EASTSIDE STORY: THE DRAGS COME WEST

I could tell you about the time my friend John and I took the bus to Groucho Marx's house in Beverly Hills, rang the doorbell and heard him tell someone, "Get rid of those kids." We then went across the street to Morey Amsterdam's place, where he answered the door in his boxer shorts and signed autographs for us. Or I could tell you about the time I awoke--head on desk in a small puddle of drool--yelling from a violent, sexual nightmare in the middle of a geometry final and the teacher just sat there muttering my last name and shaking his head. I could even tell you about when I drove a Zamboni for eight months, leisurely creating new layers of ice in huge, graceful arcs while little girls in pink and light-blue tights waited impatiently to skate and shot me the kind of impossibly intense stares that would someday have their husbands sweating bullets.

I could tell you about a lot of things, but this is the Music section, right there between Cafe and the strip-joint ads, so let's talk rock--specifically, about some of the stuff I heard last weekend.

Saturday night found me at Any Hair of Tempe--not wig shopping, but witnessing the fabulous punk/garage/slop of Albuquerque's Drags and Tucson's Fells. Let me explain. Any Hair, or at least what used to be the Any Hair salon, is on the other side of a wall from Eastside Records, and, as I write this on Monday morning, that wall has come a-tumblin' down. Eastside is expanding, doubling its space to include more CDs, records, books and a large fish tank. Which may include sharks.

As cool as that is, I almost wish the place could live on as a live-music venue, cause it was everything a perfect, hole-in-the-wall, sweaty, loud, Pabst Blue Ribbon rock club should be. The Drags were anything but; the trio churned through a stunning set of primal rock noise played on cheap Sixties guitars--God love em--led by a singer who was sort of a mixture of Buddy Holly and Iggy Pop. He wore glasses and screamed a lot. One of the only really intelligible things he said was, "Archer [the Drags' drummer] decided he's got a new nickname--Malibu.' I think we should respect that."

It's anybody's guess when the band will grace these shores again, but you can always pick up its single at Eastside featuring "I Like to Die," "Mindbender" and "Seven Dollar Bologna." And while you're picking things up, you might want to reach for the Fells' Amped ten-inch (yes, actual vinyl) on the Tucson-based Westworld label. The group is cut from the same Billy Childish hunk of fabric as the Drags, and filled Any Hair with gloriously raw music. What a night; even the cops came at the end. Will in-store shows continue at Eastside? I asked owner Ben Wood, and he said, "Yes."

Benefit, Tribute, Wake: Call it what you will. It was one hell of an event Sunday in the parking lot of Long Wong's in Tempe, and it was all in the memory of Stacey Keller. Keller, a longtime bartender at the club, was killed in a boating accident on Canyon Lake recently. Her body was recovered Saturday.

From fences to beer to lights to PA to security, everybody donated his time and wares, the proceeds going to Keller's family. And there were bands there, too: Chimeras, One, Gin Blossoms, Dead Hot Workshop

and whatever the David Swaffords were calling themselves that day.
As far as I could tell, the whole thing went down without a hitch--quite a feat considering the show had only been put together a few days prior--thanks to the strategic planning of Wong's owners, Scott and Cheri Magill.

The big draw was, of course, the Gin Blossoms, who are now famous beyond a doubt. To wit: Grievous Angels' drummer, John, told me that a woman clutching beer (not the Picasso painting) heading stageward passed him, saying, "Come on, these guys are David Letterman's favorite band!" I can tell you this, I hadn't seen the Blossoms since one drunken night (me, not them) in Austin in 1989 that I barely remember, and the band hasn't improved at all.

Only kidding! The set rocked, and seemed genuinely heartfelt for the cause at hand. There was even a nod to the late Doug Hopkins from singer Robin Wilson, who told the crowd, "We miss the hell out of him." The band is soon to hit the road again--this time with the Spin Doctors--which means you've only got a couple more chances to see the Swaffords play.

Another One Down: Chimeras was the last band to grace the stage at Edsels Attic two Wednesdays ago, as the club closed down because of lease problems. Also on hand were members of many bands that were regulars at the Attic: Dead Hot Workshop, Postvale Road, Piersons, and One were a few.

Oops: Yes, despite computer banks, a tireless staff of research assistants and a fully functioning slide rule, even I make mistakes. Like this one: Last week, I claimed that Rich Hopkins was an "ex-Feedbag," when, in fact, he is an ex-Sand Ruby and ex-Sidewinder. Sorry. Currently, he's a member of the Luminarios, a band you should not miss when it plays on Friday, June 17, at Hollywood Alley in Mesa, with Dead Hot Workshop. Call 820-7117.

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