Silverlake Film Festival + ASCAP

Punk, pop, sex, and free booze
May 3rd and 4th 2007

 After confirming my spots on the guest list for the event I was forwarded instruction on where to proceed and what to do to get my tickets.  I showed up at the designated spot at the designated time and found out…not on the list.  Not on any list, anywhere.  After asserting my manly charm, basically acting ignorant and being in a hurry, I was able to get my proper credentials.  I further learned that there was an entire film festival surrounding these auspicious musical occurrences.  Filmmakers from all over had submitted countless films to be displayed at this two-week festival, including featured films from Mexico and India, and a whole evening devoted to porno!

I made my way over to the Echo-plex to see the world-famous Circle Jerks performing with not-so-newcomers 400 Blows.  So I, with my good friend David of the infamous Horse the Band, made our way over, parked, and trotted over to the entrance of the Echo. We did find the adjacent “Festival Party”: complete with snooty filmmakers, and free alcohol.  So, while we were getting our bearings and figuring out where the Echo-plex was exactly, we feigned interest in some panoramic photos, and David partook in the free booze. 

After twenty minutes of fake-schmoozing, we were running out of witty quips and were in fear of being caught; a woman entered the room and announced that “The Slog Movie” was about to begin, hours behind schedule. We made our way over to the Echo-plex (which it turns out was straight out the rear of the building we were in) and took some seats to view the film.

The movie featured clips of performances, interviews, and assorted antics from One, Symbol 6, Wasted Youth, Red Cross, TSOL, The Chiefs, Sin34, Fear, Circle Jerks, and Henry Rollins, Chuck Dukowski, Robo & Dez Cadena, and Erratic.  The movie was basically a bunch of edited home video footage from a cadre of hardcore punk bands from the early 80s, complete with their flipped up caps, tight tight pants, and gigantic skateboards.  It was good, for what it was.  But I was quite happy when the screen lifted and 400 Blows took the stage.  For being a three-piece: a singer, drummer, and a guitar player that used two guitar amps and a bass amp to complete the sound; this band carried themselves quite well.  The band definitely was able to differentiate themselves from the “specialty” bands of the day: Local H and The Presidents of the United States of America.  For only having a guitar player and a drummer to provide the rhythm for their snarling singer, they took it in stride and carried out a rip-roaring good time.

At the conclusion of their set, Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks was brought out and presented the Silverlake Music Pioneer award by 400 Blows singer Skott.  After accepting the award, Keith’s band set up, and proceeded to rule the stage for the next hour and something.  The band was able to perform with the charisma and strength that they (presumably) exhumed twenty years ago at the peak of their career.   The crowd was able to do the same, thirty and forty year old punk circle-pitting in true “back in the day” fashion.  The great thing about this event was that the involvement of ASCAP and the Silverlake Film Fest people didn’t water down the event or bring in bands that they thought “might work well” as most companies haphazardly attempt.  400 Blows was the perfect opener for the quintessential eighties punk band.

Friday brought me back to see The Bird and The Bee, a band that I have been following with great fervor since I first saw their record release at the Troubadour.  When they took the stage I was giddy as a schoolboy.  First of all, Inara George is stunning.  Stunning in every sense of the word.  Her voice is amazing, she’s breathtakingly beautiful, and…she plays bass-which in itself is very sexy.  The band is impressive too: touting sixties-era gear, and garb.  The great thing about seeing The Bird and The Bee live is the just that- the live element.  On CD, there is only Inara and producer Greg Kurstin; when they play live, Inara sings and plays bass, Greg plays keys, and they have a drummer, guitar player, and three lovely back-up singers.  Honestly, right now, The Bird and The Bee are only second to the irreparably amazing MEW in my book.  Songs like “I Hate Camera”, “Again and Again”, and opener “My Fair Lady“ kept the crowd very pleased, while “Fucking Boyfriend” as always, stole the show.  We were even treated to a sneak preview of a new song that combined disco rhythms with early hip hop lyrics, combined with the usual TBaTB swing.  The only problem I saw in the night was that, after The Bird and The Bee, the following group was so bad that I had to walk out after waddling over to the merch table and guffawing (and generally making a damn fool out of myself) at Inara, in traditional Mark style. 

A great dichotomy of musical performances for a wonderfully diverse film festival; both memorable performances were well received and proved a great partnership for ASCAP and the Silverlake Film Festival. Either the music community in LA is becoming hip again… or I’m faltering in my old age and losing my grip on what’s “in. Down for life.

Mark Johnston, a native Californian, has travelled the world with various circuses, sideshows, and arena rock tours. As a musical monkey he has delighted fans the world over. Upon his return, he has since founded the Atomsmashers Publishing Company, written 2 books in the company's Warm Horchata series, created a weekly comic strip based around LA's more "colorful" characters, written reviews, articles, and rantings under various pseudonyms; this has since culminated in Johnston being named Captain Fabulous by the Superhero Association of America.