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

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys at The Sunset 12.21.13

Big Sandy with Kevin Stewart on Bass

Big Sandy with Kevin Stewart on Bass

I couldn’t stop smiling tonight.  Big Sandy and the boys brought their top-notch show to the intimate Sunset Tavern.  I only wished I knew how to dance.

We began our fantastic weekend by checking in to the very swanky Hotel Ballard, directly across the street to our ol’ stompin’ grounds, Hattie’s Hat and The Tractor.  The boutique hotel just recently opened, and it is fabulous.  Although the nightly rates are a little steep and garage parking is $15, it’s a steal for attending any shows in Ballard.  We could not come close to matching their rates by staying in downtown Seattle and paying over $30 for parking plus taking a taxi to Ballard.  We’ll be sure to stay here again.  Our room was spotless and tastefully decorated, too, with an iron balcony overlooking “our” street.

We got in to town around 5:30 and got settled in.  We decided to go grab a bite at Bastille, a French restaurant just a few steps up the street.  Being the last weekend before Christmas, we wondered if the crowds would be crazy, or if the neighborhood would be quiet.  Actually, the crowds were manageable.  We bellied up to the beautiful bar and ordered a shared meal from a bartender who looked like he came from some glamorous Parisian bar that served Oscar Wilde.  His hair was slicked back and buzzed and he had a respectable beard.  I think I remember his friendly and polite manner from the last time we ate there.  He brought us some wonderful drinks and took our order for chicken and baguettes.  There was a sea salt sprinkle on the baguettes that made them irresistible.  The half chicken was delicately fried and crispy.  A few tiny Brussels sprouts and some rustic potatoes surrounded the moist chicken.  After saying adieu to our genteel bartender, we continued down the street to find dessert.

First, we stopped by The Sunset to see if the crowds were forming, but it was dead.  We checked in and got stamped so we could come back later.

We noticed most of the smaller restaurants and cafes were packed.  We stopped by the very crowded Hot Cakes and picked up a delicious peanut butter cookie that we devoured in minutes.  I think we waited longer in line than the time it took to eat that cookie!

Back to our room.  We cleaned up, donned our western apparel, and headed back up the street to The Sunset.  The audience grew exponentially once we entered.  I could not believe it, but once again, we were able to get two bar stools at the end of the bar.  We get so lucky scamming seats!  We happily scooted in next to a pair of rockabilly girls dressed in leopard prints and beautiful up-do’s.  Next to them was someone I recognized from our first Big Sandy show.  He had a large, colorful neck tattoo and a perfectly coiffed ducktail.  His tweed jacket completed the dapper package.  I took a pic of him at the first show because he got on stage with Big S and sang a rockabilly tune in a death metal pig squeal while Big S laughed. It was so hilarious!  Here is the link of that show: http://randomville.com/live-review-big-sandy-and-his-fly-rite-boys/.  I felt shy when we first got there, and was not ready to introduce myself quite yet.  I did bring my business cards this time, so at least I was a little more prepared to pass around the cards.

We also saw some other people we knew.  We are starting to feel like regulars.  I guess we are, since we have been hitting the Ballard clubs regularly since 2007.  Big Sandy came out of the backstage room and ordered a soft drink at the opposite end of the bar.  He looked our way, and we smiled and raised our glasses to him.  He smiled and did the same.  I should have walked over and talked to him, but the growing crowd surrounded us.   Johnny 7 Stuart showed up.  He opened for Big S in Portland a couple of days before.  Johnny said the Portland show was cool, in the old  and elegant Crystal Ballroom. He also managed to catch X and Blasters at El Corazon the night before.  We had another function that night, so I was bummed I missed that show.  I enjoyed talking with Johnny, and miss seeing him play on stage.  It’s been a while.  We’ll make an effort to see his show in 2014.  Gaby, our Bothell friend showed up with her husband, Marc, too.  Dean, an acquaintance we met at Hattie’s before the first Big Sandy show, also arrived.  Pat recognized him and brought him over.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers

Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers

The crowd pushed forward, and we realized we were right in the middle of a giant group of Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers!  They looked like college students, all buff and beautiful, but with hideous red and green sweaters!  It was fantastic to see the variety and creativity.  I’m sure some were lovingly made by a grandparent.  I took a few pics.

Snowman Vest

Snowman Vest

Country Dave Harmonson was there, too, and was going to play with the opening band, Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer.  Cahalen and crew loaded in while we ordered drinks and a pizza slice.  I didn’t think I could eat a bite, but it was so good!  Cahalen Morrison’s band filled the stage with guitars, steel, drums and violin.  They had a tight country sound and the dancers appreciated their lively tunes.

Cahalen Morrison

Cahalen Morrison

I said hello to Gaby and told her I was glad she made it.  P saw her earlier, and she said she was trying to get off work asap to get to the show.  She knew it would be packed.  Actually, after the pub crawlers dissipated (they were only on the 2nd pub of the night), the crowd became pretty reasonable.  It was probably only ¾ full, and by the end of the night only about ¼ stuck around.  We were perfectly comfortable on our stools and took turns getting up and moving through the crowd.  I also said hello to Country Dave after his show, and again congratulated him on his superb skills on pedal steel.  He’s really a master.  I also told him that Pat saw him at the airport playing his gig, but he didn’t want to interrupt his playing.  Dave said, “PLEASE” stop by and say hi, because he gets bored sometimes sitting in the airport with no one to talk to!  So if you ever see a man picking a guitar or pedal steel at SeaTac Airport, please stop by and pay Country Dave Harmonson a visit.  He’ll appreciate your support.

DSC03420

Big Sandy loaded in and we prepared for his rollicking show.  I just love his energy.  Here’s a review from last August: https://aplscruf.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/two-big-nights-big-sandy-willie-nelson-and-the-gourds-8-22-8-23-13/ We took our seats and meanwhile, I asked Pat to look up my first Big Sandy review from 2012, because I was pretty sure there was a picture of our tattooed neighbor in my review.  There he was, up on stage squealing away!

Clark, the Death Metal Pig Squealer!

Clark, the Death Metal Pig Squealer!

I zoomed in on the pic to fill the phone’s screen, and slowly moved it in front of him.  He stopped, looked at the pic, looked at me, and laughed!  “Hey, that was a fun night!  Did you take that picture?”  Yes, I did, and I wrote the review, too! “So, did you coin the phrase, ‘Death Metal Pig Squeal?’”  Well, yes, yes I did! Ha! That cracked me up.  I coined a phrase! He shook my hand and introduced himself as Clark.  We spoke for a while about the whole rockabilly culture.  I am so enamored with the scene.  I love the coiffed hair, the beautiful dresses and tattoos.  I took a few pics of the dancers.  I envy their cool looks.  I wanted to dress up after my first rockabilly show, but just didn’t seem to have the nerve—or the tattoos! I love connecting with people at these shows, too.  We’re finally branching out a bit.  We used to just sit there by ourselves and not interact with anyone, and it can tend to get boring in between sets.

Guitar extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and drummer Joe Perez

Guitar extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and drummer Joe Perez

Big Sandy, drummer Joe Perez (aka Lil’ Sandy), guitarist extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and bassist Kevin Stewart were ready to go.  He had a massive setlist, and I think he hit most of the songs on it.  He must have played for about an hour and a half, maybe 2 hours.  I lost track of time once they got started.  The dancers were out en force.  I had fun watching them twirl around.  The girls had such pretty dresses and ta-tas to fill them.  I don’t think I could “fill” those dresses properly! I really wanted to get out there and dance, though.  It was a swing style, with lots of twirling and fancy footwork.

Dancers tearing up the floor!

Dancers tearing up the floor!

He played many of my favorites, including “Miss Tracy”, “Jumping From 6 to 6”,  and “Chalk it Up to the Blues”.  His energized set kept the dancers moving.  He played a couple of acoustics off the latest album, What A Dream It’s Been too, and the audience adjusted accordingly to some slow dances.  Ashley  Kingman rocked his electric guitar again, in his unassuming style.  He’s an expert, and never has to add gimmicky moves to get his musical point across.  I love the explosion of sound. Big Sandy delivers his smooth lyrics through the intro, and then he turns to the boys and lets them go, go, go!

I was disappointed in how few people stayed around till the end.  He’s such a class act, and should fill a larger venue.  It was getting late, though, and I think people like to hit the road before midnight.  We didn’t have far to go, so we were in no rush.  We were glad we stayed, glad we got to talk to some more friends, glad we had a free weekend to get out and let loose!

We talked to Big Sandy (aka Robert Williams) after his show.  He sweat right through his suit, and rightly so, after such a long and electric set.  He noticed we came early and stayed late.  I again told him I wrote about his show a while back and gave him my card this time. We took some pics with him and wished him well.  I also bought a cool t-shirt from Ashley, who also remembered reading my previous review, so that was rewarding.

The boys were headed to Eugene next before returning to California.

It was a perfect birthday weekend getaway.  Thank you, P!

December 28, 2013 Posted by | aplscruf, Big Sandy, Concert Season 2013, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys at The Tractor 6.15.12

Big Sandy

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys delivered that rockabilly beat to The Tractor Tavern Friday night.  Big Sandy is another branch on my musical family tree.  He occasionally sings and tours with Los Straitjackets, and I happened across a few videos on LSJ’s website that featured him.  Of course, when I saw that he was bringing the Fly-Rite Boys to The Tractor, I couldn’t miss it.

SEE MY REVIEW ON RANDOMVILLE!

I’ll try to post some more pictures here when time allows.  I posted the best ones on Randomville.

June 22, 2012 Posted by | Big Sandy, Concert Season 2012, Los Straitjackets, Music, Randomville, The Tractor Tavern | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Coming Up: Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys!

Big Sandy is coming to Seattle’s Tractor Tavern on Friday, June 15.  I just purchased tickets yesterday, and I’m looking forward to the big show!  Check ’em out:

June 10, 2012 Posted by | Big Sandy, Concert Season 2012, Music, The Tractor Tavern | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wanda Jackson and the Third Man Band

Check out my review of Wanda Jackson on Randomville.  Wanda’s new Album, The Party Ain’t Over is now available through Jack White’s Third Man Records. 

March 3, 2011 Posted by | Concert Season 2011, Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment