Sunday, October 06, 2013

PONDEROSA STOMP: The Finale

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Tom McLoughlin of The Sloths preaches the Gospel of Garage
After Friday night's crazy performance at the Rock 'n' Bowl in New Orleans by The Sonics, I had this nagging fear yesterday that the second night of The Ponderosa Stomp might be something of a letdown. How could anyone match that level intensity and wild abandon?

Well, here's the deal. It's still obvious that the best show of this festival was The Sonics.

But Saturday night's lineup, especially The Standells and The Sloths -- the latter band being joined for a couple of tunes by the mysterious Ty Wagner -- was nothing short of amazing.

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The Standells impressed me last night even more than they did when they first twisted my head off when I was in 7th grade. Of all the 2013 Ponderosa Stomp lineup they were the most commercially successful (except maybe Chris Montez. More on him later.) Is there anyone around my age who doesn't remember "Dirty Water" or, my favorite, "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" ?

They played these hits as well as others from that era -- "Riot on Sunset Strip" (the title song of a teen exploitation movie from the mid 60s. Standells singer Larry Tamblyn said at a panel discussion a couple of days ago that he truly enjoys that film. The same way he enjoys Plan 9 From Outer Space) -- and some of my favorites from the Dirty Water album like "Rari" and "Medication."

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Cyril Jordan (center) with The Standells
Late in the set they were joined onstage by Johnny Echols, a former member of Love (The Standells' John Fleckenstein also was a Love man in that group's early days), and Cyril Jordan of The Flamin' Groovies. They played some Love songs, including a fiery "Seven and Seven Is," "Little Red Book" and "Hey Joe," which both Love and The Standells covered (as did about 98 percent of all American bands in the mid '60s)

All too often when you hear old bands play their old songs from decades past, it's sad and cheesey. But these Standells aren't ready for the casino circuit, and hopefully they never will be. They play like they could start a real riot on Sunset Strip.

And the reconstituted Sloths were no slobs either. Unlike The Standells, they never had a massive "Dirty Water"-level hit, but their song "Makin' Love," featured on one of the Back from the Grave compilations a few years ago is one of the finest examples of snarling minimalist, primitive angst-rock you'll ever hear.

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Waving the flag
They're fronted these days by singer Tom McLoughlin, who was with a '60s L.A. garage band called The May Wines with some members of The Sloths (I can't keep up with this cross-pollination) He's got more of a "rock star" aura than most the other garage-band performers I saw this weekend.

He also has a weird knack for silly props. During The Sloth's rendition of "Hey Joe" (I told you, all the bands back then did this song) he held up a hand-written hitchhiker sign that said "Mexico" as he sang "I'm goin' way down south to Mexico ..." Then he whipped out a Mexican flag, which he wore as a cape. In one song he tried to blow up a cheap plastic sex doll, but ran out of time before he had to start singing the next verse.

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After their own raucous set, The Sloths were joined onstage by Ty Wagner, another L.A. garage-rocker whose most famous song is "I'm a No Count." He sang that one as well as one by his rock 'n' roll hero Eddie Cochran, "Come On everybody." My only complaint about Wagner is that I wish he's have done more. He's got a moody intensity about him and sings every word as if his life depended on it.

Other music of note Saturday night was The Gaunga Dyns, a New Orleans garage group who had a local hit in the late '60s with "Rebecca Rodifer," a sad tale about a girl who died from an illegal abortion. This group recently reformed and are a tight outfit with hints of folk-rock, featuring three guitarists. My only gripe about them is that they opened with not one, not two, but three songs of The Animals. Each one sounded good, especially "I'M Cryin'," but for a while I thought it was an Eric Burdon cover band. On the other hand, their version of Paul Revere & The Raiders' "Just Like Me" was a complete delight.

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Charley Gracie, a rockabilly from Philly, was a complete delight. Backed by a band that included guitarist Deke Dickerson, Gracie really shined in his cover of "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody."

Dickerson and company also backed Chris Montez. Though Montez is best known for late '60s pop hits like "Call Me" and "The More I See You," he wisely concentrated on music from his early, Ritchie Valens-influenced days. "Let's Dance" with its spot-on Farfisa organ, can't help but make you smile.

I wish I would have stayed for R&B shouter Eddie Daniels. But after Ty Wagner and The Sloths, I was afraid I was going to end up like this guy below.

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All Stomped Out





But it was a fantastic festival.

Stomp on!







More Ponderosa Stomp Coverage:

* First Report: CLICK HERE
* Second Report: CLICK HERE

Photos (of the Stomp and other New Orleans craziness) CLICK HERE

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