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From Chris Isaak to Hank III, it's roots rook versus punk rock at Hootenany 2000

Lake Irvine, Irvine, Cal., July 1, 2000

By Dan MacIntosh

IRVINE, CA - Many of the tattooed and retro-dressed concert goers streamed out of the outdoor concert area and back to their cars when sharp dressed Chris Isaak and his Silvertones took the stage to closeout the sixth annual roots rock Hootenanny 2000.

But despite his fancy attire and chart successes, Isaak indeed belonged among these various rockabilly and dedicated fans.

In fact, Isaak's music contained more traditional elements than much of what was heard from the two side-by-side main stages this day. If there was one common roots denominator, it was that of punk rock roots, as bands like Los Infernos and Cadillac Tramps displayed their enthusiasm for the form. Dave Vanian, who fronted the original English punk group The Damned, was also on the bill. But his moody guitar and keyboard drenched sound didn't reveal any of his so-called new love for American traditional styles.

Even Hank Williams III, who has more Americana credentials than most, sang about his "Life of Sin" with many new punkish songs from his upcoming "This Ain't Country" album. The title about says it all.

Much better, though, was the part country/part rockabilly elements in longtime LA performer James Intveld's solid appearance, as he hacked away on his acoustic guitar with a set of classics and new tunes from his latest "I Came All The Way From Memphis" album.

The Blasters seem unchanged by time as they blasted through wonderful songs from their catalogue like "Marie Marie" and "American Music."

Phil Alvin now leads the veteran quartet, as brother Dave has moved on to much wider roots, which also allow him to express his folk and country sides. Phil is joined these days by John Bazz on bass, Keith Wyatt on guitar (having replaced Intveld) and old standby, Bill Bateman at the drums.

Alvin's between song patter was brief, but to the point, as one new song was prefaced by his disparaging remarks about the adverse affects of the lottery system. The Blasters have always retained a political bite, in addition to their deep rockabilly and blues roots.

The Knitters, a spin-off of X with only one album to their credit, were also a delight, as John Doe (dressed in a flag-patterned shirt for this pre-4th of July occasion) and Exene twirled a pink parasol to the beat of Knitters tunes like "Poor Little Critter in the Road" and X songs, as with "Burning House of Love."

One newer song, called something like "Skin Deep Town," poked fun at the shallowness so often a target of their "other band" X, which after all, was Doe and Exene’s first musical love.

Their set finished with a curiously acoustic version of "Born To Be Wild."

The afternoon's biggest surprise came when Scotty Moore - Elvis' original guitarist - joined Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom (two-thirds of the Stray Cats) and jammed with the fellas on "Mystery Train" and "That's All Right."

In between these songs, the crowd even spontaneously began chanting "Scotty, Scotty, Scotty." One wonders if this was some kind of a veiled request for a little more real roots in this supposed roots gathering.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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