Aplscruf's Music Blog

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

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

Los Straitjackets Video from Stanwood’s Slow Food Roots Music Festival

Gregorio El Grande steals the show with his solo in “You Send Me”


September 7, 2011 Posted by | Concert Season 2011, Los Straitjackets, Music | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Viva Los Straitjackets!

Eddie Angel

Eddie Angel of Los Straitjackets coaxed the devil out of his guitar Saturday afternoon at a quiet little food and music festival in Stanwood, Washington.

I first heard of Los Straitjackets while reading They Came to Nashville by Marshall Chapman.  I saw Ms. Chapman perform in Nashville in June of this year and purchased her book soon afterward.  Eddie Angel was featured in her book because he used to play in her band back in the 80’s.  He then formed Los Straitjackets in 1994.  Chapman named Los Straitjackets as her favorite Nashville band, and Eddie Angel as her favorite guitar player.  When I heard they were coming to the Seattle area, I had to go.

My husband was golfing the weekend they were supposed to play The Tractor; by the time I started scrambling to find someone else to go with, they sold out.  Their website mentioned they would be playing at Slow Food Roots Music Festival in Stanwood.  I looked them up, and decided to ask my teenage son if he could go with me, since the festival was family friendly.  He surprisingly agreed, so I purchased the $20 tickets and told him we were in, and not to make any other plans.

My goal was to not only introduce my son to some unique music, but also feed him some decent fair food.  I’m always surprised at the paradox of our local fairs to showcase beautiful animals, vegetables and fruit, and then serve heavily processed, greasy fast food.  But this festival tried something different.  The vendors were local.  The food was grown locally, and the menu included burgers,  beef brisket (cooked 15 hours on-site), veggie wraps, fruit smoothies, salads, roasted corn, desserts from a local bakery, and locally roasted coffee.

After a slow drive through heavy Everett traffic, we arrived about 2:00.  It was a perfectly warm, sunny day, with a little breeze to keep us from overheating.

We were hungry and purchased delicious hamburgers with fixin’s that included rhubarb ketchup, herb-infused mustard, beautiful butter lettuce, ripe tomatoes and fresh buns that were hand-cut.  They were so flavorful.

We grabbed some water bottles and found a seat in the small set of wooden risers just a few yards from the stage.  In front of us, there were people scattered about in beach chairs and blankets.   A few hundred people  gathered in the vicinity of the stage and beer garden.

The Moondoggies were finishing up a tight set, and sounded fantastic on this warm summer day.  I kicked myself for not driving up a bit earlier.  I do plan to see them again soon.

We wandered around after their set to find some dessert – a giant, tasty snickerdoodle.  We walked back to the stage and settled in again on the risers.  The crowd picked up a bit when it was announced that Los Straitjackets would be coming on stage in a few minutes.

My son refused to see a video or any pictures of the band.  I thought he was just being a lazy teenager, but he told me he really wanted to be surprised.  I only told him they were an instrumental surf  band, and they wore Mexican wrestling masks.  That was good enough for him!

I watched my son’s metallic grin spread all the way across his face as Los Straitjackets took the stage, decked out in their campy, colorful spandex wrestling masks, black bowling shirts with their names embroidered on the pocket, and black pants.

Casbah!

They started out the set with a slower  song that showcased their unique surf guitar sound. Their matching, sparkly Galaxie 4  guitars were custom-made by DiPinto Guitars, based in Philadelphia, PA.  They put those guitars to work.

By the third song, “Casbah,” more people showed up and started paying attention.  Senior Angel thanked the audience in pidgin Spanish, sans accent, and introduced the song: “Gracias, damas y caballeros, otro cancion es…Casbah! The three guitarists lined up and jutted their heads like pigeons to the beat of the song.

The fifth song was a cover,  “You Send Me” and I felt like I was a 50’s sock hop doing a slow dance with Marty McFly.

“Despues, a new…nuevo cancion called Space Mosquito, o Mosquito del Espacio!”  This was a new song from their upcoming album.

Senior Angel’s skillful guitar playing was magical.  I’ve really never seen anything like it.   Maybe even the best I’ve ever seen, for pure entertainment value.   He was all over the frets, throwing his pick hand behind his head making it look and sound like he had some kind of telepathic control over that guitar.  He was plucking, picking, pounding on the neck, making that thing scream out sounds I’ve never heard.  Maybe he was possessed.  Dios Mio! El Diablo!

A second guitar, played by and introduced as El Stupendo, El Fantastico Senior Gregorio El Grande (Greg Townson).  He rattled out the solos, playfully hit harmonics, slowed it down, and complemented Angel’s guitar to perfection. He stopped through part of a solo, threw his arms up toward the crowd in a show of triumph, and they whooped and clapped for more.  When not touring with Los Straitjackets, El Grande plays in another band with the drummer, Jason Smay called The Hi-Risers, based in Rochester, NY.

Gregorio El Grande!

The drummer, Senior Jason Smay, had his hands full keeping up with the fast surfer pace, banging away in the hot August sun.  He had a remarkable solo of his own during a cover of “Sing Sing Sing,” and received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Srs. Eddie, Pedro y Gregorio

The bass player, Senior Pedro (Pete) Curry, whose mask was epic with winged sides like some loco Jurassic lizard, had very difficult runs and some fun coordinating dance moves with the two guitarists during the long set.  They would stand together and play or cross their legs at the same time, pose, throw their arms up in unison, and mug for my camera.

Many of the songs were fun covers, but they are also getting ready to drop a new album and played two more original songs, including “Bobsleddin’,” and one called “Positively 6th Street.”  I only wish we were watching their act at a beach party in Southern California, where we were free to dance and get a little…Psycho! (Cue the Psycho Beach Party Video!)

Some of the other covers included “Tequila,” in which Angel asked the beer garden: “Quiere Tequila?” and blasted into that famous song.  They also played “The Munsters” theme song, the Stones’ “Time is on My Side,” and–uh, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” from The Titanic.  It sounded so cool, though!

Senior Angel kept forgetting where he was playing and exclaimed to the crowd, “Viva, uh, viva…Stanley?  No?  Stanwood. Viva Stanwood! Y viva…[he read off the festival name from Gregorio’s wrist band] Slow Food Roots Music Festival!”  The crowd laughed and cheered heartily, and he continued,  “Viva Beer Garden!” More cheers.  “Viva Batman!” and plowed  right into the “Batman” theme song to a happy crowd.

We moved to the side and sat on hay bales next to the right side of stage during encore while they played a Ritchie Valens instrumental,  and it was a perfect, beautiful rendition.

After the quick encore, I told Jacob to make a dash for the side of the stage, as I hoped we could catch them before they left.  It was so open, it was easy to see them.  There was a lone security guard who cheerfully helped bring the guys over to meet us.

Eddie came over first, and I had my copy of Marshall Chapman’s book in my hand.  He recognized it immediately and was taken aback.  He said he’d never seen anyone with the book at a show before.  I quickly told him how we were just in Nashville in June and saw Marshall’s show, and realized they would be coming to town!  He happily signed my book on the picture in chapter about him.  The drummer Jason signed it too, and thanked us for being there.

The security guard brought over Gregorio who also signed the book, gave me his card, and was glad to hear I was doing a review of the show.  I told him I heard they tore it up at The Tractor last night, but I couldn’t get tickets.  He remembered they sold out.  He said they had a great time.  I told him The Tractor was our favorite place to see live shows, and he said he’d come back as long as The Tractor is still there.  He said hello to my son, whom I quickly introduced.  He shook Jacob’s hand (Jacob later admitted that was pretty cool).  Gregorio then called the bass player over, who also signed and after hearing my explanation of how I acquired the book, said to me, “Marshall–she’s a smart one!” Yes, she is.

I was shaking when I left.  I was so excited to get not only Eddie Angel’s autograph, but the whole band’s!  Jacob said, “Calm down, Mom!” and smiled as he said it.

Signatures in Marshall Chapman’s book, “They Came to Nashville”

We were almost hungry again and purchased peach smoothies, a beef brisket sandwich, then went back for roasted corn cob and pecan pie bars for dessert.  The entertainment, the food, the perfect weather…Yeah, it was a good day at the festival.

Viva Los Straitjackets!

Viva Los Straitjackets!

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Concert Season 2011, Los Straitjackets, Music | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Los Straitjackets Review on Randomville

My review of Los Straitjackets just published on Randomville today!  Check them out…http://randomville.com/wordpress/?p=11564

Eddie y Pedro of Los Straitjackets

September 2, 2011 Posted by | Concert Season 2011, Los Straitjackets, Music | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment