The International Swingers At Skinny’s Lounge, Sunday May 20th 2018
The International Swingers had decided to do a mini tour in Los Angeles, 3 shows in my close neighborhood during one weekend, and of course I had to attend at least one of them, their last one at Skinny’s Lounge in North Hollywood, after missing their show at the Redwood Bar… You may have never heard of the International Swingers, but wait till you know who they are, one of these super groups with an eclectic and international flavor.
First, there is frontman Gary Twinn, who formed the glam/punk band Supernaut in the ‘70s in Australia, then Twenty Flight Rockers with Mark Laff of Generation X in the UK in the ‘80s, he has been part of many bands (Honeydippers, Dead Horse, Speedtwinn), but he is also the one at the origin of the band: He asked three of his best friends if they ‘fancied forming a band for a bit of a holiday down-under’, and the International Swingers were born. One of his friends is British guitarist James Stevenson, who has played with some of most iconic bands from Billy Idol’s Generation X to The Cult, The Alarm and Gene Loves Jezebel, and has even contributed to Kim Wilde’s albums, playing guitar on many of her videos, and one of the greatest hits of the ‘80s, ‘Kids in America’. Then there is bassist Glen Matlock, who is best known as the bass guitarist in the original line-up of the Sex Pistols, but whose impressive pedigree also includes Iggy Pop, The Damned… he was part of the resurrected Sex Pistols and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. On Sunday, he was however replaced by John Carlucci of Sylvain Sylvain fame. And last but not least, Clem Burke, the legendary drummer for Blondie (also inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006) who has performed with many folk-country-punk-rock icons such as Bob Dylan, Eurythmics, Iggy Pop, Joan Jett, Wanda Jackson, Nancy Sinatra, The Romantics, Pete Townshend… just to name a few, is the International Swingers’ drummer, commanding the stage even more than the rest of the group.
If the group wasn’t intended to exist beyond their Australian tour (Twinn is a star over there), they decided to keep going for the fun of it, because why wouldn’t they? They are fantastic musicians, and they covered all the grounds of the rock battlefield, from Blondie to the Sex Pistols, the Kinks, Faces, The Who (it was Pete Townsend’s birthday), the Ramones (it was Joey Ramone’s birthday), David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Tom Petty and songs that the Clash had already covered and that we know as Clash songs…
Local band Bossy Boots opened the evening with a short set of bossy driving songs, with an anxious beat and punk vocals, sounding a bit like a new version of X, although their first song was a folksy calm ballad. Frontwoman Dawn Laureen had a sweet but commanding voice and the guitars were rolling according to their authentic punk flavor.
And what else but fun can you expect from a group of rock veterans like the International Swingers members? This 3-date mini-tour didn’t have any promotional value, but they obviously wanted to have fun, they wanted to please the crowd and themselves, and these high-caliber guys showed us with bravado that they owned rock, punk rock and all their backyards, playing a long set filled with awesome covers without barely taking the time to breathe. When they formed the group at the end of 2011, the initial goal was to do covers of all the bands they had been in, and they certainly continue to do this and beyond, but they have also their original material that they recorded at the Foo Fighters’ LA Studio 606 in 2014. And according to the titles of their own compositions, ‘FBI’, ‘Gun Control’, they couldn’t have been more up-to-date with the current political climate.
Gary Twinn is a great frontman, singing the songs with determination, over the great panache of Stevenson’s guitar and Burke’s aerial and spectacular drumming. There was no gap or no pause between songs, and no time was wasted, between Pete, Joey, tom, David and Iggy, as for their own songs, they were blending among the many classics they played, with a strong vigor, and once you know that their own song ‘FBI’ was included in the soundtrack of ‘Homefront’, a thriller adapted by Sylvester Stallone, you know enough to figure out the battlefield live action.
Beside a few obscure (to me) Brit ‘60s-‘70s songs, such as Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ ‘Shaking all Over’, The Move’s ‘Fire Brigade’, Dr. Feelgood’s ‘She Does it Right’, the set was obviously covering the American-English classics with an expansive version of Tom Petty’s ‘American Girl’, and a few unannounced songs at the end of the set. It was a fun weekend, a fun night with a ‘No Fun’ cover and an unique occasion to hang out with rock superstars (Frank Infante was in the house) in an intimate place… How was your Sunday?
Out of Control
Hanging on the Telephone (Blondie)
Stepping Stone (Sex Pistols)
Brand New Cadillac (clash)
Really Got Me (the Kinks)
I Can’t Explain (The Who)
Shaking all Over (Johnny Kidd and the Pirates)
Fire Brigade (The Move)
Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones)
She Does it Right (Dr. Feelgood)
American Girl (Tom Petty)
Whatever Works No
I Fought the Law (Clash)
Jean Genie (David Bowie)
All the Young Dudes (David Bowie)
C’mon Everybody (Eddie Cochran)
No Fun (Iggy)