Photo by R. Nichols/D. Boss DesignsThe Beat Farmers A.D.
Coach House, San Juan Capistrano
Saturday, Dec. 4
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All that was missing was fearless leader Country Dick Montana, who couldn't make this gig seeing as how he's dead. The "A.D." at the end of the influential San Diego rootsy-rock band's name stands for "After Dick," and it would have been easy to artificially suggest the spirit of that mass of man inhabited Gary Folgner's watering hole on this rain-soaked night. But the closest we got to any reference to Dick—who left us in 1995, with his boots on, onstage—came not from original members Jerry Raney, Buddy Blue or Rolle Dexter, but "special guest" Dave Alvin, who blastered onto the stage saying it was nice to meet up with the Farmers somewhere other than a funeral. Back in the day—the day being the early to mid-1980s—the Beat Farmers shared many a bill with Alvin's Blasters, and along with Rank and File, Jason and the Scorchers, and to some degree Los Lobos, they were all labeled cow punk. So Downey's own Alvin, the only musician onstage with a Grammy on his mantle, assumed his departed friend Dick's country-twinged, bottom-of-the-barrel baritone for "California Kid" and "Beat Generation," but it was his lead turn on the Blasters' uptempo "Marie Marie"—usually sung by his far-scarier brother Phil—that had the audience spontaneously rising to its feet. Raney, who shares lead guitar and vocals with Blue (a.k.a. Buddy Seigal, who sometimes writes for this paper), later apologized for a "sloppy" set—too many technical glitches, flubbed lyrics and sour-mash shots—but hey, sloppy's in right now, right, kiddies? Or has that one already passed? It's so hard to keep up. Any flubs were more than made up for by the flashes of solid musicianship (Dexter and drummer Joel Kmak's rhythm work seemed to impress even Alvin, and it would have taken a power outage to fuck up gems like Raney's shoulda-been-classic "Riverside" or Blue's suddenly more relevant than ever "Gun Sale at the Church"). But the surprise of the night was hearing the other special guest, OC's own punk legend/nice guy Billy Zoom, singing lead—LEAD! Like, who even knew he could talk?—on three of his own, pre-X rockabilly tunes, one of which served as background music to John Holmes laying the wad to two chicks in a pool in a circa-1975 porno. The joy all these cats had playing together naturally spilled into the crowd, and the show reinforced the notion there was always much, much more to the Beat Farmers than Country Dick's goofy novelty numbers. Still, it woulda been nice to hear the Dr. Demento nugget "Happy Boy," which Mojo Nixon sang the last time the Farmers staged a reunion here. Also missing from that show was Joey Harris, who joined up in 1986 when Blue left as the band headed in a more mainstream-rock direction. After egos—and even wives—clashed at the previous reunion, A.D. forged ahead without Harris. Ironically, it was his spirit that was present, at least at the bitter end, when Blue introduced his band mates and signed off with "and me, Joey Harris." "Ooooooo" the audience cooed disapprovingly. "That was unnecessary," a woman behind me said. "He's a dick," added the guy next to her. Guess Dick wasn't missing after all.