DOWNTOWN STAGE SATURDAY CONCERT SERIES
Doors open at 7:00pm | Concert starts at 8:00pm - 11:00pm
This summer’s years Downtown Stage night music lineup has something for everyone. On Saturday nights the concert lawn is open to the public at 7:00 pm to make sure everyone is comfortable when the music begins at 8:00 pm. A Beer, Wine, and a Hard Bar will be open for guests who can provide identification of legal drinking age. A variety of food trucks provide dining options.
Three decades after the inception of X, one thing is clear: X was not only one of the most influential bands to crash out of the punk movement of the late ‘70s, but the band’s music continues to be sonically groundbreaking today. Songs written during the group’s inception are as relevant and inventive today as they were in 1977.
The fact is, no one sounds like X and no one ever will.
It’s not surprising when you consider the group’s unique beginnings, which can only be attributed to fate. On the same day with nearly the exact same wording, two want-ads appear in a local music rag. One was sent in by a guitarist named Billy Zoom, the other by bassist who called himself John Doe.
Zoom, a rockabilly rebel who’d performed with Gene Vincent, had read a negative review of a band called the Ramones. It said they only played three chords and they played ‘em too fast. So naturally, he went to see them. The show was at the Golden West Ballroom in the L.A. suburb of Norwalk in early ’77, and as soon as the Ramones started to perform, Zoom realized that, musically, he’d found exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
Doe, who was originally from the Baltimore area, was already down with the East Coast CBGB’s scene and by the time the two got in the same room together after responding to each other’s ads, it seemed it was meant to be. They performed a few shows with various drummers before a poet with no ambition of being a singer would enter the picture. Doe found her in Venice Beach, at a poetry reading. He liked her poems so much he offered to perform them in his band. The poet, Exene Cervenka, had just moved to town from Florida and she told him, no offense, but if anyone was gonna perform her poems, it would be her, and she soon ended up in the band. Zoom was skeptical about someone’s girlfriend being in the band. After they did their first show with Exene, he didn’t know exactly what it was she had, but he knew it was magic.
After a succession of drummers, Doe was at the underground punk club the Masque in Hollywood one night, checking out a band called the Eyes, which featured a pre-Go-Go’s bass player named Charlotte Caffey. He called Zoom immediately and said he’d found their drummer. Doe told him he played with a parade snare and hit it hard as a hammer. Zoom told him to promise him anything. His name was D.J. Bonebrake and he quickly signed on. The band was now complete, and X would soon emerge from the young punk scene as one of its most successful offspring.
The band’s early albums, Los Angeles (1980), produced by Ray Manzarek of the Doors, Wild Gift (1981), and Under the Big Black Sun (1982) explored dark love and an even darker L.A. with the unflinching eye of a Raymond Chandler novel. Doe and Cervenka would marry and later divorce, but they’d always remain soulmates. As they released each ensuing album, More Fun in theNew World(1983) and Ain’t Love Grand (1985), the band continued to grow sonically and politically, fearlessly mixing genres without ever losing its center. As each member went on to explore diverse careers—careers that included acting, art, writing, producing and multiple side projects.”
It doesn't take long after listening to the Meat Puppets' thirteenth studio album overall, 'Lollipop,' to realize that they have boiled the essence of what the group is all about right down to its core. As a result, singer/guitarist Curt Kirkwood, bassist Cris Kirkwood, and drummer Shandon Sahm have an instant Meat Puppets classic on their hands, and an album that fits in perfectly with such mid '80s classics as 'Up on the Sun' and the underrated 'Mirage' (while not coming off as an attempt to recreate a certain musical era of the group). Interestingly however, the Meat Puppets did not achieve this by working out the songs' arrangements beforehand, or even extensively rehearsing together.
"This one here was an experiment in just viewing the parts as Tinkertoys, and seeing the little Tinkertoy circus that needed to be built, and putting it together simply like that," explains Curt. "With just the band in the studio and the engineer, we didn't learn the songs - we just went in the studio, and went, 'OK, here's your part. Now play this good.' So we cut the stuff on acoustic guitar and drums first, and then built it. It's an interesting concept of a way to do something. It seems like it might be a stiff way to do something, by just putting it together a piece at a time like that. But I really enjoyed it. I think the overall sound of the way it came out is kind of a contradiction of the way it was recorded. To me, that's the coolest thing - to put something together like that, so you have the sum of the parts, and then the whole. The whole thing about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. To force yourself to do it that way. We were able to keep track of the music."
Produced once more by Curt, 'Lollipop' is the second Meat Puppets record to be released via Megaforce Records, and also signals the re-entry of former Puppets drummer Sahm back into the band (who previously played on the 2000 Puppets release, 'Golden Lies,' and supporting tour). Sahm- "Come October , Curt called. I said, 'Aren't you you supposed to be out on tour with the Stone Temple Pilots? What's up?' He said, 'Do you want to fill in and do these dates?' We only had one day to practice. That was the icebreaker. The first show was in Mobile, Alabama at BayFest. It was probably 5,000 to 10,000 people. Right afterwards, Robert and Dean DeLeo came up and said, 'You're really great in the band. You really drive the band cool. You should be in there.' And I was like, 'Well, I'm filling in for right now. It would be cool...talk to 'the boss'.' Robert goes, 'I'll talk to him.'
Recorded at Spoon’s HiFi Studio’s in Austin, 'Lollipop' is chock full of tunes that run the stylistic gamut. Case in point, the album opening keyboard-laced "Incomplete" (that Curt wrote back in 1983, and envisioned as "something that I thought would be good for Elvis or Engelbert Humperdinck in the '60s") and the rocking "Hour of the Idiot," to the sunny ska of "Shave It," and such acoustic country ditties as "Baby Don't" and "The Spider and the Spaceship." And Cris certainly approves of the finished product. "The continuity that runs through Curt's work is just a trip, and how you can reference different parts. I think it's a fairly bitching effort, considering the amount of time we put into pre-work. I think it's indicative of where the band's at right now. It's a fairly fluid moment, and that's a trip, considering how long we've been at it and the band's history. Curt's been at it non-stop, and I'm pleased to be able to provide him with a stable outlet for his art."
And according to Curt, the band got back to trusting their instincts once more - a major catalyst in their earlier work. "The similarity between the '80s and now is that once we started getting a lot of attention in the '90s, we brought producers in and stuff, and there was a thing that started happening - and it might sound egotistical - but this band always ran off of my intuitions. As much as songwriting or anything else. I write intuitively, and I never wanted to be a songwriter - I just got into it when I had the band. I just wanted to be in a band. So it's all been this intuition of 'This is what we need to do.' This was kind of taken away from us in the '90s, as money came in and people said, 'You need to do this.' It clouded the whole easygoing...like, 'Well, what does Curt think?' You could say it was the money or it was the thrust of popularity stuff or the Nirvana thing. But it just was like the band as a whole quit trusting that, I think. We just became more compliant, and like they say, 'Cooperation leads to corruption.' So in this way, I think the album harkens back to that."
To support 'Lollipop,' the Meat Puppets are planning on touring steadily, including the group's first substantial European tour in nearly two decades. Curt- "We took a good amount of time off in this last year and didn't do any real big tours, so we could get this record done and just cool our heels a little bit. Now, we're ready to get going again." Cris- "We're getting back to a place where...he and I have a bitching wavelength that we were able to get to. He so doesn't need my support in a way, but I think he appreciates it in a way, and I know I love our relationship and the music we make together." As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and 'Lollipop' is one tasty listening experience from beginning to end.