Jon Wayne – Spaceland (Los Angeles, CA)
Some mysteries are best unsolved. So let’s say you’re working at a kinda hip ad agency with one of the supporting cast from Animal House and ten years after he says let’s go see Otis Day & the Knights, and half the office gets likkered up only to find it’s just Otis with a bank of synthesizers and a cordless mike, but they all still get drunk and pour beer on each other and you stood at the edge wondering why…
Jon Wayne, down from the hills like some paunchy band of Vietnam veterans (only too young by a few years for that), reappeared in Silverlake for reasons which remain as obscure as their original disappearance. But there they were, headlining on a Friday night. Now, you gotta understand, Silverlake is the hip underground boho in L.A. these days, so when this guy in a tight, salmon-colored western shirt and a bent white cowboy hat ambled away from the bar with a fresh Coke in hand…the whole effect was a bit much even for the new white trash chic.
So they climb on stage about midnight, and the lead singer tosses down a shot, standing in front of a microphone attached to its stand with athletic tape (probably so as to produce the properly muffled vocal sound). Somebody from the crowd hands up another shot which he looks at lovingly, fondly, then sets carefully on the drum riser behind him.
This is a bad sign. The lead guitarist is drinking Coke, and the lead singer is mature enough not to slam a second shot. See, from the first note on, no, from the first sight of the atrocious early ’70s round jungle-painted guitars two of ’em were playing, not to mention accumulated reputation and general demeanor, this is a drunk band. A band of drunks, by drunks, for drunks.
Except LA really isn’t a drinking town, not these days. Home is a good half-hour away from anywhere, and the cops are more frightening than sobriety. And much as Jon Wayne may have been a hard drinking band, much as they might even like to recapture that remorseless fun, if only for an evening, there’s no way they can step over that precipice tonight, for they know how hard the landing is. So other than a merry band of sloshed, stumbling acolytes right up front, this was a crowd (and band) bent more on reliving a half-remembered past than going full force with the spirit of those days.
None of which would matter if Jon Wayne were even slightly about music. The vocalist kept asking “Do you like country music?” and the crowd kept raising glasses and affirming their love of country music, but it was more in the spirit of making fun of Hee-Haw than it was recreating the spirit of Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues.”
Original songs are more spoken than sung, short one-joke pieces that were probably a lot funnier if you’d spent hours listening to the record, which probably (no matter how badly recorded) sounded better and more musical than this show. See, if your entire schtick is being wildly, unpredictably, falling-down drunk, then maturity and sobriety are not your allies. Hell, then you’ve gotta write songs or something. Or find a new joke.
It all made me miss Country Dick Montana. So I went home early.