The Flamin’ Groovies With GospelBeacH And Matt Hollywood And The Bad Feelings At The Bootleg Theater, Sunday December 31st 2017
‘We are the third of the last bands you are going to see this year’ told us Brent Rademaker of GospelBeacH, while removing his elegant white suit and white hat. The 6-piece band, which was opening for the Flamin’ Groovies New Year Eve special at the Bootleg theater, immediately started playing their very upbeat music, a sort of Laurel Canyon-esque sound reminiscent of a few classics from the Byrds to Jackson Browne, while everyone got a very strong Tom Petty vibe during two of their songs – just listen to ‘In the Desert’, or ‘Strange Days’, two numbers with blooming guitars and Rademaker’s nasal delivery, which tends to sound almost like Petty’s. It’s always reductive to compare a band to famous names of the last generation, as GospelbeacH are certainly more than simple copycats: frontman Rademaker had a real dynamism center stage, while Joel Martin on pedal steel beautifully completed their folksy-country feel. The band is before anything else attached to a very California sound, championing their beloved sunny state with several songs about California: ‘This song is about your lowest moments in California because they had to be your highest moments in another state’, said Rademaker before ‘California Fantasy’. To complete the picture perfect, Nelson Bragg of Brian Wilson’s band came on stage for some maraca action on their last set of songs and ‘California Steamer’ sounded like a comfy old fashioned coastal train while ‘Mick Jones’ was a bright and fast ride engulfing diverse folk rock influences but always turned toward the sunshine. The music of Brent Rademaker and his bandmates (who have been in several bands before such as Furthur, Beachwood Sparks, Everest, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals,The Tyde…) certainly knows how to embrace dreamy Americana roots, and they said that opening for the Flamin’ Groovies was a ‘dream come true’.
Before the heroes du jour, Matt Hollywood and the Bad Feelings continued to bring us closer to midnight and the new year with a familiar sound. Matt Hollywood is one of the original members of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, but the band went through so many lineup changes over the years, that it’s difficult to follow. After not being invited on the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s 25th anniversary tour in New Zealand and Australia in 2015 – for no apparent reason, as you never exactly know with frontman Anton Newcombe – Matt Hollywood decided to form his own band with Kacey Barnes on guitar and backup vocals and Bobby Hecksher of the Warlocks on bass. Since Hollywood is the author of many BJM songs, the Bad Feelings’ psychedelic and catchy sound was obviously close to the BMJ’s own droning trippy psychedelia. Often regarded as the Velvet Underground’s heirs, their set was in complete continuity with my distant memories of BJM shows of the past. They actually played a few BJM songs (‘BSA, ‘Got My Eye’, ‘Miss June’, ‘Oh Lord’,…) but also songs of The Out Crowd and The Rebel Drones, Matt Hollywood’s other bands. The result was wrapped into loud drones and Matt Hollywood’s distinct vocals escaping the omnipresent fuzz or the slow melancholic repetition of their most heartfelt songs, while their sprawling and emotive music was very appreciated by all the BJM fans in the crowd.
The Flamin’ Groovies took the stage about a quartet before midnight so they tried to fit a few songs before the countdown, while a somewhat drunk Chris Wilson sang a raucous version of Dave Edmunds’ Down Down Down’ with lead guitarist Cyril Jordan looking at him with a constant smile. They nevertheless could perfectly harmonize during the early-Beatles-sounding ‘You Tore Me Down’ and ‘Yes I Am’, just before midnight.
The Flamin’ Groovies have been around for half a century and I had never seen them before. ‘We made it, 2016,… 2018!’ said Chris with hesitation, but who is counting, they are now in their mid to late 60s (Chris is 65 and Cyril is 69) and they are not decided to leave the party any time soon. As many garage bands which emerged in the 70s, they never got the recognition they deserved while pursuing a power-pop-rock sound at a time when psychedelic rock was the thing. They decided to reform the band a few years ago, have even released a new album ‘Fantastic Plastic’ in 2017, and their first new incarnation since 1993 sounds amazingly close to their classics of the past. ‘There’s nothing wrong with being drunk on New Year Eve unless you are playing in a band!’ said Chris who was getting little glasses of ‘cranberry’ juice from the crowd. Their set (with also Chris Von Sneidern and Tony Sales on bass and drums) was a rocky and rocking one, with new and old songs and a few covers from Chuck Berry or the more obscure Paul Revere and The Raiders, ‘a band which has been overlooked’ said Cyril. Alcohol may have helped a bit, but the two men were not static on stage at all, at one point, Chris hold the mic stand like a new incarnation of the Stooges, he kneeled down a few times, and looked at my camera lens in a much more fun way than another aging rock star (Tom Verlaine) did a few months ago.
‘This is a tribute to the Rolling Stones because they don’t sound like this anymore,’ said Cyril before playing their baffled let’s-rock-till-the-end new one ‘What the Hell’s Goin’ On’. Their blend of fuzzed-out pop-rock with power-chords was obviously pleasing the crowd at this late hour, as many were singing along to the Groovies’ most famous hit ‘Shake Some Action’.
‘It’s a new millennium,’ screamed Chris, who either was getting more drunk as the show was progressing or was completely joking, and after blasting ‘Slow Death’ dedicated to the ‘people who didn’t OD this year,’ they came back for an encore with ‘Jumpin’ in the Night’. Whatever 2018 has in store, the show was a very upbeat way to start the new year, with sexagenarians acting as if age had no importance whatsoever. The crowd was more diverse than I expected – a few young guys were standing next to me – and this is certainly a proof that, despite the always expanding world of music genres, fun rock ‘n’ roll will always have its special little niche in popular music.
Down Down Down (Dave Edmunds cover)
You Tore Me Down
Yes I Am
I Want You Bad (NRBQ cover)
Don’t Lie to Me (Chuck Berry cover)
Hungry (Paul Revere and The Raiders cover)
Way Down Under
What the Hell’s Goin’ On
Shake Some Action
Jumpin’ in the Night