By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Things get off to a kickin' start this week when Sleepy LaBeef plays a two-night stint at the Swallows Inn in San Juan Capistrano, starting on Thursday, April 26. Now here's a match as yummy as whiskey 'n' soda, pickled eggs 'n' horseradish, Montgomery Burns 'n' Wayland Smithers—a big ol' greasy roadhouse warrior blowing out the walls in the county's only bona fide honky-tonk. The Swallows, home base to local hero Chris Gaffney, is a small dive bar with a sawdust-covered floor and reliably filled with bikers and hicks that drips with stinky, working-class ambiance and booze worship. Best of all, there's no cover, so you have zero excuse for not being there (ya want a free foot massage, too, you cheap douchebag?). Texan-by-way-of-Arkansas LaBeef is one of the few remaining original rockabillies who's still active today. He started out in the '50s as a contemporary of such Confederate white people as Elvis and Johnny Burnette, but he had little success as a pompadour boy during his first go-round. LaBeef was rediscovered in the '80s via a series of simple, honest but hellaciously powerful releases on Rounder Records. By that point, his music incorporated country and straight-ahead rock & roll influences to complement the 'billy bounce. A towering figure at six-foot-seven, with hooded Robert Mitchum eyes, LaBeef is an ageless wonder of nature. His bone-rattling baritone sounds like the Big Bopper minus the cartoon factor, and his guitar work shows a profound Chuck Berry influence with a tonal twang typical of cracker rockers in cowboy hats. His new album, Rockabilly Blues (Bullseye Blues), finds the Beefy One in top form, blasting out covers by Little Richard, Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters like the pro he is. If you can't catch a dose of mad cow disease at the Swallows, LaBeef also performs Sunday night at the Blue Cafe in Long Beach—which is really a honky-tonk on steroids when you come right down to it anyway and another perfect venue to experience Sleepy strutting his stuff.
Long Beach's The Dibs have sent me another one-song CD that helps cement their status as America's finest pop-rock band that no one outside SoCal knows about. "So Complicated" is a masterfully crafted and performed anthem that recalls prime Badfinger in its killer hooks, passionate vocals and lush production. Go see the Dibs Monday night at the Blue Cafe, and maybe they'll play it for you.
Aside to front man Chris Hanlin: I'm a writer. I'm a lucky guy. I get to hear this stuff. You must put out a full-length CD so everyone else can hear this stuff, too. Do not wait for some dickhead record label to make you an offer. The world needs to hear you now. It may even be possible that George W. Bush is president because there was no Dibs CD available during the election. Think about it, and please act responsibly.
In the past, I have dissed BR5-49 for playing the Monkees to Junior Brown's Jimi Hendrix. That was mean but not wholly inaccurate at the time. However, the group's latest live album, Coast to Coast, calls for a critical reassessment. The purty boys had the good taste to cover Gram Parsons and even Charlie Daniels ("Uneasy Rider" disguised as "Hot Rod Lincoln") as well as the retro-acceptable Bob Wills, and I like 'em better for it. Plus, the album has many, many bitchen musical moments and reeks of beer-soaked good times—kinda like prime Commander Cody, only with better chops. Or maybe like Charlie Daniels, if he wasn't a morbidly obese, redneck sack of shit. Anyway, BR5-49 play the House of Blues Wednesday night, and you now have my permission to show up without feeling like a Nashville-supporting weenie cuz the Nashville suits must certainly disapprove of a band that shows this much soul.
T-Bone Walker has been dead for a quarter-century, but you can still catch the next best thing when Roy Gaines plays the Coach House on Thursday, May 3. Joyboy Roy makes no bones about gnawing on that T-Bone—he was billed for a time as "T-Bone Jr.," and a couple of years ago, he even released an album called I've Got the T-Bone Walker Blues. If one must have a hero to emulate, an artist could do a lot worse than wallowing in Walker—the man who wrote the whole damn book on electric blues guitar, a man without whom the very existence of names like B.B. King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and Buddy Guy is unthinkable. But lest you think Gaines a one-trick pony, he expands on the T-Bone method rather than merely aping it and sings in a warm, smoky baritone that bears as much resemblance to Brook Benton as it does to Walker. Gaines is Texas-blues royalty in his own right; he's just humble enough to have no problem with constantly reminding everyone that T-Bone was the fingertips of God. For this lack of coy, Roy gives me joy, oh, boy, yo soy.Sleepy LaBeef plays at the Swallows Inn, 31786 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 493-3118. Thurs.-Fri., April 26-27, 8 p.m. Free. 21+; LaBeef also plays the Blue Cafe, 210 The Promenade, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111. Sun., 10 p.m. $4. 21+; the Dibs perform at the Blue Cafe. Mon., 10 p.m. $5. 21+; Roy Gaines plays at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Thurs., May 3, 8 p.m. $10. All ages; BR5-49 perform at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583. Wed., 9 p.m. $15. All ages.