Beards were in abundance for the Flamin’ Groovies’ return to the LA stage at the Bootleg Theater last weekend, supported by proto-punk idols the Zeros. In terms of age gap, it was as big as they get. About half the audience can’t have been born when this band went kaput around 1980, whle much of the other half looked like they might have been the band members’ parents. But if the Groovies find themselves a little bit out of their time, it’s only natural. They were a little too sixties-garage for mass appeal in the early seventies, when they were making their most memorable records. But what comes across on stage today is timeless, essential rock and roll music. They are the ultimate bar band, and having them in a bar, in our town, is a reason to be happy.
In their Ultimate Bar Band-Ness, they sometimes resemble NRBQ, and oddly enough, just as they were announcing that they were doing an NRBQ song, it occurred to me that I really wanted to hear the Flamin’ Groovies play “I Want You Bad”… and then they did! It was awesome.
In true bar-band tradition, they peppered the set with covers, including the Byrds’ “Feel A Whole Lot Better”, and two Stones numbers, dedicated to “one of our main influences…Mr. Brian Jones!” But no surprise, it was the Groovies own big moments – “Slow Death”, “Shake Some Action” and the show-closing “Teenage Head” – that got heads pounding. One new number was played during the encore, and turned out to be an unexpected highlight of the show, which bodes well for their planned LP next year. Another good sign. the visceral interplay between guitarists Cyril Jordan and Chris Wilson is still there. As far as old-band reunions go, this was in the top tier, one of the ones that I’m happy to have seen.
Full review & photo gallery after the jump.
The Zeros were missing their founding singer/ guitarist Robert Lopez; the audience chuckled when guitarist Javier Escovedo muttered that Lopez “went off and joined a Little Richard cover band”, but it turns out, that’s actually true. Even without him, they sallied forth as a three-piece and pulled off a killer set, all the tracks from their incredible early singles, tapping the source to produce some of the best teenage-angst music ever heard. They were punk before punk, organic garage music from that moment right before anyone realized there was anyone else out there, outside the garage. For half an hour, they took us back to that time, when it was all about Chuck Berry riffs set to amphetamine beats.