Field Trip South, Day 1
Little Sheba and the Shamans, The WildTones, The Woolly Bushmen, the Subsonics, The Hatebombs, and The Little Richards
Friday, February 24, Orlando, FL
Real life often collides uncomfortably with art in ugly ways and as a result I wasn’t able to make it on time on Friday. So all apologies to the excellent Little Sheba and the Shamans, and Orlando’s own The Wildtones. I heard good things, so I’ll have to trust the word of the more punctual.
The Woolly Bushmen were swinging for the fences as the played their final show before leaving the next day for a month long tour of Europe. The Bushmen delivered an unhinged hour of organ fueled rock that quivered and shimmied with charisma and flair. From Atlanta came The Subsonics with a rude and raw sound that felt like rat rods street racing for pink slips. Theirs was a solid set of oily, revved up rock.
The Hate Bombs were reunited once more and the performance was impressive. Three chord masterpieces, with hooks to spare. Bassist Scott Sugiuchi was one of the organizers of the two day festival. The band was whipsmart and played like it was still the 90’s. Without missing a beat, or even breathing hard, guitarist Dave Ewing did splits and high kicks that would make Diamond Dave green with envy. They plowed through the set with a surety that only comes with time.
And then there came from San Diego, The Little Richards. This coed sextet has a deceptively uncomplicated premise, to perform the songs of Little Richard like they mean it. From Macon, Georgia, came the one and only Little Richard. Flambouyant, energized and over the top in all he did, Little Richard was peerless. Most people covering him come up short. In performance, in attitude, in every-thing. So The Little Richards had set a pretty high bar for themselves by attacking the most famous portion of his catalog.
What followed was a breathless 60 minute set of brilliant music which would have done Richard Penniman proud. There was production, style, a cocksure delivery and choreography. Everyone but drummer, Little Letty, took turns singing lead, and they stuck to the script by introducing each song, “Hi! We’re the Little Richards, and I’m Little Pat (or who-ever), and this is Tutti Fruity!”
And they killed. Seriously, the played the songs true to form, delivered a memorable, and not overly slick show at the same time, and it felt like a well-dressed riot onstage. You are on notice. Do not make an excuse not to see them when they come through your town. The Little Richards are every scandolous, purile, and up to no-good thing your grandparents feared rock and roll was, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to wallow in it.
It’s easy to be snobbish or dismisive of garage rock. By design it’s simple. The songs and the music hasn’t changed much from the 1950’s and 60’s until present. And it often seems like silly nostalgia. But if it was easy, anyone could be good at it. And that’s simply not the case. To be good is to commit to those three chords, the dogged, unwavering beat and direct lyrics. To be great, is to mean it.