The Knitters, Lee Rocker and Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys make the evening a hoot
Anaheim, Cal., House of Blues, Feb. 7, 2004
By Dan MacIntosh
ANAHEIM, CA - This roots rock triple bill - The Knitters, Lee Rocker and Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys - was like a brief late night taste of Southern California's annual Hootenanny festival show. The main difference being that this particular gathering was held beneath muted club lights, rather than bright outdoor
But each act showed off a different shade of SoCal's thriving and colorful roots music scene during this enjoyable, albeit abbreviated, indoor hootenanny.
The Knitters hit the stage for the night's closing set at only two-fifths strength, as electric guitarist Dave Alvin and acoustic guitarist/vocalist John Doe took the stage for a sweet show-opening take on Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings"
But after just a couple of these stripped down duets, the other three band members quickly joined in. When you have a folk group with established rock and punk roots, like The Knitters, you almost have to expect the unexpected. That's probably why nobody was too surprised when The Knitters followed a Flatt & Scruggs song with "Good Times Bad Times," once a heavy metal Led Zeppelin standard before The Knitters countrified it.
This audience also raised loud hoots of delight whenever The Knitters played old X songs, like "Burning House of Love" and "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts." The later includes the still relevant line: "Woody Guthrie sang about b-e-e-t-s, not b-e-a-t-s." And just like Mr. Guthrie used to do, these Knitters continue to sing convincingly about real life issues.
Lee Rocker, whose main claim to fame is as the bassist for the pop-rockabilly outfit The Stray Cats, preceded The Knitters with a set of high energy rockabilly. Rocker's stage time was short on Guthrie-esque social commentary, but chock full of good time music, instead. Of course, he played "Stray Cat Strut," but he also slowed things down a bit for "Blue Suede Nights."
Poor Big Sandy had a mere half hour of performance time to work with, being that he was the opening act on a popular three-tier bill. Nevertheless, he made the best of it with his country-sweetened rockabilly soul vibe. With a pedal steel player front and center in his band, almost everything he played came wrapped with an extra bonus amount of wholesome twang. But his main selling point is that wonderful singing voice of his, which was smooth and pretty on "The Greatest Story Ever Told," and full of party fun with "Yama, Yama, Pretty Mama."
Even though this wasn't anything close to a full-blown Hootenanny, tonight's show was nevertheless an unquestionable hoot for the faithful. And not one person left sunburned.