Aplscruf's Music Blog

Diary of a Married Groupie

Best Show of The Year II: Los Straitjackets and Deke Dickerson at The Tractor 11.21.14

Pete Curry of Los Straitjackets

“Pedro” Pete Curry of Los Straitjackets

It was one of those Yin-Yang, bittersweet days.  Our Mexican-American friend Ralph passed away a few weeks earlier and we attended his memorial service on the afternoon before the Los Straitjackets show.  He died in the midst of doing something he loved: selling his folk art at a local art shop on the weekend of Dia De Los Muertos.  Not only did Ralph paint beautiful folk art, but painted several variations of ornate skulls and skeletons for Dia De Los Muertos that he was selling that day.

In such a perfect, almost supernatural coincidence, Los Straitjackets played The Tractor the evening after Ralph’s memorial service.  We told his loving partner Nancy about LSJ, who wear Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling masks and play instrumental surf music.  She was happy that we were going to do something so strangely appropriate after the service.  Ralph would have joined us if he could.  Maybe he did, in spirit.  The happiness and revelry of the night balanced out the somber atmosphere of the day.

On with the show…

Although I had already claimed Southern Culture on The Skids as the best show of the year, I knew I’d probably eat my words when I heard Los Straitjackets were coming to town.  The two bands even have their own collaborative album out entitled Mondo Zombie Boogaloo and toured together last year.

Los Straitjackets have been a favorite of mine ever since I saw them a few years ago in Stanwood’s Slow Foods Roots Music Festival.   They are a part of my musical family tree–artists I have grown to love that have a common ancestry in roots rock, who have either collaborated together or branched out with various cousins of that genre. LSJ have also gained a huge following in Mexico, and played to 50,000 people in Mexico City last year, two nights in a row!

To give you an idea of their musical style, here’s a fun one from their album, Jet Set:

After the memorial service, we had just enough time to change and Uber down to Ballard.  The traffic was reasonably light for a Friday, so we had plenty of time to grab some hearty food at Hattie’s Hat.  We first paid homage to Ralph with a big shot of tequila and lime.

Our friend Dean arrived earlier and saved us a spot at our favorite table, right up front, stage right.  Thanks, Dean!  Soon after, the first band set up.

Miss Mamie Lavona The Exotic Mulatta

Miss Mamie Lavona The Exotic Mulatta

Miss Mamie Lavona The Exotic Mulatta and Her White Boy Band strutted out to the stage to hearty applause. I didn’t realize this was a local Seattle band.  I’ve seen their name pop up a few times (pretty memorable!) and I believe they’ve played with LSJ in the past, but didn’t know the treat we were in for.  The band this night consisted of Miss Mamie on sultry vocals, Hugh Jardo’hon aka Eric Ray Anderson on electric ukulele, with other members on trumpet, keys, drums, upright bass, and clarinet.  Their jazzy, cabaret-style music took us way back to New Orleans. Miss Mamie’s downright sexy aura was mesmerizing.  The band was excellent, with fabulous solos on trumpet and clarinet.  They covered some old songs, but also included their own numbers, including a humorous one called “Flat Stanley”.

Hugh J'Ardon

Hugh Jardo’hon

Los Straitjackets, in their self-aggrandizing fashion, took the stage to a capacity crowd of cheering, whooping fans.  Everyone crushed forward as the band donned their matching instruments and egged on the audience with their arms raised in a plea for more noise and applause.

They wasted no time as they dove into “Pacifica”.  Here’s a video from a show last year in NYC:

Los Straitjackets performing "Casbah"!

Los Straitjackets performing “Casbah”!

“Casbah” is one of my all-time favorites, with the boys lined up bopping their heads in unison, turning sideways.

Eddie and Greg’s solos were bloody scorching.  It was so exhilarating to be that close and watch Eddie’s fingers at work.

Eddie Angel summoning the Devil out of his guitar

Eddie Angel summoning the Devil out of his guitar

Pete was also a kick on bass and had complex runs while mugging for my camera, as evidenced in the first picture, top.

Drummer Chris Sprague, aka Sugarballs, had furious solos, especially on “Sing Sing Sing” and also played to the audience’s applause by standing, waiting to hit the last beat, etc.

Sugarballs on Drums

Sugarballs on Drums

Deke Dickerson, in a straw cowboy hat and red jacket joined them, adding some super vocals to their instrumental music.  They have an album out which is a collaboration with Deke on old instrumental favorites, such as the Hawaii Five-O theme song (actually sung by Sammy Davis, Jr. in the seventies) and to some of LSJ’s own instrumentals with new lyrics.  The LSJ album, entitled Deke Dickerson Sings the Great Instrumental Hits is a hoot.  I laughed my way through LSJ’s original first song, “Fury”, where Deke decided a big-time wrestler’s voice would be appropriate singing the lyrics.  They played this one at the show, but first Deke asked the audience to clear a path down the middle.  He growled the lyrics in his best wrestler voice, jumped off the stage and eventually picked up a hapless audience member and flung him around in his arms, wrestler-style.  It was fantastic, and really got us going. Meanwhile, the band was onstage tearing it up, with a nasty solo by Eddie halfway through the crazy song.

Deke Dickerson

Deke Dickerson

He played several songs with them, also including the 50’s version of “Miserlou” with lyrics.  He first started off playing in the familiar up-tempo version, made famous in the movie Pulp Fiction.  He stopped after shredding a few seconds on his own sparkly DiPinto guitar (LSJ’s model with Deke’s name on it) and said he would do the earlier version–which we would like 50% less than the one we all knew.  Ha

I’m just now learning more about Mr. Dickerson, and I must say he is truly a renaissance man.  Along with Los Straitjackets, he is doing his part to preserve roots rock for future generations.  Check out his website and learn more about this multi-talented fellow.

Deke left the stage to LSJ for several more songs.

Gregorio El Grande teasing the front row

Gregorio El Grande teasing the front row

Besides being expert instrumentalists, LSJ’s showmanship and faux bravado just added to the entire entertainment experience.  We were completely immersed in their performance.

LSJ Coordinating Moves

LSJ Coordinating Moves

Los Straitjackets are now in the midst of touring with the great Nick Lowe for their Quality Holiday Review. In a twist of fate, Ian McLagan, famed for the band Faces, just passed away early December.  He was supposed to join them.  They will have a bittersweet tour, I’m sure; but nonetheless it will be the show to see if they play your town. Check out their tour dates and cities on Nick Lowe’s site here: http://nicklowe.com/

A few more pics:

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No Hands! The Deke Dickerson Reach-around!

Eddie Angel

Eddie Angel

Gregorio y Eddie

Gregorio y Eddie

LSJ Setlist

LSJ Setlist

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December 8, 2014 - Posted by | aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Los Straitjackets, Music, The Tractor Tavern | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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