From A to Z. “I got my Mojo working, baby”
Over the last few years I have, as some of you may know, made my home in San Diego, California. It’s a nice place. Beaches, surfing, sailing, sun tanning and drinking, an ocean full of drinking to be had in DAGO. The Baja peninsula, Mexico is a quick scoot on the trolley to the south. Just make sure you don’t end up doing time in the Tijuana jail. Not recommended. The desert is over our shoulders to the East. If you take the I-8 East of Eden, America is out there, just beyond our fringe dweller reach. To the North, well to the North there is smog lots and lots of smog. To the west of America’s self defined “finest city” is Hawaii, and if you go a long ways away to the southwest you’ll find Australia (but that my friends, is another story.)
It took me a long time to get into the groove of living here, as some of you reading this may know, there were some pretty life altering earthquakes shaking my bones, and “ Depression 2.0” has kicked the stuffing out of many people here, and with petroleum grazing at around four bucks a gallon it will soon put a lot of additional people on the streets. The exorbitant cost of living finally overwhelming them, a relentless financial Tsunami. If you look through the cracks in most major American cities you will find a lot of lost souls bedding down in the wintertime on a bed of crushed coca cola cans. I came very close to being overwhelmed by this rising tide, years of hard work and what I thought was family, were washed away in the blink of an eye. But I, it seems, have a special guardian Angel, that no matter what always seems too pluck me back to reality when I am on the brink of personal extinction.
On probably the darkest night of my life a special lady came into my life. She stood by my side and fought all the way through an odious mountain of human excrement and helped me come out with the shiny side up and the rubber side down. T. Michelle, I knew when I met her that any lady with such a fancy name must be special. Little did I know how special. She’s a leviathan, a purveyor of fun, a musical muse and more than worthy of her own special Paul Kelly love song. Now one of the great things our little storm tossed family really has going for it, is how well my little girl Grace connected with her “Shellpot” as she calls her. (This is always dodgy ground for a divorced parent, and I am proud that we have done so well.)
Now, as I said T. Michelle is one fancy lady and she has lots and lots of stuff. Too much, not in a creepy hoarder way, just too much. So every now and then she loads up extra clothes, quality items of mine and hers, extra toiletries, food, whatever we’ve got that’s extra. She could sell this stuff on Ebay, maybe pawn some of it, whack it up and sell it to the tweakers that surf in off of Craigslist (and believe me, we could use the money). But because she think it’s important, she takes Grace, and loads it up and motors downtown and shares the bounty with the homeless folks living in the concrete canyons between the major league ball park and the swanky historic Gaslamp district. I love and admire her for her generosity of spirit. In giving what she has leftover in bad times to those less fortunate, and I am blessed that my girl Grace is a part of it and gets to see first hand how difficult life could be. It’s civics’ lesson that a bricks and mortar school could never embrace or teach. She sees first hand that the homeless are looking a lot like us, and that these folks are our fellows: our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and former colleagues and she sees, that there, bar for the “Grace” of God and the love of a good woman goes I. Somewhere out there, on the streets of San Diego, is a homeless lady getting about on her can collecting rounds with a Louis “Carrie Bradshaw” Vuitton handbag courtesy of the nice lady in the sleek black sedan that gets around the East village from time to time. Okay Wellsy, now this is a music blog – The Cactus 5. Shameless self promotion in the internet age. What does this have to do with music?
A good question shipmate. As I see it even while so many of us have copped a decent flogging, and had our life’s savings hoovered out of our accounts. Seen the investment in our homes evaporate, and watched impotently as our careers were doused in gasoline and set ablaze. Many still have cash to splash on entertainment as I stated earlier, there are abundant opportunities for fraternizing in this town. Just last night some tool was tailgating my mate Nick Perpich’s jalopy on the I-5, Impatiently trying to blaze past us in his spankin’ new blood red Ferrari. Whoa, peanut. What’s the rush? I said to the Perp’. “Must be one of them Disco guys.” Friday night, obviously, weighing so heavily on his mind the sky was the limit for Tony Moreno in his blood red Ferrari.
But for some of us, in this economy, the sky is not the limit. Two years ago yesterday the DOW Jones index bottomed out at about 6,666 points. It’s recovered substantially but I believe people are still fretting about their money to the point that from this moment going forward everything needs to be a safe investment. Let’s face it, not every one is swooping down in a Ferrari from Del Mar Heights Road too prey on sweet innocent flesh like Tony. Most folks want a safe ROI on their entertainment dollar. Hence, the “tribute band”
Let me say this. I do not know what kind of flinty souls patronize a tribute act, but there must be demand because there sure as shit is a supply. For the international set, those in the fly over states and the East coast Ivy leaguers and such, some back story. San Diego has venues: from coffee shops to dive bars. Family restaurants to up scale theme taverns, Concert halls and well appointed clubs. University campuses and conventions centers, Indian casinos and house concert/parties. Bay cruises. Lofts, galleries and endless opportunity to simply sit out and play in the cities crown jewel Balboa Park, or along the miles and miles of sun drenched beaches for tips. No shortage of spots.
There are lots of really good musicians here too. Jerry Rainey and Candye Kane, Joey Harris. The man that is to blame for the Eagles success, Jack Tempchin. I’ve been told that Jewel lives up behind a gate someplace in Rancho Santa Fe. (To think, I booked her into The Bison Brewing Company on a rainy winter’s night, and we had to pass the hat amongst the employees to get her home) Tom Waits and Frank Zappa got their start here. My man Mojo Nixon is an alumni. So what gives? Why is the tribute band in the ascendancy here?
I believe it is like safe sex: a condom for the combo. Eliminate all the danger of going out and make it as vanilla as possible. Return On Investment… I think it’s fair to say the blame for this can be laid squarely at the feet of the Australians, who in the early 90’s created the Frankenstein monster “Bjorn Again : the ABBA tribute.” From little things, big things must surely grow”. AC/ Dshe.: A female tribute to Angus Young’s bum. (Sidebar and true story, AC/DC actually played my High school social in January 1975. RIP Bon Scott) Bachman Turner Overweight: BTO, taking car of business one more time. Cashed Out: A pretty honest nod to the late John Cash. Dark Star Orchestra, playing live covers of Dead set lists. IE : Milwauke sportatorium 6/6/66. Eccentric Light Orchestra. Elton’s Johnson: saw this in Hilcrest, so that may explain the humor. Fandango: Queen. Green Date: Day, wake me up when September’s over indeed, you little Gilman street snots. HELP: Beatles, yawn. Iron Maidens. Journey, don’t stop believing. (Mini) KISS: A band of dwarves and pretty funny given Gene Simmons stated pretensions as a “Lord of Rock dude. Little River Band “This fucker actually ripped off Goble, Shorrock and Birtles as the last shareholder with the right to the name) Mandonna. Nearvana. Overlord: Really a cover band, but a tribute to the feminine spandex clad 80’s metal crew and their lame drug bad boy innuendo. P is for The Australian PINK FLOYD show, Quatro: Suzi, my first Detroit girl crush.. Rolling the Stones. Steely Damned. Thunder Road: The Boss. Uriah Cheap. Valentines: A 50’s doo wop tribute. Woodstock Mud: “Maybe if we talk enough shit on the internet we can stop this rain…” x Yardbird’s: five live ZZ Flop :A punk band spied at a Che Café punk rock craft fair playing fast ZZ To p covers with tounge firmly in cheek. (And you thought I’d just whack “Zep Again” in to make it easy on myself, didn’t you.) So there you have it The A to Z of shit kickingly odd, yet somehow familiar tribute bands to be found plying their trade around the San Diego bay. But my personal favorite San Diego Tribute band is my good friend Sammi’s act: The Clone Ponies, a Linda Ronstadt tribute. How apropos with her old lover Jerry Brown back in the Governor’s mansion. Ya see, hard evidence. The more things change, the more they stay the same
Let me be clear, I am not bagging on any one here. It’s kind of, for a roots rock guy like me, an alien landscape. But that’s a lot of musicians here paying mortgages and rent. Lubricating throats for the bar tenders pour, whetting appetites for waitress, barbacks and bus boys, prostitutes too, Revving up the testosterone and libido on a Friday night. Creating the dissonance and rage that gives bouncers a green light to knock the shit outta drunk asses. Promoters, pretenders and publicans. Reams of Ad space between boob jobs and liposuction in the SD Reader and Citybeat Cab drivers, and a whole lotta cops, firefighters and politicians trying too settle the party down. Probably some pretty good lawsuits in the noisy offing for the HOA’s gentrifying scummy neighborhoods too.
I just saw former AK Governor Mike Huckabee, “The Huck” playing Bass with Def Leppard on his TV show. “Pour some sugar” on me indeed. An abominable spectacle. A man who aspires to be the” CEO” of America with a sad deficient, faded bunch of tools: and they‘d even pensioned off the heroic one armed drummer. It got me to thinking. The only people I know who are creating jobs In America, in San Diego and every other city, county and state in America are the tribute bands. So maybe we should retire Duncan Hunter, Bab’s Boxer Di FI and all the other folks who hit their dance steps on the 1 & the 3, and think that you create a job by giving a huge tax break to some blokes who want to outsource your job to India. The folks who have absolutely nothing in common with you, or your family and your day to day struggles, and do what San Diego’s own Mojo Nixon counseled twenty years ago. “Put a sex machine in the white, white house” Mojo for president yeah!!. ‘Lying cocksuckers’ His political commentary radio show is on Sirius satellite radio via subscription. San Diego’s downtrodden masses could surely ride his presidential coattails with a Mojo Nixon tribute band, I’m in, and I’m calling Craig Newmark right now. “I’ll be Skid Roper” I’ve got a “PRO” washboard, a trolley pass, and will do authentic tour calamaties , and sequential costume changes, to represent, replicate , rejuvenate and resuscitate the various phases of President Nixon’s career in music. Are you in?