungary and Romania) and allows easier access to touring in other countries.
“Just Another Lie”
While Raizing Hell typically avoid overt socially conscious themes, this was made up for by a band that seemed a mix between NOFX and the Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s, “Just Another Lie”. These very likable guys came out in full beach gear, complete with life vest, swim trunks and flip flops (it was hot as hell in Bucharest by the way).
JAL sing in Romanian which I later found out in our interview after the show, was because they felt this was the best way to communicate their subtle messages to the Romanian people. That and humor of course. One of their themes for example was tolerance and gay rights and rather than preach in some heavy way for people in Romania to be more tolerant, they feel humor and a light touch is more effective. I agree.
Now because my Romanian is nil, I didn’t get a chance to really decipher their lyrics, but I can tell you they play both slow (with a reggae/ska-ish rhythm and influence) AND fast (with a Blink 182ish or NOFX) sound with the bass guitar thumping loudly and aggressively.
I think they are right. Humor is a much more powerful tool to get messages across. Just ask NOFX, it’s worked pretty well for them. I mean I like it all, the screaming for justice approach of Anti-Flag and my good buddies from Trinidad, Anti-Everything, but there are many ways to get an intelligent point across and band members George (vocals/guitar), Marius (bass/backing vocals/drinking/faping & other useless shit), Cretzu (drums) are poised to get several of them across. George is an on air radio guy for his day job and they all have the intelligence, talent and personalities to make it happen.
And let me tell you, like in many countries they have their work cut out. I had an impromptu conversation with a “philosopher” in a Romanian subway who didn’t like Obama because he was black (though he had nothing against black people) and a Freemason (what?!), and said the Jews (though he had nothing against the Jews either) caused the global financial meltdown.
I politely suggested he research a bit more before jumping to such strong opinions and we parted ways, but I remember thinking how ignorance, willful ignorance at that, is a worldwide phenomena, not just limited to my own home country the U.S. which I so often rave about here.
I digress (as I often do). In all of my interviews in Romania and Eastern Europe, the ones with Gabby, Raizing Hell and Just Another Lie were some of the best I’ve ever conducted. They provided fascinating insights into Romanian life before and after communism and while the punk scene is definitely not big, at least in Bucharest, the bands and venues repping the scene are doing a splendid job of nurturing it.
I heard the cradle of the scene was in nearby Timisoara which might be explained by the fact that it is closer to the border with Serbia, which enjoyed more freedom back in communist days (hence more jeans and music.. and maybe even more long hair) than Bucharest. Probably not coincidentally, Timasoara is also where the Romanian revolution began to overthrow communism, so who knows what punk’s underlying influence can be on Romanian’s modern day “fake democracy”.
I didn’t get to interview the other two bands of the evening but a quick thought about the local garage, punk band “Nuggers”. The singer conversed in Spanish, English and Romanian so I knew it was a band with a lot of geographical influences (a band after my own heart) and their music reflected this as well. They played a very diverse set list of different kinds of music. Their more up- tempo punk songs really resonated with me and their very enthusiastic crowd. Like many of the bands on this evening they have only been together a short while, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for the Nuggers and give them a listen if you can. (Couldn’t find any links guys… sorry).
On the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of longetivity are “The Argies” which have been playing since 1984. They’ve got out a bunch of CDs and just to be able to visit Eastern Europe all the way from Argentina points to their ability to organize such a tour and their seasoned status.
Because they are from Argentina (the land of protest and strikes… often for good reason I might add), their songs are tinged with political and social themes (their shirts were emblazoned with the slogan “Know Your Rights”) and their influences stem from 70′s British punk.
By the time they played, it was pretty late and the crowd had thinned slightly but the Argies played a long set that would have put Springsteen to shame. They even did a rocking version of the Spanish classic “One Guantanamera” as a punk rock diddy! It sounded damn good!
What’s a punk show without enthusiastic fans?!
The only down side, and it really was a funny side, at least to me observing was one overly intoxicated fan who insisted on being on stage, moving the microphone stand, sticking his enthusiastic index finger in the singer’s face and in general making a drunken nuisance of himself to the band. That’s when Liv from “Raizing Hell” kicked into gear with an apparent mission to try and help save her fellow musicians from this hard-to- deal-with task and preoccupied the intoxicated gent with some good old fashioned slam dancing in a makeshift wrecking pit. It worked…for about 3 minutes then he was at it again, but all in good fun, nobody lost their temper (this was a punk show no doubt) and all in all the Argies and the venue handled it as you’d expect.. heckle him a bit, but in the end live and let live and do the best you can for the show must go on.
Doini & Dan @ Bestfest
The next night I was faced with a dilemma as I often am when traveling: 1) be a tourist and hit the final night of the BestFest, Bucharest’s BIG 3 day music festival or 2) be a true punk and head back to Underworld for punk/folk treat from Joey Briggs, of The Briggs, who was rolling through town. Man at times like these I sure wish there were two of me.
My new Romanian buddy Dan who rented me his apartment where I was staying (about a 15 minute walk from Underworld) is THE man in Romania when it comes to nightlife with his web site Bucharest Tonight and he graciously offered to take me to BestFest and even secured a heavily discounted ticket for me.
Ummmm.. Romanian Sausages (Mici)!
In the end, I decided it was best to see a music festival while traveling Eastern Europe. I had so many near misses (I missed the famous Exit Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia by less than a week), and I thought it would be a shame not to hit at least one.
So Dan and his girlfriend Doini (who is from Transylvania but not scary at all, in fact she’s quiet lovely) picked me up in a taxi and we headed to the outskirts of town for the festival. There were multiple stages with all types of music and almost none of it punk. We had just missed the only punkish style of music on the docket that night, a band called Pipes and Pintswhich combines punk with bagpipes… a natural fusion if I ever heard one!
There were PLENTY of metal and hardcore acts, most of which I’d never heard of, but I did enjoy opening myself up to a new kind of experience and especially enjoyed the Romanian Mici, a classic meat sausage and grilled treat.
So my first time in Romania wasn’t so spooky. No elderly gypsy lady put a curse on me (that’s an old stereotype by the way… but one perhaps based on a kernel of truth), no one asked to suck my blood, or to suck anything for that matter.. (well, I don’t count the street walker in front of my apartment my 1st night. She asked in Romanian, at least I think that is what she said. I declined in English)… no robberies or near robberies, no edge of your seat thrills or exciting stories to tell… just a good, punk show at a good punk venue, with some cool people in a country that’s trying to change and evolve and move into the 21st century with it’s very, very old soul in tact.
Thanks Romania. I don’t care what Anthony Bourdain says I think your pretty cool! I can’t wait to go back.
NEXT UP: We head to Ukraine. And we’ll try to post some more videos from Summer of Punk IV as well. If you want to see more pics from our Romanian adventure click HERE.
We finally arrived in Bucharest, Romania last night after 5 days in Belgrade, Serbia (more on that trip coming soon) and we’re due to cover Summer of Punk IV at the famous Underworld Club in Bucharest tonight (Saturday night), but before I get too caught up on things, I finally have some decent internet and promised a performance of each of the bands from the Killing Billy show in Budapest, Hungary last week.
So without further adieu, please enjoy a performance from Horibillies and Silvershine . Video from the legendary Gorillacoming next!and remember you can check out all the pics from the show HERE!
Stay tuned, next up our cool trip to Serbia.. then later… Romania and finally, assuming all goes to plan, Ukraine.
After almost 2 days straight travel with only a couple of hours of dozing since I left JFK Airport in NYC yesterday, I’m not sure what time it is, much less what day it is. I arrived in Budapest in dire need of a nap but instead made my way over to the Amigo Pub in the City Centre where I met up with the 3 of the 4 members of the Budapest psychobilly band “Hellfreaks”, one of the few female fronted psychobilly bands I’ve come across during the last few years covering the scene.
Amigos Pub in Budapest features themed upstairs. Stage and pool hall downstairs with a healthy does of Elvis posters and rockabilly music throughout
According to Hellfreaks lead singer “Shakey Sue”, while Budapest’s psychobilly scene is not huge (in fact the Amigo Bar serves as the city’s only rockabilly bar and thus a default psychobilly bar… albeit with a very healthy Elvis fixation), Budapest has quiet a history of psychobilly going back to the Gorillas in the 1990s (whom we hope to cover along withthe Horribillies at the Killing-Billy concert here on Friday night) and more recently, a string of bands fronted by strong, dedicated and talented psycobilly females.
When I asked Sue why she thought females thrived in the Budapest psychobilly scene she answered rather quickly”I have no f’ing idea” but later admitted she thought Hungarian women were perhaps a bit more tough than their European counterparts and didn’t allow their men to just tell them what to do while they sat around looking pretty. Band mates “Sick Rick” (drums) and “Kevin Crime” (Stand up Bass) nodded their head eagerly in agreement and since we hope cover another fine female fronted psychobilly band “The Silvershine” I have no reason to doubt that Budapest is indeed a friendly domain for female fronted psychobilly bands.
She may be internally tough but on this night everyone was as nice as could be. And because she was so nice and it happened to be Sue’s birthday, I gifted her with one of my dwindling supplies of Punk Outlaw T’s which she graciously modeled for us afterwards.
Now before you scream favoritism or sexism or some other ‘ism that I don’t understand why this would offend anyone but I guess always does somehow, know that I’m down to my last few shirts and they are all smalls with the exception of one x-large… none of which would fit the other members of the band.. so they got stickers.. now calm down and breath, deeply.. that’s it. Tranquilo.. Now back to the story if I may.
Shakey Sue models her new Punk Outlaw T shirt
They did tell me that Hungary is still a relatively conservative place, at least compared to Psychobilly hotbeds like Germany, where piercings, tattoos, crazy clothes and hairstyles don’t seem to get in the way much of a “normal” work life. But in Hungary, Sue says she has to be sure to have her tattoos in places easy to hid (like the back of her legs… see below) and she has to hide her colored hair or it might hurt her efforts to become an environmental researcher which she’s currently studying.
Sick Rick stated with a broad smile and a laugh that his mohawk haircut was causing friction for him at home, where he rarely spoke to his family now. It didn’t seem to bother him in the least however.
They all sense things were gradually changing in Hungary. I mean it is hard to believe that Budapest, not that long ago when you think about it, sat shut behind the iron curtain, cut off from the rest of the world. It’s now firmly in Capitalism’s grasp, with colorful commercial outdoor banners and ads gracing the sides of drab, grey and utalitarian communist era buildings and tourism being one of it’s hottest industries.
One place where capitalism has seemed to help out is the ability of bands like Hellfreaks to tour. They’ve toured all over Europe and (gasp) actually (gasp again!) got payed what they were promised. They have plans to tour the U.S. soon with LA based promoter and our Facebook buddy Von Badsville. I was amused to hear that Rich Vreede’s (Black Cat’s)reputation as a scumbag promoter who didn’t pay bands and investors had made it all the way to Hungary. I no sooner blurted out the name “Black Cat” and they were telling me stories how Black Cat had stiffed bands like the Frantic Flintstones back in February and then some. I just laughed and explained I knew all about it…very intimately.. and left it at that. No need to tell them what they already know.
Sue’s “Hidden” leg tattoos
Hopefully Von Badsville can arrange a tour of the band in the states and other regions and you’ll get to check these guys out for yourselves in person soon. But if you can’t wait that long well they also have a CD dropping next month (July 2012) titled “Circus of Shame” so be sure and support the guys and Hungarian psychobilly in the process (all their lyrics are in English BTW. Sue admits she write lyrics better in English than Hungarian).
Amigo’s Decor: The Confederate Flag (not remotely considered racist here), Jack Daniels and Elvis Presley are important symbols in Europe’s rockabilly culture.
We got more coming from Budapest and Southern Hungary on Punk, Psychobilly, Rockabilly and even a genre we’ve yet to cover before… Gypsy Punk.. so keep tuning in. As for me, I’m off to get some sleep, hopefully with sweet dreams of Hungarian psychobilly running through my head.
P.S. If I said something completelty stupid on here, blame it on my sleep or lack thereof. I’ll clean it up tomorrow.
Woke up late on Saturday, packed up my camera and I and my painfully chapped lips and headed over to the Viva Las Vegas Car Show at the Orleans Hotel. Other than my aforementioned chapped lips, I love the desert air in April and it was an almost picture perfect day for any outside activity. It’s been five years since I’ve attended VLV and as if further evidence of it’s tremendous growth and popularity over the years were needed, I present Exhibit #1… The Car Show, which this year in addition to the classic cars and hot-rods, featured dozens of vendors on site and a large festival stage with bands playing all day until sundown.
I finally hooked up with my buddy Alex Blue, from the Los Angeles band Normandie Blue who was hanging with our mutual pals at the Spitfire Interiors(Whittier, CA) booth. I’ve known the crew from Spitfire for years and they have some of the most unique punk, rockabilly and psychobilly type of merch I’ve ever seen and they were doing a brisk bit of business at VLV. When I arrived, their booth was so crowded I couldn’t fit inside and shoot at the same time. The guys were preoccupied just trying to provide change for the cash being shoved in front of their faces.
Most of the vendors, like Spitfire, were mom and pop entrepreneurs and artists plying their wares for an appreciative client base. Booth prices are relatively affordable so vendors have a good shot of not only promoting themselves but making a nice profit at events like VLV. As well they should, exhibiting at these events is a lot of work but for most, well worth it (not to mention, a more than little fun is had in addition to raking in all the cold, hard cash).
The cars were insane as always. My favorites are the ridiculously low riding cars with the narrow front windshields and the old timey, two-seater hot rods. Many cars are towed in from around the country on the backs of trailers but I saw more than a few driving in the slow/truck lane on the drive to and from Los Angeles on the way in and out.
One of the great things about VLV in general and the car show specifically is the diversity of unique fashion that’s on display. The ladies had their Sunbrellas out in force to fight against the high desert sun and most of the fashion reflected the tattooed lifestyle of rockabilly or psychobilly fanatics. But there were also plenty of punk and other types of fashion influences mixed in amongst the crowd of strolling pin up queens and retro enthusiast.
The live musical acts on the huge outdoor stage was a great addition to the event from when I attended 5 years ago. There were great acts throughout the day but one of the highlights for me was catching a performance by the legendary British band “The Polecats“, who are a great, high energy rockabilly band dancing and playing on the edges of the genre where it melds with punk and psychobilly.
After the Polecats gig and the car show wound down, I made my way back inside the Orleans. If for some ungodly reason the car show wasn’t your scene, then there was STILL plenty going on… VLV is like Rockabilly amusement park where only your body’s need for sleep (or your tolerance for loads of alcohol) can prevent you from feeling entertained every second of the entire 4 day affair.
In addition to another pool party going full blast, I discovered a couple MORE music venues I had somehow missed PLUS a whole separate vendor area featuring retro clothing and old remastered classic rockabilly CDs and band posters. Yep, VLV has gotten huge.. but unlike so many things that see this kind of success, it has only gotten better in the process of growing. Everywhere you went, PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) was on tap for a measly $3.
Finally, burlesque.. that oh so popular retro and relatively recently revived art form that, at VLV at least, often meant braving snakingly long lines to secure a pass to the sold out shows. You may know how I feel about lines, basically I don’t do them. So I felt pretty smug when I was able to waltz into Burlesque Bingo without standing in so much as a 2 person deep line.
Now I’m not a big bingo fan exactly, but the fact that I could roll right in armed only with my VLV armband and press pass, well then bingo was a great excuse to get up close and personal to some burlesque dancing. Ah dear reader.. the sacrifices I make to bring you the pics and the story. I sure hope you appreciate it!
I’m not going to explain how Burlesque Bingo works but lets just it’s not your typical church bingo, of that you can be pretty certain. The highlight of the event for me was the chance to see the reigning 2011 Miss Viva Las Vegas Burlesque Champ, Miss Inga Ingenue(AKA Little Blonde Bomb) perform… wow! ,
And for any of you with delicate gender political sensibilities, you should know this was not a room full of dudes ogling scantily clad performers, far from it. It was at least 50/50 male-female ratio with some of the most raucous applause coming from the ladies in the bunch, many of whom were there with their man.
Inga Ingenue .
Lets see… burlesque, bingo, bowling… fashion, art and hot-rods… tattoos, leather jackets and rolled up jeans, sun-brellas, tight dresses and high heels..
Pool Parties with Tiki Bars, Hawaiian Shirts & Hula girls… Pachucos with Zoot Suits,
Guys with Mohawks, Quiffs and Pompadours..Girls channeling Sophia Loren and Bettie Page…
Mexibilly and Hillbilly Billy music with sliding guitars!
Drinking PBR out of a bowling pin or a plastic cowboy boot…
Elvis in with a pink cadillac scouting couples for the wedding chapel…
Chuck Berry and Richi Valens blasting from hot rods…
Greasers and Car Clubs…Sophia Loren and Bettie Page lookalikes..
Torn Suicidal Tendancies T-Shirt guy next to a Johnny Cash look a like..
Fans from Japan, Romania, Scotland, England…
Guys in overalls looking straight up from the movie “Brother Where Art Though?” and I saw a tough looking dude in combat boots and a kilt!
ahhh.. silly, ridiculous Las Vegas… oh and lest forget…
great live music from all over the world.
This is Rockabilly… this was Viva Las Vegas 2012.
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For the complete set of photos from Viva Las Vegas 2012 visit our Flikr Page HERE!
and stay tuned for some video clips from Burlesque Bingo and the Polecats coming soon!
In 2006 I happened to be in Las Vegas for some business reason or another when Viva Las Vegaswas in town. I stumbled upon the pool party by accident and saw a guy named “Pachuco Jose y Los Diamantes” playing his brand of boogie woogie out by the pool and all these tattooed and retro looking people in a variety of dress swinging and dancing to the music and generally having a good old time.
The music was in Spanish… the crowd was at least 50% Latino and this was as entertaining of a scene as my NYC jaded eyes had seen in a long, long time. I decided then and there that I’d be back the following year with cameras to feature the event on my syndicated TV show I was producing at the time, American Latino TV & LatiNation.
In 2007 we returned and did just that. We spent a couple days there gathering footage and interviews, checking out the car shows, talking to pin up queens and rockabilly cats from as far away as Japan. We interviewed the founder Tom Ingram and gathered enough material to produce a few segments on the phenomena.
Following my gut instinct that this type of content would play well in our biggest TV market (For a Latin targeted show that is Los Angeles, NOT New York City) and in markets throughout the west and southwest, we started weaving rockabilly and punk content into the shows. When covering music, fashion or other cultural stories instead of just focusing on the latest salsa or reggaetone artists or Latin celebrity, we also included this very underground culture that rarely received any mainstream national media attention.
It worked. Our ratings and awareness increased and I can honestly say of all the smart and stupid things I did in the 8 years I produced the shows, this was one of the smarter moves. It was a marketing home run.
Possibly in part because I was personally fascinated with the culture and people and genuinely interested in this lifestyle, not only from a Latin point of view, but overall.
This my friends, is how Punk Outlaw initially began. Despite the success of the ratings, American Latino & LatiNation couldn’t be all rockabilly, punk and psychobilly all the time. Our mission was much, much broader than that and the vast majority of viewers, while intrigued enough to watch some segments, would never watch entire programs dedicated to the culture. Not to mention our 100+ local affiliates and our dozen or so advertisers didn’t sign up for this type of show.
So walah.. Punk Outlaw was born. First as a simple site with some videos on You Tube then later the current version you see now, which incorporates my world travels as I work on the documentary “Punktology… the worldwide influence of punk”… to most recently, the launch of Punk Outlaw Records.. which is still feeling it’s way around finding and promoting various genres of underground music from around the world so that everyone can enjoy.
Well, now, in 2012, a good 5 years after we first covered VLV and provided some unique, never before seen coverage that I’m still very proud of to this day, we are heading back.
We’re driving this time from Los Angeles and beginning tomorrow will be there through Sunday where we’ll provide daily updates on the blog as well as video segments.
So if you can’t make it VLV this year, never fear dear reader, we got you. Stay tuned for daily updates and pics right here and we’ll do our best to bring it to you in all it’s glory. Should be a rollicking good time.