WHAT A HASSLE

What a reward. Live music. Ain’t nuthin’ like it. It can lift you up and out and take you away. The transcendent Bob Marley sang, one good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain. It can be addicting, yes, but cheaper than drugs or booze and no bad side effects, no hangover. Ain’t nuthin’ like the real thing, baby.

You’ve felt it, sometime in your life, you know you have. But when was the last time? The hassle is what keeps most people past a certain age sitting at home in front of their TV, or even their music system. Too bad. They’re missing out. Life is for living, you can sleep when you’re dead, and a live music performance is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I got a good dose of the hassle last Saturday, a demonstration that it isn’t always worth it. But no regrets, and I’ll be going back for another shot this Saturday.

The City of LA has been again presenting some great free concerts in Pershing Square all summer, and this year they saved the best for last. Last Saturday I made the trek to see The B-52s, a great band I’d never caught in their 40-plus years of existence. I knew it was going to be packed. One prediction was for 60,000 music lovers to show up, but, that’s Khalid numbers and I don’t think there were quite that many.

 

FREE CONCERT SOLD OUT

By the time we got there they had closed off the area. The overflow surrounding the

square was massive, with people hanging off of every tall object you could imagine. But I was with a buddy (and his buddy) who have become expert “crashers,” to whom no gate is truly closed, so I was confident tagging along. It is an art form, and they are Picassos.

But alas, despite deploying many tactics I would never reveal even under waterboarding, it wasn’t until the encore that they gained entrance through a momentarily-neglected gate. (I was one step behind, too much as two security guards pulled the gate closed in my face.) But I could hear well for most of the concert and see a sliver of the stage, and the screen.

This Saturday is the last show, possibly the best one. Opening are The Meat Puppets, a legendary punk trio that formed in Phoenix the same year I came to LA, 1980. They rarely play at all these days so this time, don’t miss the opening act.

The main act is X, perhaps the quintessential LA band, and X performing in LA is an iconic cultural and musical experience. It will be nuts. And I will be there. Because there is nuthin’ like live music, this is as good as it gets, and you can sleep when you’re dead.

 

ANTIDOTE FOR AGENT ORANGE

It’s been a tough few days for us all. What will it take to restore normalcy, and safety? Republicans with backbones, that’s what.

Meanwhile, art to the rescue! Put these two plays on your calendar, running through mid-

to late September (check websites for schedules).

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is a treasure still undiscovered by many. Nestled deep

in Topanga Canyon, set into the hillside, the outdoor theater is unique for its staging possibilities. They’re known for their Shakespeare but when they step away from the Bard, they don’t lose a thing.

The cast is always simply superlative, many of them Geer veterans of not years, but decades. Writing and directing, as well as acting chores are in part handled by descendants of the social activist founder, so they’re literally born into their roles.

I saw “Trouble in Mind,” and it was troubling, in the best kind of way. A play for today. The story of a troupe of black actors rehearsing for a condescending white director, just before the Civil Rights era, it was written in 1955 by black playwright Alice Childress and ran off-Broadway for 91 performances and grabbed an Obie.

Moments after the play begins, frustrated actress Wiletta (Earnestine Phillips) steps forward and shows her stuff. She is troubled, hilarious, complex, affecting, raw, real. This is not to diminish in any way a cast that has absolutely no weakness. Earnestine is a longtime friend, but if I had never seen her perform I would write the same thing. (Others have.) I’ve seen her in so many roles for so many years, but this may be her pinnacle achievement. And that is truly saying something. She always credits Ellen Geer (director) as her inspiration.

Meanwhile, if you need some laughs, the Ruskin Theatre Group at the airport can take care of you. “The Rainbow Bridge” is, by director Mike Myers’ proud admission, a typical summer fare light comedy. The premise is dumb, the characters mostly over the top, and the laughs keep coming — yeah, perfect.

Jaimi Paige as the oversexed, lethal veterinarian is brilliant in her first turn on stage,

running through so many conflicting emotions you fear an early exit for a nervous breakdown. Terribly bad-tempered mom Lynne Marie Stewart is a familiar face: Pee Wee Herman Show (Miss Yvonne), “Bang Bang,” Groundlings, “It’s Always Sunny,” Tracy Ullman, “American Graffiti.” All except near-comatose Harriet (Mouchette van Helsdingen) get a chance to shine, and do. Better give her the starring role next time, Mike.

 

RECOMMENDED: Tomorrow night (Thursday), 7 – 8:30 p.m., free, a fully staged version of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Aida” at Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey. We’re so fortunate. West of Lincoln, baby.

 

Sunday 5-7 p.m., Gandara Park on Stewart, free, Jazz on the Lawn. Jessica Fichot promises “a twisting journey out of the French chanson tradition into gypsy jazz, ‘40s Chinese swing and international folk.” Last week was sensational, the very talented Yuko Mabuchi Group. Pianist-vocalist Mabuchi pounded those keys and rose off her bench with the enthusiasm of a Jerry Lee Lewis. The Samohi Jazz Combo played in between sets and should definitely be brought back.

 

LYRIC OF THE WEEK: “There’s still time to change the road you’re on” – Led Zeppelin (“Stairway To Heaven”)

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else

in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com