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Photograph by Ken Marcus

Friday! Friday! Friday! X headlines Hootenanny 2002 Friday at Shoreline.

Hell on Wheels

Custom cars and roots rockers collide at Hootenanny 2002 show

By Richard von Busack

WHILE I HATE to reduce a crowd to a social stereotype, the art of modern concert promoting does force the issue. The brochure for Hootenanny 2002 says it all. This is the northern leg of a traveling show that's an annual summer happening in Irvine, Calif. Organizers anticipate a mass of gearheads with a rally of classic 1950s customized bulgemobiles.

I can easily envision the surroundings: pints of PBR in plastic cups, elbow-flame tattoos, a crowd of roots rockers squiring crinoline-skirt flippers with old-school "True Love" hearts and daggers all bloody-red inked on their pale arms.

OK, not quite PBR. Did anyone make a fuss about Pabst Blue Ribbon until Dennis Hopper's Frank Booth memorably endorsed it in Blue Velvet? Actually, Miller Genuine Draft sponsors Hootenanny. The press release notes, "Hootenanny welcomes those of all types and kinds, mainly focusing on the average-age attendee between 18 and 35 years old, all of which will stand in the longest beer line that you have ever seen." Well, add more taps, dang it--it's not as if MGD is priceless.

Moreover, 18-35 demographic aside, quite a few of the performers at Hootenanny 2002 will never see the happy side of 40 again. The headliners are X, Joe Strummer, the Reverend Horton Heat, the Blasters and Hank Williams III.

Rhino Records just finished rereleasing the last of X's catalogue--less essential work than the band's first albums. Working backward, you can hear what befell X in 1985 when it hired Michael Wagener, ex-producer for Dokken, to hatch the studio album Ain't Love Grand.

Back then, John Doe, X's co-vocalist and songwriter, would tell reporters that his definition of a real fan was someone who would stick with X through thick and thin. That comment must have influenced Doe's partner, Exene Cervenka. She was one of those Catholics who get a lot of drama out of their religion--hear the terrifying "Riding With Mary" on Under the Big Black Sun. Exene may have convinced Doe that just as God tests our love with suffering so should the band follow His example. But any group that created monuments like Sun and the immortal album Los Angeles deserves a free pass to everything for their rest of its members' lives.

X's recent reunion concerts are worthy of the chaotic band. "I saw their reunion in Portland," said an eyewitness, the only person I know who is more rabid about X than I am. "They were playing at the most crowded nightclub I've ever been in, and they were fantastic. Then I saw them a little later at House of Blues in L.A.--that place is funny enough as it is, and Exene was hilarious. She was rolling around on the floor of the stage. She looked like a log."

A few of the Hootenannians are part of the X-axis: The Blasters' Dave Alvin is a key member of late-period X. Ex-Blaster James Intveld has been signed to play Art Pepper in the jazz film Straight Time. The tour also nabbed Lee Rocker. An ex-Stray Cat playing on the same stage as Nashville Pussy--what's a hootenanny without punanny?

Hank Williams III's appearance in this crowd of rockabillies is especially tantalizing. Lately, the devil's gotten into him, and he's constructed a "blue show" worthy of Kinky Friedman or Chinga Chavin.

With a group known as the Assjacks, Williams denounces the current Nashville scene as a corral of geldings. From "Dick in Dixie": "I'm here to put the dick in Dixie / and the cunt back in country / 'cause the kind of country I hear nowadays / is a bunch of shit to me."

Wrapping up the local branch of the Americana contingent are San Francisco's Red Meat and Johnny Dilks, late of the Visitation Valley Boys. With luck, some of the fire will be onstage and not just in the tattoos and the flame-jobbing on George Barris' customized cars.


Hootenanny 2002 takes place Friday (July 5) at noon at Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View. Tickets are $35. (408.998.TIXS)


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From the July 4-10, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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