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‘Make the Music Go BANG!’ festival resurrects ’50s roots rock

The Knitters, Los Lobos, the Buzzcocks and The Rhythm Shakers performed Saturday across three stages to crowds of all ages at Santa Ana’s venue, the Observatory.

Buzzcocks%2C+the+English+punk+rock+band+formed+in+1976%2C+had+the+crowd+moshing+on+Saturday+in+Santa+Ana+at+Make+the+Music+Go+Bang+festival.
Buzzcocks, the English punk rock band formed in 1976, had the crowd moshing on Saturday in Santa Ana at Make the Music Go Bang festival.

Buzzcocks, the English punk rock band formed in 1976, had the crowd moshing on Saturday in Santa Ana at Make the Music Go Bang festival.

Sarah Borean / Daily 49er

Sarah Borean / Daily 49er

Buzzcocks, the English punk rock band formed in 1976, had the crowd moshing on Saturday in Santa Ana at Make the Music Go Bang festival.

Brooke Becher, Staff Writer

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Sweltering temperatures turned up with the volume at the Observatory’s Make the Music Go BANG! festival in Santa Ana on Sept. 20.

Crowds entered the gates at noon, settling into the three stages spread throughout the venue: the Observatory Stage, the Constellation Room and the BANG! Outdoor Stage, an event-exclusive outdoor area, acting as the festival’s centerpiece.

Attendees received a complimentary lift from the outlying parking lots via school bus to the venue.

At 3:30 p.m., music fans were greeted by the roots of rock ’n’ roll – classic country western.

“Hand me down that walking cane / I’m gonna catch that midnight train / All my sins are taken away, taken away,” wailed co-lead vocalist Exene Cervenka in unison with her counterpart John Doe in the Knitters’ take on an old traditional minstrel song from the early 20th century.

Attendees do-si-doed their way to the concrete lot for some rockabilly bluegrass.

The Knitters started as a country-folk side project of members from punk group X, roots-rock The Blasters and true blues-rock The Red Devils in 1982.

Fans of The Knitters seemed eager to trade in anti-government cries for wide-brimmed Stetsons, western boots and a couple of shrill “yee-haws.”

Food vendors like The Grilled Cheese Truck and TJ Woodfire Pizza graced the event with their signature tastes and absurdly high, festival-appropriate pricing.

There were two beer gardens on each side of the outdoor stage, allowing festival-goers to quench their thirst and catch the show.

Other vendors were selling artwork, records, massage services and even fresh barber-shop trims along the aisles of booths.

There was an array of vintage clothing; retro ‘50s bathing suits and cherry red pumps alluded to the emblematic fashion culture that pairs this music scene.

King Cat Hollywood owner Rocky “Rose” Torres began selling clothing, accessories and name brand items to the public 10 years ago. He said he and his “kittens” now ship merchandise to 63 countries and upkeep a stronghold in counties like Southern California, Ventura and has huge following in Vegas, Nevada.

“I grew up listening to the Blasters. I used to sneak out of my window and go see their concerts when I was 13 years old,” Torres said. He went as far as saying that Excene Cervenka and John Doe are not only huge influences on him, but are the most influential west coast punk musicians in the history of rock.

A bold “BANG” in all capital letters lit up the overhead lights on the outdoor stage. The sun was setting, casting orange hues to the backdrop of the Santa Ana venue.

Fans grew impatient with the 20-minute lag between set times, waiting for Chicano rockers Los Lobos to take the stage.

Screams and high-pitched whistles welcomed the seasoned musicians, opening with their accordion-driven “Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio.” Vocalists David Hidalgo and César Rojas alternated lead vocal duties. Together they playfully swooned the crowd, from Hidalgo’s 12-bar blues to Rojas’ charango guitar and dance-driven cumbria stylings.

“I know everybody out here pretty much,” Hidalgo said, hinting at the sense of community present that evening. Los Lobos were celebrating 40 years together as a band.

It wasn’t until 8:30 p.m. that the Observatory saw the first push pit. Infectious rapid-fire energy poured from the power-punkers, encouraging members of the mosh to crowd surf and bounce in full pogo.

Waves of plaid shirts filled in for the vacating polka-dot and pompadour population as British godfathers of punk rock, the Buzzcocks, appropriately announced their intentions for the evening, “Turn it up, we got some rockin’ to do.”

Bassist Chris Remington and lead guitarist Steve Diggle framed the stage on each side of frontman Pete Shelley and drummer Danny Farrant. The stringed musicians’ unapologetic stage-presence stole the show.

The Buzzcocks’ set consisted of “Boredom,” “When Love Turns Around,” “Sick City Sometimes,” and “Noise Annoys.” Although studio recordings of some of the tracks performed reveal a more laid-back surf rock or venture into the pop-punk realm, the show strictly reproduced the rough and rugged first waves in thrash that they originally pioneered.

Married couple and dedicated fans John and Alex Leon said that the Buzzcocks were the only reason they attended the BANG! Festival. It had been awhile for John, saying the last time he had seen them was back in 2002.

As crowds flooded the outdoor stage to see headlining band X closeout the night, The Rhythm Shakers brought the boogie to the indoor main stage.

The stand-up baritone bass, the unforgiving jailhouse-rock attitude, the swinging girls in bright fluorescents and pin up skirts on the dance floor took the night back in time to a ‘50s music hall.

Sounds of old rhythm and blues echoed through Kevin O’Leary’s arch top in steel pangs. An aesthetic touch and deep pizzicato octaves bounced from bassist Victor Mendez’s upright instrument, slapping the accentuated backbeat together with John Brook Emilio’s simple-but-deadly three piece drum kit into full thrust.

From the heart of a jet black room crooned the rich, sultry alto of blood-red-headed front woman, Marlene Perez.

The charming and charismatic Perez, unwilling to compromise any rock ’n’ roll roots, sets this band apart from other contenders in the genre.

Listeners may stumble into confusion, balancing serenades reminiscent of Billie Holiday’s thick croons and Elvis Presley’s aggressive slurred hollers against the ruthless, tongue-in-cheek lyrics that accompany them.

Taking a break from upbeat hip-slappers like “What if I Said” and “Slide” early in the set, the Rhythm Shakers slipped into a musky, cold-hearted ballad of romance gone awry with their latest single “Broke his Heart.”

“I don’t hate men, I just encourage women,” Perez said through a smile to the largely female audience that night. Savage fun and sex appeal recurred in theme with lyrics like “You go me so damn hypnotized” and “You got lots of notches on your bedpost.”

Grammy Award-winning band, Los Lobos, played an hour set at the Make the Music Go Bang festival on Saturday.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “‘Make the Music Go BANG!’ festival resurrects ’50s roots rock”

  1. Pete Rock Drums and Samples Kit - InstantDownloadNow on October 4th, 2014 9:45 pm

    […] ‘Make the Music Go BANG!’ festival resurrects ’50s roots rockDaily 49erAt 3:30 p.m., music fans were greeted by the roots of rock ’n’ roll – classic country western … together with John Brook Emilio’s simple-but-deadly three piece drum kit into full thrust. From the heart of a jet black room crooned the rich …2014-09-22 05:28:11 […]

  2. Vince Bodie on October 12th, 2014 4:26 pm

    The festival was a hoot, and running into Brooke and Sarah was just icing on the cake. Excellent article and pics! You made me sorry I missed the Rhythm Shakers!

    You can check out my photos from the event here:
    http://vincebodie.com/pictures/black-and-white/bang/event/bang

    [Reply]

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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