Forget about yer Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonaroo, yer South by Southwest, yer what have you... once and only once a year it's time for a truly hallucinogenic celebration of musical mayhem, and it's called AMOEBAPALOOZA! Twenty Amoeba Music employee bands in 4 hours -- ten-minute sets, a cavalcade of rock, rap, soul, tributes, impersonations and uncategorizable strangeness! You are there!
The cavernous space of the King King in fabulous downtown Hollywood looms before you... seething with an assortment of delinquents, sickos and lovable kiddies... the red stage lights beckon! The gigantic extended family of Amoeba has gathered here to see what kind of musical freakiness they can come up with, while bewildered onlookers watch in wonderment. Let the show begin!
The festivities got started with the '60s sunshine lady pop of My Mellotron Summer, and rolled right along with the suave sounds of the Amazing Reverb Engine, until they crashed head-on into a white-noise raveup from a knockout Velvet Underground cover band! Very inspired performances from a demented first-time Lou Reed and a frosty Nico, a tom-pounding Mo Tucker and three wailing Sterling Morrison guitars.
Brooke Back Fountain featured the eponymous leading lady busting out some Four Non Blonde covers in a voice bigger than Linda Perry's ego! Folks were pretty bowled over by that (having unsuccessfully blocked those Four Non Blondes songs out of their memories all these years)... those '90s were a golden age of top hats and dreadlocks, lest we forget!
Host Brently Heilbron did not let us forget that either, regaling us as usual with tales of his '90s youth among the painter caps and the Spin Doctors with old-time preacher man intensity.
Speaking of old-time preacher man intensity... we got a mesmerizing performance as usual from Mr. Cream Puff Casper Milquetoast, channeling Tom Waits while waltzing in his knickers.
Next up (I'm sure I'm getting the order wrong) was a kind of girly version of Suicide, with 2 vintage synths and the Siouxsiesque Elicia howling out some kind of postpunk dream therapy, but the kind you can dance to! After a lengthy scene change, we were blessed by The Others of Invention, a seven-man Zappa tribute with flute and brass, playing some of the great man's symphonic sleaze-jazz in a heavenly way. All onlookers performed minimalist mental yoga to the swirling sounds of Greg's wah-wah guitar. Then that flute came drifting back in and eternal bliss unfolded... Amoeba owner and MX-80 percussionist Marc Weinstein kept steady time through some tricky turbulence, and we all landed safely.
More heavy tribute action came fast and furious... we were unexpectedly blindsided by a lady with dreamy ringlets, bare feet and a flowy white dress, who turned out to be... Kate Bush! She emoted along with a gauzy '80s video involving much tribal ballet and wild whirling. Then a tough vibe came down from a truly heavy all-girl Jefferson Airplane tribute band -- the Surrealistic Pillows! In shades, a headband and fringed leather jacket, Jack Casady impersonator Kim Pryor truly evoked the classic Bay Area sound of blues-damaged bikers on bad acid. Two frontwomen duetted on "Somebody to Love" -- the always-lovable Woody as Marty Balin and, in a psychedelic miniskirt and high-heeled boots, the tall dark & lovely Grace Slick lookalike Courtney Frystack, who belted out "White Rabbit" in a very authentic way. This ain't the Summer of Love!
Going way over the top as usual, soft-rock medley kings The Moonlight Waterfalls started things off with an amazing VH1 Behind-the-Music style mockumentary about their rise to Amoebapalooza fame, their years as reigning Amoebapalooza "winners" and their subsequent decline into bad drugs, New Age healing rituals, helicopter crashes and the inevitable band reunion just in time for Amoebapalooza '08. They finally hit the stage with a vengeance, an easy vengeance that is, medleyizing Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman," the Commodores' "Easy," Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around and Fell In Love," and more into a grand souffle of tequila-drinking, kite-flying, yacht-sailing '70s memories. Frontman Jason Moore soared to new heights of white soul while the long-suffering Fred Sablan and Rik Frystack laid down the licks and new drummer Chris Hathwell held down a surprisingly pleasant jazz-fusion rhythm. Mellow but mighty!
Hip-hop was in the house as Amoeba's finest MC, Ray Ricky Rivera, and dopest DJ, Marques, aka Doleak, threw down three slammin' original creations. Ray proved that he's a one-man entertainment machine, rocking the party thoroughly while Doleak cut scratched and mixed.
Host Brently Heilbron put out an amber alert APB for drummer Sandor as Amoeba's crustiest hardcore band, Caustic Hate, took the stage. Sandor was located and the band blasted off, screaming out some of the ugliest, angriest, most uplifting caustic hate ever heard, courtesy of frontman Omar. Bassist Bill rocked a manly kilt and Kim Pryor, who was here, there and everywhere throughout the night (doing sound and playing in at least 3 bands), played guitar while wearing a pretty sexy frock made entirely out of Amoeba DJ slipmats. Fashion comes alive at Amoeba, as I always say!
But perhaps the best was yet to come... a shadowy ensemble in matching '80s outfits took the stage and struck a tough pose as the electrifying sound of Michael Jackson slinked through the speakers... it was the Badd Dancers!
Choreographer and born-too-late Solid Gold dancer Tuna led a heavily rehearsed ensemble through a magical Jacko medley, climaxing with the immortal "zombie dance" from "Thriller!"
You simply could not look away as the action unfolded. Seeing those kids up there dancing their little hearts out... it was a time warp and an amazing sight and an invincible tribute to the human spirit. And to the magic of Michael Jackson. And to ensemble dancing.
Did I mention the zombie part?
The last thing I saw before I headed for the door was a great boozy, bluesy tribute to the Stones, called Stones of the Queenage, which showed off the full charisma of that tall handsome hippy Sam Fowles as Mick Jagger, and the tough guitar style of Keith Richards' stand-in A.J. Briggs on a sprawling "Loving Cup."
All in all, it was a pretty fabulous and inspiring Amoebapalooza, as always. I'm sure I left out a ton of bands, so sorry about that, but you were loved and appreciated too. Next year, save your Coachella ticket money and take it down to the bar for that wham-bang evening of creativity, perspiration and low-budget glamour that we call... AMOEBAPALOOZA!