The Flesh Eaters don’t come around very often, but when they do, they don’t fuck around. With front man Chris D., John Doe and DJ Bonebrake of X, Dave Alvin, Steve Berlin and Bill Bateman from The Blasters, they are something of an all-star band. But they don’t fall into that trap, especially when it comes to ego. Dave Alvin and John Doe seem more than happy to linger in the shadows, John Doe swaying slowly to music that must be a relief for his guitar, compared to his usual frantic attack.
The set list was mostly pulled from The Flesh Eater’s most popular album, A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die. Songs varied between catchy, spooky garage-style hits like “Diggin’ My Grave” and “Pony Dress”, and longer, spacier, hypnotic jams like “River of Fever” and “So Long.” Their biggest hit, “See You in the Boneyard” showcased how incredibly tight the band is, in spite of only having five days to rehearse. I particularly liked “Satan’s Stomp,” which was heavy on the saxophone and had a hook that reminded me of the Fat Albert theme song.
The cover songs played as an encore blew everyone’s minds. Chris D. offered an explanation before slamming into Green Manalishi. He wanted to clarify that it was not a Judas Priest cover, but was written by Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac. So get off his back, people! The band ended the night with a nod to The Flesh Eaters’ fellow label mates and 80s blues resurrectionists, The Gun Club, with “She’s Like Heroin to Me.” When the crowd slowly ambling towards the exit recognized the first few strains of that song, people totally lost their shit.
Although Chris D. has become more relaxed over time, his voice still exudes a low, growling spooky vibe like a kid’s horror movie host, ‘a la Count Floyd. But that was not the limit of his dramatic range, which includes whines, moans, and outright screams. In spite of the intensity, Chris D. often stood with his hands on his hips, looking at the floor thoughtfully, as though he was trying to figure out whether or not he left the correct tip at dinner.
Steve Berlin’s sax and Dave Alvin’s guitar often went low and dark, matching Chris D.’s intense baritone ululations. The Flesh Eaters’ rhythm section is unparalleled in all of Los Angeles; they kept everything going, whether its was the pounding cantillations or the dreamy, jazzy songs. Bill Bateman’s drum strokes were clear and almost tribal. The cymbals, along with DJ Bonebrake’s xylophone and Chris D.’s whines in songs like “Wedding Dice” provided much-needed high notes to keep things from dragging. Also, we must give a shout-out to John Doe’s first-rate whistling.
Opening the night were The Alleycats, a throwback to late 70s LA punk. They are even more treasured since Randy Stodola reappeared on the scene several years ago after a 20-year absence. His voice is even more gravelly, and without Diane Chai’s melodic vocals, the songs are a bit rougher than they once were. Otherwise, there is little difference between then and now. His backing musicians, Apryl Cady and Matt Laskey, never miss a beat. The songs transport you back in time to the barren, drug-laden streets of downtown LA. Randy weaves stories of the 80’s seedy underground, with lyrics like “‘Cause the chickens/and the chicken hawks/they’re gonna teach you a brand new way to walk.” But lest things get bleak, Randy’s catchy melodies and sense of humor are always there to lift the mood with a wry smile.
Video by Deb Frazin