New Face in Hell

Photo by James BunoanBay City Rollers
Alex's Bar, Long Beach
Friday, July 9

In hell, you'll have a spot on the list, and the drinks will be cheap, and you'll tip well, and everyone will say hi and clap your back because they've all been waiting for you to show up ("All right, so you really WERE Catholic!" they'll say), and then you'll all purse your lips and catch your breath because two guys in kilts just got onstage, and you are in hell, and in hell, the Bay City Rollers get to play as long as they want. I guess we went to laugh; maybe everyone did because there was a "funny" band—Rosemary's Billygoat—opening (their drummer Fleps told me to ask the Rollers how they felt about Franz Ferdinand), and maybe the Rollers wanted that because they'd obviously packed enough kilts for the whole tour. But you get to hell in the first place because you spent too much time at the back of the crowd laughing at something, and so Alex's went to dust around me while I was looking past the nose—a cute little upturned nose!—of this punker girl, and suddenly her nose turned fake-tan orange and deflated and her lips bloated to a sticky Botox pink, and she wasn't wearing a studded belt anymore; she had stonewashed jeans split at the knees and a laundry pile of a haircut, and I couldn't tell whether that tinkle-clink was from the ice cubes in her Long Island iced tea or all the turquoise and silver on her fingers, and she was brushing the highlights out of her eyes and screeching, "MARRRRRRRGERRRITTTAVILLLE!" And I looked down, and I had a belly out past my toes, and I felt the Dockers constrict around my hips for a second—just to remind me not to put up a fight—and I had a Long Island iced tea, too, and I knew that I couldn't die because I was already dead. The Rollers belly-flopped into "S-A-T-U-R . . ." and my photographer—gaunt and greasy at 81, wearing the exact same clothes he was before he went to hell, tiny horns peeking through his shag-carpet haircut and a pointed tail winding around the straps of his camera bag—licked his lips with a blue forked tongue and hissed, "They ssskipped sssix sssongs in the ssset just to get to thisss." No one would get closer than 15 feet to the band except one guy so drunk he was floor-punching and one white-hair in flannel who was yelling, "They're all fags! They all got married and dropped the soap!" when the Rollers asked if anyone out there was in love. Every time someone laughed or pointed, the temperature dropped, and they kept laughing and pointing until the room was iced over with a bitter freon chill I could feel in my teeth, and my fingerprints fogged through the frost on my drink, and the Rollers played "Bad Case of Lovin' You." And then they played "Shang-a-Lang" and tried to get people to talk to them, and then they thanked us all for rockin'—"Wockin'!" he says, a Scot accent tangling around his ankles—and then they told us to keep on wockin', to keep on WOCKIN' IN THE DA FREE WOILD! The cruise ship—I knew now we were on a cruise ship, but a cruise ship of the damned, the ceiling fans drooping under the icicles and every wicker deck chair stacked high with bones—moaned as we hit the iceberg, as the Rollers' vampire fangs cut at Neil Young's drumbeat, as they wrapped its limp, empty veins like piano wire around our necks, as my breath choked into a string of snotty bubbles; I saw wet black dots pop open before my eyes like a projector eating a filmstrip, and I dove into the biggest one as soon as I could fit because I knew oblivion was the only heaven I was gonna get, and when I came to, I was on my ass on Alex's air-hockey table with vodka eating away my shirttails and the Rollers were saying fanks! Fanks so much! Rock & roll, sure: push the rock up that hill, and just when you get to the top, slip and let it roll back over you; get a modest guarantee from the club and repeat forever, and you've got a pretty cushy gig, albeit a pretty cushy gig in hell. All night the photographer—still had the horns; I know because I looked—was asking me who the Bay City Rollers' rival band was, and I kept saying the Sex Pistols, who shot through the Rollers' listing zeppelin of a career like a cruise missile, but now I knew I had it backward. The Sex Pistols couldn't even get me to put a safety pin through my nose; the Rollers got me with a pistol in my mouth. (Chris Ziegler)

Oro Sólido
JC Fandango, Anaheim
Friday, July 9

Opposition to Dubya's War on Islam is so widespread that even the sex-obsessed merengue combos are getting political—like Oro Sólido, New York-based ass shakers whose hyper-quick orgy of drums, keyboards and horns are Viagra for the eardrums. When the 14-member group went striding onstage at JC Fandango, they looked as if they just arrived from a MoveOn.org mixer: each instrumentalist wore the khaki camouflage combat suits used by our boys and girls in Iraq; the three model-handsome lead singers only sported the pants, with black T-shirts featuring slogans such as "Censorship Off, Free Speech ON." And Oro Sólido maestro Raúl Acosta looked like Jamie Foxx doing John Abizaid when he put on the goofy hat that all CENTCOM bigwigs wear. Before Oro Sólido started their two-hour performance, Acosta said his group would sport combat dress until the United States leaves Iraq. He also promised a vote-Bush-out diatribe before night's end, but first things first: the audience didn't pay $35 to hear that war is bad, so Oro Sólido transformed the JC Fandango floor into a fragrant pool of sweat. The bombastic horn section stuck to short, Gatling-gun bursts; dueling keyboardists did saloon-style player piano; and the drummer pounded gamely on, leering at the 20-some women who rushed the stage not even a minute into the first song and never left. And Acosta and his boys boogied in unison and harmonized perfectly—a mestizo 'NSYNC without the pooftery. Couldn't understand what they sang, though: their rapid-fire Caribbean Spanish left most in the crowd scratching their heads in confusion, if they weren't howling in approval at shameless self-promoter Acosta's constant shout-outs to his website, 24KFamilia.com. And Acosta didn't end up saying anything explicitly radical, but who cares? When you have a White House that spends $8,000 to cover up a statue of Justice because her left bazonga is showing, sometimes the most powerful political gesture possible is provoking two honeys to freak while a sea of libertines cheer until they're hoarse. (Gustavo Arellano)

 
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