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Just over a year ago, Billy Zoom took leave of his usual spot behind the sparkly silver Gretsch in X to deal with a serious medical concern. Since career musicians are short on benefits like 401K funds and health insurance, a GoFundMe page was set up and was wildly successful in raising cash for his treatments, and leftover funds were funneled to Sweet Relief, to help other musicians with maladies but thin checking accounts.
While he’s clearly healthy enough to run circles around the fret board with his unique blend of punk and rockabilly, he did so resting on a stool for the entire night, aside from playing sax on a couple of songs. That said, it was great to see his signature smile occasionally surface from his deadpan visage, and to be honest he was never the most kinetic performer on stage to begin with, preferring to let his lightning fast hands do the talking.
Co-vocalists Exene and John Doe showed no signs of time’s grasp slowing them down, and DJ Bonebrake still has his signature style intact, coiled and compact, driving the song forward without crowding it with unnecessary flourishes. Has a floor tom beat ever been more instantly recognizable than “Hungry Wolf”?
Together with the classic lineup, Craig Packham was infrequent guest, playing drums when Bonebrake manned the vibes, and also playing acoustic guitar a couple of times behind Zoom. Even though they busted out of the gates with some terrific slices of their discography (“Beyond and Back” was a surprise opener), it took a bit for the band to get some steam behind them. “The Unheard Music” is kind of an outlier of their work, a brooding, slightly sickly haze that perfectly captures the frustration of being kept under the thumb of big media.
I guess I missed out last time by missing the show at The Sinclair, as the top song I’ve never heard them play yet (“The Have Nots”) didn’t get onto the set list tonight, but that’s a very minor complaint. Welcome back, Billy Zoom! Here’s to more tours.
Dead Rock West was an easy-going duo that spun some dusty versions of Everly Brothers songs along with their well-mannered originals, using just a couple of voices and a guitar. Cindy Wasserman and Frank Lee Drennen bridged the time gap of the early ’60s with a sound that veered straight into Reivers territory at times. Drennen’s punk rock tattoos (I spied a Germs tattoo and there were others that were obscured) belied the ferocity he took to his acoustic guitars, and a few strings surrendered their lives during their set.
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