A Little Bit Country

I walked into Dave Alvin's dressing room at the Long Beach Museum of Art before his gig at their Wednesday-night music series like I owned the place; I thought it was just "backstage." Once I realized the error of my ways and started groveling in apology (although not apologetically enough to actually consider leaving the area), Alvin reassured me. "You're a Communist," he said. "You do own the place!" He then made me steal a fistful of baby carrots from Chris Gaffney's dressing room and bring them to him. From each according to his ability, he said. I did, however, decline to shout Socialist slogans at him from the audience. The only good one I could really think of was "Viva Zapata." "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" doesn't shout so good. And shouting, "Power grows from the barrel of a gun" just isn't me.Following the previous Wednesday's atonal marimba band and other experimental (I didn't say "pompous"; I said "experimental") music acts, the sets by Chris Gaffney & the Cold Hard Facts and former Blaster Alvin were incredibly beautiful, unpompous and unboring (although local celebs like Long Beach artist The Pizz did turn out that marimba day for Scarnella, featuring members of the now-defunct Geraldine Fibbers, and some cranky guy from Pavement, so it must have been at least a little cool. I guess). I hadn't heard Alvin or the Blasters before-they were a little before my time-so I was unprepared for how pretty the music was: really lovely, haunting songs. Like Donny and Marie, Alvin is a little bit country and a little bit rock & roll. Thursday, Aug. 20, found me banging my head against the groovy waving ironwork at Jillian's Vault in Long Beach, trying to knock myself into a coma so as to avoid the soul-shredding monotony that is drum 'n' bass. The place is bitchen: upstairs at Jillian's, there's Art Deco plushness; downstairs in the Vault, it looks like a New York club, with its black walls and velvet couches. But somehow, having to enter such a ritzy place as Jillian's before you get to the stairs that take you down to the Vault makes it feel a lot less underground-like a trust-fund baby trying to get street cred. And that music! We may have set a record when we actually lasted seven minutes. Mostly, we were upstairs with the grown-ups; we seem to have stumbled in as KLON's Long Beach Blues Club Caravan was wending its bourgeois way through downtown. The insipid Robert Cray sound-alikes we watched at Jillian's were much-appreciated by the borderline-senior-citizen crowd of well-dressed folks who just can't get enough culture! There were African-American folks there, too-of the upper-middle-class variety. Which just goes to show you: rich black people are just as lame as rich white people!And just for a moment, may I be confused? Why did the city of Long Beach go to the trouble of a floofy face-lift for the now-chic Pine Avenue when one block away, desperately poor Long Beach Boulevard still has wandering homeless crack addicts? Does the city think tourists aren't going to stumble onto the boulevard while trying to park? Of course, it seems like every stretch of street connecting the two is for "buses only," so maybe the city is able to keep the tourists happily quarantined. God knows homeless crack addicts don't have the decency to stay where you put 'em.On Friday, I bellied up for more Gaffney-you can never have too much Gaffney. The Swallow's Inn in San Juan Capistrano is one of my favorite places; it's totally attitude-free, and everyone's free to dance with anyone else's date. My favorite song, the one about your brother being a loser (and I think running a meth lab-isn't that what "a kitchen for his farm" means?) while you live out in Riverside and don't complain, was a close second in the highlight-of-the-evening sweepstakes. The highlight, of course, was the fifth annual Hot Buns contest, which was in such truly terrible taste we had to go outside and smoke cigarettes for a good portion of it. That, and people were blocking our view. From what we could see, there were about a dozen male and a dozen female judges (facing one another) sitting in chairs along a promenade-you know, like on Soul Train if all the dancers were quadriplegic or trying to dance while in bondage. The MC called out contestants' numbers, and they wiggled themselves down the line of blindfolded judges of the opposite sex. And there was much lap dancing to be had, which we really found, shall we say, inappropriate. Women were grinding on men's crotches and breathing sultry obscenities in their ears-and they were doing it for a $50 gift certificate to Boot Barn! Male contestants, while not actually lap dancing, did their sweaty best-a-jigglin' away in the faces of the trapped female judges. Wasn't that Dante's sixth ring of Hell?On Saturday, I tearfully left my TV, which I miss dreadfully, and prepared for an evening of sitting outside Linda's Doll Hut for its ninth anniversary party. I can never stand being inside Linda's for long: it's so crowded and so damn loud it's like listening to braying "Democratic" Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez tell cute anecdotes about herself. But I do like hanging out outside Linda's, with the bouncers and everyone else with the good sense to avoid tinnitus. There are a couple of comfy chairs, and the boys are very chivalrous, offering their seats when a woman is standing. People don't really do that anymore: I once stood up on a bus to offer a tiny old lady my seat, and the bus driver practically gave me a medal; he went on about it for three minutes. And that's when I realized I no longer had to give up my seat to tiny old ladies! Let 'em eat cake!We moved on to the Dixie Belle in Downey for Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics. They're such a terrific band that I didn't even mind the fashion slaves clogging up the aisles and boppin' away. Unfortunately, some deathly stupid band came on first. They sang about going to jail for having sex with minors (but, uh, they didn't realize the girl was so young! Honest!), and then they swung into everybody's favorite, "Poon Tang." Riding shotgun on the rockabilly bandwagon, boys? I'll have to catch Deke next time around, gentle readers, because there are some things I won't subject myself to, even for you.

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