‘Know Your Rights’, A Celebration Of The Life And Music of Joe Strummer, At The Echoplex, Monday April 3rd 2017
On Monday night, Music Shelter LA, Spaceland Productions and the Echo(plex) were hosting a very special night, ‘Know Your Right’, a celebration of the life and music of the great Joe Strummer, in benefit of the Joe Strummer Foundation. I don’t know why they were doing this in April, it wasn’t some kind of anniversary apparently, but it is always an appropriate time to celebrate Strummer.
The evening was a benefit for the late musician’s foundation, which gives opportunities to aspiring musicians, so in a sense it was logical to see only young bands perform, but couldn’t they also get a few famous ones to bring up more people? It is a fundraising after all, but in any case all the artists who performed showcased a different side of the Clash and Joe Strummer’s solo music, and it was interesting to see these different bands reconstructing all the sides of the only band that matters.
‘It’s not a Joe Strummer song but he recorded it with Johnny Cash, so I guess that counts,’ told us Sunny War before ‘Redemption Song’. The night started quietly, with her moving vocals, her acoustic guitar and subtle renditions done with a masterful fingerpicking style. I don’t play guitar, but this woman was moving her fingers in a very unusual and mind-blowing way using a sort of technique which didn’t look technical at all, but rather seemed to naturally come to her. The Clash’s ‘Lover’s Rock’ slowed down a bit and took a detour via folk and blues. She also played some of her own songs, ‘Sheep’, with lyrics like ‘Only one way to live/ No alternative/ No room to fuck’… and that counted to.
As the next band put it, all the songs which they would be playing, ‘were written by, produced by, performed by or inspired by Joe Strummer’… the scope was large and even limitless Strummer continues to inspire many people around the world, but, with banjo, slide guitar and a twist toward Americana, Andris Berry & Earthquake Weather covered a few Mescaleros songs, ‘Long Shadow’, ‘Coma Girl’, ‘Get Down Moses’ but also ‘Lost in the Supermarket’, and the song of the night, ‘Know your Rights’. It was a bit as if Calexico was covering the Clash, a south of the border sound with Berry’s dark baritone and a lot of serious and respect for the songs. However, things turned really fun when they did the Pogues’ ‘If I should Fall From Grace With God’, walking on this fine line between Irish excess and TexMex banjo stomp.
The fun was only starting when Pedal Strike took the stage with a garage-punk-rock attitude, and a few acrobatics. They ran through songs like ‘Janie Jones’ with a lot of raucous guitars and surf band’s ooo ooos harmonies, while their eccentric frontman was making the most incredible stunts, cartwheels included, rolling back on stage after a break dance jump on the floor. He totally rapped though ‘The Magnificent Seven’… they may have done a few of their own songs, which sounded in the vein of the Clash. As it should be, they were a riot, except, thereto was not so white this time.
The large band of Soulutionaries brought back reggae into the game, with saxophone and dreadlocks turning into a giant dub party jam during ‘Revolution Rocks’, ‘Armagideon Time’, ‘Junco Partner’, ‘One More Time’… ‘Police & Thieves’, ‘Living in Fame’, this could have gone all night long, the Clash is a dub band when you want to. There was more of them, ‘Bankrobber, ‘Pressure Drop’, and it could have really gone all Jamaican coolness on us even ‘Guns of Brixton’ and ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais’ sounded a bit inoffensive… After a very enjoyable ‘Straight to Hell’, straight-bullets Cheap Tissue closed the night with trashy punk renditions of the most furious Clash tunes, opening with ‘I’m so Bored with the USA’ and sprinting through a set with an unapologetic attitude and the chaos of the greatest punk bands, ‘Garageland’, ‘Spanish Bomb’,’London’s Burning’, ‘Keys to your Heart’, ‘Protex Blue’, ‘Tommy Gun’, ‘Clash City’ they slaughtered the songs in a thunderous assault of guitars as if it was the last time these songs were played. It was just astonishing to think that all this cheerful aggressiveness could come from the same band’s catalogue covered by the chilling sound of the Souluminaries, it was astonishing to think we needed 5 different bands to revisit the greatness of the founder of the only band that matters.