8th annual festival inspired by former Ventura-area rockabilly raconteur Johnny Cash
The 8th Roadshow Revival rocked seaside Mission Park in Ventura, California Saturday and Sunday, June 25-16, 2016, as several thousand roots-rockabilly-punk-outlaw country music fans of all ages converged for a killer rave-up featuring more than two dozen bands.
Adding to the colorful scene were a pinup contest, custom car and bike show, BBQ, brews and booze, and a few dozen vendors hawking all sorts of lifestyle merchandise under partly cloudy skies that kept temps in the 70s.
Roadshow Revival launched eight years ago as a festival celebrating the colorful life, legend and ground-breaking music of rockabilly pioneer Johnny Cash, one of Ventura’s most famous former residents.
Cash was one of the original “Million-Dollar Quartet” rockabilly superstars on producer Sam Phillips’ Sun Records label in the mid-to-late 1950s (the others were, of course, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis). As they were for millions of Boomer those guys (plus Chuck Berry and Little Richard) were my first rock ‘n’ roll heroes, Cash in particular for “Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire.”
As is well-documented elsewhere, Cash had a serious pill and alcohol addiction in the late ’50s and ’60s, and was quite the hell-raiser around Ventura County from 1961-1967.
That’s when he and his first wife, Vivian, lived with their four daughters in Casitas Springs, between Ojai and Ventura, and he had an office on Main Street in downtown Ventura.
The 2016 Roadshow Revival was my third, and it’s become my second favorite music festival event of the year (after Yes I Can’s Summer Meltdown in Santa Clarita every May).
My running buddy for the first day of the 2016 blowout was Steve Fenster, fellow rock ‘n’ roll junkie from my high school in Canoga Park, in L.A.’s west San Fernando Valley. It was our first hang since June 1969, when I graduated and my folks moved to West Los Angeles, and we lost touch. Just a few weeks ago we reconnected via Faceplant.
Parking around Mission Park was pretty tight, but we lucked out and got a free “Doris Day” parking spot mere spitting distance from the festival entrance.
Lots of familiar Roadshow faces right away; with a little help from my friends in the band Hard Six, who rocked my TV show “House Blend with Stephen K. Peeples” in December 2013, Fenster and I were backstage in about three minutes.
Saturday’s lineup featured The Blasters headlining, with Robert Gordon, V13, Missus Jones, Hard Six and Inazuma on the main stage. On the “Hey, Porter” second stage, the performers were the Just Dave Band, Silvertooth Loos & Witch, Galactic Polecats, and Shawn Kama & The Kings of the Wild Frontier.
We caught Hard Six (with Six on drums, Vogelcide on bass, Fuse Hardsix on guitar-lead vocals and Miss DeeDee on lead-backing vocals, and featuring debut of the latter two’s rockabilly kid, 7-year-old “Short Fuse”); and Inazuma (raving rockabilly trio from Yokohama, Japan) in the early afternoon.
Later, we saw Robert Gordon (’70s-’80s rockabilly revival superstar backed by seminal L.A. roots-punk band The Blasters, minus lead singer Phil Alvin); The Blasters (with Phil); and headliner John Doe and his solo band (X co-founder/L.A. punk-roots rock pioneer; Saturday’s lineup included X’s DJ Bonebrake and X touring guitar player Jesse Dayton).
Short Fuse Lights it Up
Young Short Fuse had already made his TV debut, performing with his folks’ band on June 22 on Santa Barbara/San Luis Obispo station KKFX. But Roadshow was the kid’s first gig in front of a live concert audience, and he rocked it.
He sang Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” backed by Mom plunking a pink standup bass, Dad riffing on electric guitar and Vogelcide chording on acoustic guitar.
My brief interview with Short Fuse backstage after Hard Six’s set, as he was escorting Miss DeeDee over to the bounce house in the nearby Kids’ Corner, went like this:
SKP: “What did you think about singing onstage with the band for the first time?”
Short Fuse: “It was cool.”
SKP: “What did you think when you looked out and saw all those people in front of you?”
Short Fuse: “Awesome.”
SKP: “Do you want to do it again?”
Short Fuse: [Nods and grins]: “Yes!”
With that, Short and Miss DeeDee were off for a bounce. I guess that would qualify as the kid’s first media interview.
Inazuma’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Lightning Bolts
As much as I dig Hard Six, The Blasters, Robert Gordon and John Doe, the band that kicked the most ass for me this year was Inazuma, three rockabilly-crazed Japanese cats: Naohiko “Thunders” Egawa (guitar-vocals); Keisuke Motoki (standup bass); and Hiroto Yoshinaga (drums).
Inazuma opened the festival Saturday, but when Cadillac Tramps had to pull out because the band’s singer was ill, organizers invited the trio to play a second early-afternoon set to fill the slot.
The second show was supercharged, with the setlist including originals like “Rashomon,” “Defective Guys” and “Inazuma Rock ‘n’ Roll” plus a blistering rendition of “Shakin’ All Over,” the Johnny Kidd & The Pirates U.K. classic covered by Canada’s The Guess Who in 1965 and The Who for 1970’s epochal “Live at Leeds” album.
Inazuma’s “Shakin’ All Over” was based on The Who’s version, but minus Pete Townshend’s windmills. And each time the song stopped down, shirtless, tattooed frontman Thunder would meander around the stage 15-20 seconds, looking cool, then suddenly jump back to the mike and yell, “Quiver down my backbone!” and power-chord his big fat Gretsch White Falcon back into the groove.
Thunder worked up a sweat pacing the stage during his extensive, over-the-top echo-drenched solos. Near the end of the set, Motoki addressed the audience, telling the audience members that “Inazuma” means “lightning” in Japanese, and (I’m paraphrasing here), that “Inazuma is shooting a rock ‘n’ roll lightning bolt right through your skull!”
Standing atop Motoki’s bass and leaping back onto the stage to end the set, Thunders and his bandmates had most of the crowd on their feet. The trio’s electrifying show indeed zapped just about everyone right between the ears.
John Doe & Solo Band’s Western Movement
L.A. punk rock instigator, TV-film actor, poet and author John Doe closed the Roadshow Revival on the Main Stage Saturday. In 1977 he co-founded the hardcore band X in Los Angeles with guitarist Billy Zoom; singer-poet Exene Cervenka and drummer DJ Bonebrake soon completed the lineup.
X is still active — the original quartet has a mini-tour of the East Coast, Midwest and West Coast coming up in August. But Doe brought his solo band to back him up at Roadshow — singer Cindy Wasserman, bassist Chris Rhoades, drummer DJ Bonebrake and guitarist Jesse Dayton, who’s toured with X recently filling in for Billy Zoom (before that, Dayton’s credits include Waylon Jennings and Supersuckers).
So, actually, we saw two and a half members of X onstage Saturday.
RELATED: Roadshow Revival 2015 photos by Stephen K. Peeples
Doe and band’s Roadshow set included some cool new stuff from his latest solo album, “The Westerner,” much of it inspired by time he spent in Arizona last year, writing and recording with Howe Gelb of Giant Sand, and hanging out with his friend Michael Blake (author of “Dances with Wolves”) in the months before Blake lost a battle with cancer in May 2015.
During production in 2015 Doe referred to the album’s developing sound/vibe as “psychedelic soul“; onstage, my ears also picked up undertones of Southwestern cowboy and Tex-Mex music between the notes.
We heard “My Darling, Blue Skies,” “Sunlight,” “Go Baby Go,” “Drink of Water,” “A Little Help” and “Get on Board” from “The Westerner,” plus X classics like “4th of July” (penned by Blasters co-founder and one-time X guitarist Dave Alvin), “Burning House of Love” and “The Have Nots” (both by Cervenka and Doe).
Doe and band also seamlessly worked in a few covers perfect for the occasion, including Cash’s classic “I Still Miss Someone” and “The Last Time,” Mick Jagger-Keith Richards’ rockabilly-flavored Rolling Stones hit from 1964.
Backstage before Doe’s set we talked for a minute. First time our paths crossed in about 20 years*.
He’s played Roadshow Revival a few times before, but told me this gig was a bit different.
“It’s cool to headline this time,” he said.
Roadshow Sunday, Sunday
If we’d been able to make it to Roadshow Revival for the second day on Sunday, we would have seen the bitchen custom car and bike show, not to mention Rock Cats Rock, Phantom Pomps (with Fuse Hardsix on standup bass), White Boy James, Inazuma and Rocking Rebels on the “Hey, Porter” second stage, and The Vonettes, Bog Tweed, The Walking Phoenixes, Jackass, James Intveld (with Storm Rhodes IV on lead guitar), Paladins and The Blasters on the main stage.
But life intervened and we couldn’t get there. So, next year!
* * * * *
Afterword: John Doe, Author
John Doe, collaborator Tom DeSavia “and friends” wrote “Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk,” a deep dive into the gritty Los Angeles hardcore punk scene of the mid-1970s into the early ’80s. Da Capo Press published it on April 26, 2016.
The book includes chapters contributed by “friends” like Doe’s X co-founder Exene Cervenka, Henry Rollins (Black Flag), Mike Watt (The Minutemen), Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey (Go-Go’s), Dave Alvin (The Blasters), Chris D. (The Flesh Eaters), Robert Lopez (The Zeros, El Vez), Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L.) and Teresa Covarrubias (The Brat), along with local punk-savvy scribes Pleasant Gehman, Kristine McKenna and Chris Morris. Doe injects observations and commentary along the way and ties it all together in the final chapter. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong wrote the foreword.
L.A.’s punk community was the antithesis of Hollywood’s “beautiful people.” They were the uncool misfits who lived beyond the fringe, where they could be and do whatever they wanted without being judged. Self-loathing and self-abuse was more the norm than the exception. The drugs were hard. As Cervenka told Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” the L.A. punk scene was “a free-for-all for outcasts.”
In X’s case, their music was a collision of intensely aggressive punk and deep-rooted Americana. The sound was gritty ’50s rockabilly, low-down blues and outlaw country, but filtered through their contemporary “f**k you if you don’t like it” punk attitude, played way fast and loud, fueled by DJ Bonebrake’s pounding backbeat and Billy Zoom’s incendiary guitar. With Doe’s pumping basslines on the bottom and his and Exene’s wailing, sometimes dissonant harmonies (!) on top, X was a wild gift from Los Angeles to the nascent punk scenes in New York and London.
The book’s scored critical kudos; it’s a highly recommended read.
* * * * *
*Doe and I had met in 1982 when Elektra signed X. Yours truly was editorial director in Elektra/Asylum’s’s press department at the time. Elektra released X’s third album, “Under the Big Black Sun”; the first two LPs, “Wild Gift” and “Los Angeles,” were released by the indie punk label Slash.
Doe and I crossed paths again briefly in the mid-’90s when his band The John Doe Thing released their “Kissingsohard” album on Rhino/Forward. By then I was co-director of the Rhino Media Relations crew, but my co-director handled Doe’s PR. He made such an impression that Doe didn’t recall his name.
Special thanks: Ross Emery, Kat Merrick, Sean McKean, Paul and the entire Roadshow crew; Steve Fenster; and Louis Dadamio at SacksCo in NYC.
All pics (c) Stephen K. Peeples — http://
Santa Clarita journalist Stephen K. Peeples, a Grammy-nominated record producer and award-winning radio producer and website editor, has covered the Santa Clarita Valley music beat since 2004. He was Online Editor for The Signal from 2007-2011. He hosted and co-produced SCVTV’s WAVE-nominated “House Blend” local music show from 2010-2015. Peeples is also VP/New Media Emeritus for Rare Cool Stuff Unltd. and CEO of PetMeHappy.com. For more stories and info, visit http://www.stephenkpeeples.com/. For exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews, subscribe to his YouTube channel.
Article: Roadshow Revival a Ripping Roots-Rockabilly Rave-Up
Category: News & Reviews
Author: Stephen K. Peeples