So, upon checking in to the Del Mar Motel, we hopped back into the car and wended our way to the Belly Up. We got there at about 6:45 or thereabouts and saw that a modest line had already formed, so we decided to stand there until the doors opened at 7, because we wanted a table. We would eat after we claimed our territory.
Billy Canary struck up a conversation with this tattooed, curly-haired kid in front of us. He had peddled his bike from Carlsbad and planned on peddling at back up to Carlsbad after the concert. That's a two-hour pedal. One way. I silently wondered why he didn't find another means of transpo. Billy did most of the talking.
The kid followed us in and sat down next to us at this common bench-type table, leaving the corner chair between him and Billy, because it looked like it would get crowded once the pub got full. He drank an awful lot, which perhaps explained the bicycling instead of driving part of his story.
Our waitress was this charming young lady named Magaly (a Mayan name, by the way), who was smart enough to laugh at our jokes. We found that we could order food from the eatery next door and had a sumptuous feast: Billy, some kind of spring roll-burrito hybrid, and me a turkey burger-both with wine, followed by beer during the concert.
There were two opening acts-a band whose name I forgot and Phranc, a jewish lesbian folksinger. Phranc has been around for awhile. She opened for the Knitters 20 years ago. She dressed like a man and passed for one during her first couple of numbers. When she mentioned that she was a jewish lesbian folksinger, a few in the crowd became uncomfortable. One idiot in particular made it his mission to heckle her from time to time. Billy says there were more, but it looked to me like it was the same guy, but he just moved around a lot. Phranc either didn't hear him or just chose to ignore him. At any rate, most of the crowd was with her. Towards the end of her show, she had the audience doing the Hokey-Pokey.
Phranc also throws tupperware parties. If you want to check out her website, here it is:
The Knitters, for those of you who are too young to know, are members of X-Exene Cervenka, John Doe, and DJ Bonebrake-and former Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin, as well as a stand-up bass player, Johnny Ray Bartel. They play a combination of traditional songs from folk such as Hank Williams, as well as songs from the X, Blasters, and Dave Alvin catalog.
The show started with John Doe and Dave Alvin coming out alone and performing Merle Haggards "Silver Wings," followed by another sad song that I recognized at the time but don't remember now. Too much beer, ya know?
The rest of the band came out and performed "Poor Little Critter in the Road" off of their first album. When I first heard it 22 years ago, this sounded like a novelty song. On this night, it sounded like an allegory for the plight of the common man, who, though he work hard for a little pleasure in the life, cannot avoid being run down by the automobile that I call "the Man." Think about it, OK?
By the way, The Knitters first formed those 22 years ago and only put out the one album. Now, they have released their 2nd and are touring with it. I think that tour is over now. If you want more information, here's their website:
This was an evening where things just got better and better. One song in particular, "The New World," just kicked ass. Dave Alvin took the old Billy Zoom guitar solo and turned it upside down and inside out. This guy is the best hardly-known guitarist I have ever heard and probably better than your favorite guitar god. As Billy Canary puts it, he enters a zone. And anything can happen. After the first few Billy Zoom licks, he eased into this "Battle Hymn of the Republic" riff and, just as it began to stir up the blood, eased back into this lyrical replay of the Zoom riff that could make a boy cry.
His further solos alternately blazed, thrashed, and swooned with the music. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it did.
I have seen this guy three different times in three different venues in three different band formations, and he never ceases to amaze. He writes some great songs too. If you want more information, here's his website:
Former X drummer D J Bonebrake had a couple of chances to shine too. His drum kit was simply a snare and cymbals played with brushes. But he was the rhythm master.
John and Exene were great as a front duo. They put the punk back in spunk. John's persona is the warmer of the two, whereas Exene gave the evening an edgey quality. Together, they bantered back and forth like to divorcee's who could laugh at their differences now.
I just hope this band doesn't make us wait another 22 years before they put out another album.