Grrrrrrrr . . . . . . . .

What happened to the blues? Jonny Lang

It's one of those days. I'm as cranky as Linda Tripp in an unemployment line, and I'm gonna rant. I woke up with a hangover (thanks, Jib) and the first stirrings of a nasty head cold; drove from OC to San Diego and got stuck in traffic for an hour; got home to find a $320 electric bill in the mailbox (I shit you not) and a massive, gooey, feline hairball on the bed (thanks, Bosco); turned on the news and sure enough, George W. Bush was still president; then started looking for column fodder and saw that Jonny Lang is coming to town this week. Grrrrrr . . .

Now, I can take a lot, but godmotherfuckingdamnit, I really hate Jonny Lang. I hate Jonny Lang more than I hate pineapple on pizza. I hate Jonny Lang more than I hate pickled beets or raisins. I hate Jonny Lang more than I hate sitcoms that aren't cartoons. I hate Jonny Lang more than I hate men who sport ankle bracelets and/or Birkenstocks. I hate Jonny Lang more than I hate Coors Light and Diet Coke combined. I hate Jonny Lang more than I hate a whole year without any new episodes of The Sopranos. I hate Jonny Lang more than I hate that sticky white tape on the top of CD cases. My hatred of Jonny Lang is all-encompassing. My hatred of Jonny Lang is exquisite. I would like to see Ernest Borgnine rub one off on Jonny Lang's self-satisfied little face while he pulls his hair and calls him a "good girl." I would like to see Jonny Lang eaten alive by a pen full of bitch hogs in heat. I would relish Jonny Lang's screams of agony and the sound of his flesh being ripped from his bones. Hate, I say!

I expect shit to happen in pop music. I expect Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez and 'NSync and Ricky Martin from it. Pop music gets what it deserves. But I didn't and don't expect Jonny Lang to happen to the blues—even after the release of the hellishly stupid and wrong-headed film Crossroads, which may have started this whole woeful Karate Kid-as-blues-guitarist trend. How are we to reconcile this bubble-gum-ization of the blues—which Jonny Lang personifies—with its roots and history as the earthiest of all music and folk art forms? It makes no sense; it doesn't compute. It's like dipping barbecued ribs in Miracle Whip. Wrong. What would T-Bone Walker have thought if he could have looked into the future and seen this precious, posing pretty boy endeavoring to assume the mantle of his electric-blues-guitar legacy? The most disconcerting thing about the whole deal is that Jonny Lang has probably sold more records than T-Bone.

I'm not going to dignify the Jonny Lang phenomenon with an in-depth analysis of why Jonny Lang and everything he represents suck so thoroughly and profoundly. It's simply indisputable that Lang's fame is due to his youth, girlish countenance (he could be the missing Hanson) and proper pigmentation rather than any prodigious musical talent, as advertised. He sings like a little kid imitating a middle-aged black guy who's unsuccessfully trying to take a dump. Whenever I hear that affected grunt of his, I don't know whether to laugh out loud, swallow a bottle of ipecac or weep for all humanity. Jonny Lang is the sound of the corporate greed machine pumping slime into every corner of the music business, invading what was once assumed to be the final safe bastion of integrity: the blues. I have now gotten myself so worked up that I have to go beat the cat, so pardon me for a minute.

Okay, I'm back. I've been accused on many occasions of being a racist when it comes to the blues, and to some degree, I admit I'm guilty as charged. Blacks do the blues better than the whites 99 percent of the time, period. There are, however, exceptions —and one of the best plays the area this week, as if to mitigate the horror that is Jonny Lang. Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers jam it up at the Coach House on Friday night and at the Blue Cafe Saturday night. Piazza is a veteran who's been getting some well-earned notices the past few years. He plays a swinging, mean-assed harp and sings in a gruff, meaty voice (which lacks the customary minstrel affectations), and his band kicks like a pissed-off mule. That band features guitarist Rick Holmstrom, whose wonderfully distorted tone and primal yet deceptively slick licks are always a revelation, and pianist Honey Piazza (Rod's wife), who pitches up a boogie-woogie that'll give you a case of the happy feets all night long. Best of all, Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers are not Jonny Lang.

Did I mention I had a real shitty day?

Jonny Lang performs at the Anaheim House Of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583. Sat., 8 p.m. $37.50. All ages; Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers play at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Fri., 8 P.M. $13.50. All ages; Piazza also plays the Blue Cafe, 210 The Promenade, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111. Sat., 10 p.m. $8. 21+.
 
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