Hippie week!

As I subscribe to the notion that hippies are no more or less inherently ridiculous than punks, Goths, rockabillys, swingers or any other music-based pop subculture, I welcome the furry, tie-dyed, ganja-addled horde to South County with open arms and Boone's Farm breath. Just watch out for those Capistrano cops when you're driving home 'cause they can be a real bummer, maaan. Also, tread lightly among the punks and rockabillys in your midst, brothers and sisters, because they don't believe in peace and love, and they might beat you up just to watch you bleed in fluorescent colors.

Oh, wow, far-out!

The Julian Lennons . . . er, ahh . . . OAKLEY, KRIEGER N BETTS play the Coach House on Thursday, Jan. 6. Composed of bassist/vocalist Berry Oakley the Younger (son of late Allman Brothers Band bassist Berry Oakley), guitarist Waylon Krieger (son of Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, who is also Berry the Younger's godfather), guitarist Duane Betts (son of Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts and named after dead guitar god Duane Allman) and drummer Alec Puro (son of absolutely no one important, but I bet his dad's a real nice fella all the same), the group bills itself as a purveyor of something called “blueternative music.” As these twentysomething prodigal sons have no album released yet and I haven't caught them live, it's difficult to say precisely what is meant by “blueternative,” but their Web site— members.aol.com/okband—does feature a number of MP3 clues. This much could be gleaned: 1) Oakley, Krieger N Betts play a lot of Allmans and Doors covers—which admittedly smells more than a bit cheesy on the surface, but at least these guys put their own snarly, decidedly younger spin on the tunes rather than opting to pander as blatantly as they might with note-for-note, tribute-band rip-offs; 2) The one original I heard got noodly and ploddy and went on way too long, as all hippie music must, by design. It kind of reminded me of Black Sabbath smoking a joint with Neil Young as produced by Kurt Cobain. The angsty Cobain thing, I suppose, accounts for the “ternative”; 3) These guys can definitely play their respective instruments well, which will preclude their acceptance by alternative and punk people, so they ought to just drop the “ternative” angle and stick to being blues-hippie fortunate sons. Which they seem to do perfectly well.

I used to quite like THE MOTHER HIPS—another group of neohippies, even though they profess a profound distaste for the term—back when they were first forging their rep in the early '90s, along with such kindred spirits as Phish, Blues Traveler and Gov't Mule. At the time, they sounded very 1969, and you could readily detect the influence of such groups as Moby Grape, Big Brother N the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service in their sound. These were good hippie groups with which to keep company, if you were to keep company with hippie groups; there was as much whiskey-and-meth psychosis to their vibe as there were love beads and patchouli oil. The trouble is that much of the Mother Hips' newest album, Later Days, sounds like nothing so much as, well, er . . . the Eagles. Which is not good hippie company to keep at all. In fact, I actually loathe the Eagles as much as any band that has ever offended my delicate little aural sensibilities; I take their continued existence as a personal affront and would very much enjoy watching them all be skinned alive by a tribe of malevolent pygmies.

But back to the Mother Hips. Once ragged and street, the band is now studio-slick and full of oh-so-pretty (translation: sterile) harmony vocals. Later Days is meant to signal their “earthy” period, la Music From Big Pink or Workingman's Dead, I suppose. That these traces of love didn't work out right is not necessarily an unmitigated disaster if the group can still conjure the panhandlin' spirit of past glories in concert, which we'll find out at the Coach House on Wednesday. Fuckin' hippies!

This week, Laguna guy LEE ROCKER is playing his first local gig with new guitarist Tara Novick. Novick, who used to pick with El Vez, replaces outgoing string whiz Adrian Demain, who has formed a new group called the Cheap Leis, which plays “postwar Hawaiian swing” (sez Demain, who ought to know. The Leis also feature gargantuan punk rocker O from Fluf—on ukulele, of all things). Meanwhile, Rocker has been raving about Novick's abilities and has a bunch of new tunes in his set (which he's been laying down at San Diego's Golden Tracks studio for release on his next album). Check out the revamped Rocker thing Saturday at the Blue Cafe.

We all know that CHRIS GAFFNEY is the best Costa Mesan, and he's pointed OC music in the right direction for 2000 with the release of the superb Live and Then Some. Recorded over a particularly inebri-wonderful weekend at the Swallows in Capistrano last year, the album captures the Gaff in his element: well-oiled in front of a gathering of the blue-collar barfly faithful. Singing such signature tunes as “Six Nights a Week,” “Fight (Tonight's the Night)” and “Waltz for Minnie” in a voice at once so rough and raspy yet gorgeous enough to recall prime Tom Waits in spirit, Gaffney is a one-man emotional dynamo, alternating ay-yi-yi Tex-Mex two-step with humorous honky-tonk wisdom, Stones-like rock N roll with devastating country-weeper balladry—and he's absolute perfection at each. Hearing his bizarre between-song patter (which no one but Gaffney seems to notice or understand) is another treat—and listening to him whine fruitlessly for a shot of tequila may be the best giggle on the album. Gaffney's backing group, the Cold Hard Facts, is quintessential professional bar band—tuff then tender, restrained then out of control (dumping the break from Deep Purple's “Highway Star” in the middle of Joe Ely's “Are You Listenin' Lucky” is pure genius). To experience pedal steel player Doug Livingston caressing Gaffney's vocals is to understand that which makes white males with callused hands cry in their beer; this is as deep as it gets. Bonus: Gaffney's long-out-of-print debut album, Road to Indio, is included in this set. Pick up the $20 twofer on the Net at Miles of Music (www.milesofmusic.com) or Village Records (www.villagerecords.com). Or pick it up locally at Goat Hill Records in Costa Mesa (1920 Harbor Blvd., 949-646-8551).

Oakley, Krieger N Betts play with Wheels of Autumn at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Thurs., Jan. 6, 8 p.m. $8; the Mother Hips perform with Convoy and 5 Foot Tuesday at the Coach House. Wed., 8 p.m. $10; Lee Rocker plays at the Blue Cafe, 210 The Promenade, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111. Sat., 10 p.m. $10.

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