Psychobilly Invades Los Angeles
Brian Dowell
5/23/2005 5:18:34 PM

Psychobilly Night- w/ The Coffin Draggers, The Graveside Rockers, Shaun Kama, The Rocketz, The Deadbegones
The Cat Club-West Hollywood, CA
Friday May 13th, 2005

It was Friday the 13th and I was standing outside the Cat Club, on the Sunset Strip, feeling unlucky. The large black bouncer guarding the clubís door was scanning the guest list and my name didnít appear to be on it. I was assigned to be here tonight, to report on Los Angelesí burgeoning Psychobilly scene, which means I was surrounded by scores of teenaged boys who dressed like theyíd seen Grease one time too many, and a couple of older women who thought they looked like Bettie Paige. To ridicule devotees of this scene is tempting, and I do find this phenomenon of devoting your social life to romanticizing the false nostalgia that surrounds periods of time that that occurred before you were born to be at least a little creepy. But, really, these young Psychobilly devotees arenít much different, in spirit, than the mohawk sporting 14-year-olds that haunt suburban malls clad in leather jackets with Clash logos safety pinned in the back, or from young long haired hackey-sack-playing pot smokers that occupy every park Iíve ever been to. And letís not even get started on those that spend their weekends swing dancing or clad in cowboy hats at the local line dancing bar. I guess the grass always seems greener in decades that you donít actually have the displeasure of trying to live through.

I eventually talked my way into the door of the Cat Club, (I basically threatened to tell readers never to go to the Cat Club ever again..) a pathetically small, cramped claustrophobic hipster LA venue that is owned by the drummer of 80ís rockabilly icons, the Stray Cats. I watched a few bands who have names like the Graveside Rockers, the Coffin Draggers and the Dead Begones. The tiny stage was lined with a backdrop of red flames. Psychobilly basically consists of rockabilly songs (or, for you kids, old country songs played very quickly) that borrow violent heavy metal imagery. The bands all seemed to, in a variety of ways, sound and act just like the Rev. Horton Heat. They all featured twangy guitars and singing and heavily tattooed stand-up bass players. It all appealed to me, probably because, born in Memphis, my roots lie deep in Elvis country. So, even though their fans creeped me out a bit and most of the bands were barely discernible from one another, I liked the Psychobilly that I heard. It is all played quite skillfully and the commitment and aplomb that is sadly lacking in most other genres of modern music.

Of the bands I saw, I thought the Graveside Rickers were good (mainly because of the amazing ability of their vocalist/bass player). I was impressed with The Rockets, whose songs are catchy and whose drummer is amazing. Best drum solo Iíve heard in years. Or at least, since the last time I saw Motorhead. The lack of variety in their song topics got a little old, I thought. 75% of their songs seem to be about killing their girlfriends. As a married man, I can appreciate a good domestic abuse song every once in a while. However, twelve of them in one set seems a tad excessive. But their musical talent and their witty between-song banter made up for it.

A needed break from the proceedings occurred during a set by a local LA country singer, Shaun Kama. His heartbroken laments, performed with a solid backup band, seemed to channel the spirit of Johnny Cash (He performed two decently pristine Johnny Cash covers) and, while not as vocally distinct as the Man in Black, this kid definitely has an arresting stage presence and a fair amount of talent. His set definitely reached out and touched my inner homesick redneck.

All in all, I enjoyed my evening in Psychobilly country. The music is great. I could do without all the costumes and trappings, but Iíd have such complaints about seeing a group of bands in most any youth oriented genre of music. Hell, in my younger crazy days, I wore fishnet stockings, bad T-shirts and eyeliner and other very stupid things that I now wouldnít be caught dead in at various concerts, and somehow, doing so made going to those concerts more fun. I felt, at the time, that at least I was scaring and annoying the right people. So now that Iíve reached the age where Iíve become ďthe right peopleĒ for kids to annoy, I canít yell at anybody for trying to annoy me, can I? Nope. When it comes to this new wave of Psychobilly concerts, Iíll just have to shut up and enjoy the show.


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