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Clarence Carter
Back-Door Santa

Blind like Homer, Clarence Carter too has spun epics of grief. Consider 1969's "Patches," where he speaks of growing up in rags, watching his father struggle while "a little money from the crops he raised/barely paid the bills we made/ oh life had kicked him down to the plow/when he tried to get up life would kick him back down." Then pops dies, the child's worn to a husk tending the farm in the dark, and so many other shoes fall that you realize Carter is riding a centipede here. By the time he intones, "Then one day a strong rain came and washed all the crops away," you're just about peeing yourself. That's because even at his most doleful, Carter's spoken voice is strikingly similar to Foghorn Leghorn's. It is different when he sings. Tragic ache, manly bluster, Olympic-grade pleading: these are his thunderbolts. When Carter sings, "I just can't see myself . . . crying about you," you know that it is a blind man singing it, crying. Like troubadours of old—when arranged marriages assured that the only real love was outside of marriage—the sweet love Carter often sings of is the illicit kind. Unlike troubadours of old, Carter expressed this love in titles like "Back Door Santa," the desire-saturated 1968 classic "Slip Away" and his distinctive take on "Makin' Love (at the Dark End of the Street)", which in every other iteration assays the sordidness and heartache of an affair. Instead, in one of the longest preambles on record, Carter dissembles how horses, cows, mosquitoes and people all like to make love in boats, in airplanes, in cars—all of this in stentorian Leghorn tones. By the time he's done, your ears have rug burns. Carter's one of the underappreciated giants of the '60s soul music era, and one of the few still with us. If the years have been kind, he should be one of the Long Beach Blues Fest's standouts. Blues purists may forgive a soul man like him being on the bill if Carter unleashes one of his driving blues such as "The Road of Love." But let's hope he also gives Mr. Blues Purist a snootful of his filthy synthesizer-slurpy 1982 dance-floor hit "Strokin'." Filth is the spice of life. (Jim Washburn)

Clarence Carter with Bo Diddley, Solomon Burke, Little Milton, Macy Gray and more at the Long Beach Blues Festival, Cal State Long Beach Athletic Field, 1250 N. Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 985-5566; www.kkjz.org/events. Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m. $42-$75. All ages. Carter performs Sun. Parliament Funkadelic
Including Your Mom

There I was at the Galaxy, the audience in the midst of a religious experience, the band working out its most famous hit, "Atomic Dog," local lady of legend Barbie showing us all how to do "The Dogcatcher," everybody dancing and sweating like the inside of a dancey sweat lodge, and then one band member—P-Nut, and he looked like the craziest old homeless dude on the block—scooped up me and my hot friend and asked us if we partook. Do we partake?! We scooted backstage and smoked out with P-Funk. Now, in the world of street cred, this is pretty much second only to having shot up with Courtney Love. However! When you look at it mathematically, there are roughly 57 guys in Parliament and/or Funkadelic; one guy's job was to stand with a sketch pad and a pen and inscribe such poesies as "Get Up!" and "Get Down!" and "Funk It!" So there're 57 guys, and say each smokes out with 5 girls per night. Multiply that by a touring schedule of maybe 200 nights a year, and mathematically—scientifically!—P-Funk has smoked out with the entire Western Hemisphere, including, but not limited to, your mom. (Andromeda Strayne)

Parliament Funkadelic at Vault 350, 350 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (888) 80-Vault. Fri., 8 p.m. $40-$45. All ages. Instagon
Never The Same Thing

Lob's response to whining about our band woes says it all: "You need to get a new band!" Easy for him to say: He's done it 399 times—but always kept the same name—and this weekend will be the big 4-0-0. As the only constant for roughly 397 of those 399 shows, the words "Lob" and "Instagon"—for "instantly gone," a nod to the project's transient line-up—are interchangeable. Let's run the numbers: 399 shows, 415 players, 130 venues, 11 years, 6 months, no two lineups the same. "Instagon is formed on the concept of chaos magic," says Lob. "Never the same thing twice." Instagon has morphed from pure noise—courtesy a power-tool orchestra—into its current "garage jazz" phase, with Lob supplying basslines. Lob isn't sure what comes after 400, but then it's Instagon: he's not supposed to know. (Rex Reason)

Instagon performs show number 400 with the Sherpas at The Liquid Den, 5061 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 377-7964. Thurs., Sept. 9, 8 p.m. $5. 21+.

 
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