Gimme Shelter Again

The Green Room's Altamont 2 takes rock back into the bowels of hell

December 6, 1969, was one of the worst days of my life. Although I was barely old enough to spell my own name, I had already been programmed to love all things related to Texas A&M University and to despise all things related to the University of Texas. Particularly when it came to football.

December 6, 1969, was my birthday, and my happiness that day was contingent upon number-one-rated Texas losing the nationally televised game they were playing against number-two-rated Arkansas. As these things go, the stakes were high: the Southwest Conference championship, the national championship (in the centennial year of college football) and bragging rights for the winner between these bordering states. Adding heft to the occasion, Richard Nixon was in the stands, ready to award a national-championship trophy to the victor.

For me, the choice was easy. An Arkansas win meant a Texas loss, so I was a pathetic little Razorback for the day. To my unending heartbreak, Texas came from behind in the final moments to win, 15-14.

Since I was a football fan before I became a music fan, it wasn't until years later that I realized that one of the worst days of my life had also been one of the worst days in the history of rock 'n' roll. For at the very moment that Tricky Dick was handing the plaque over to coach Darrell Royal, tens of thousands of unwashed hippies were sharing in the world's biggest bad acid trip, known to the history books as Altamont.

Bad vibes--and pool sticks wielded by hired security, the Hells Angels--rained down without interruption at Altamont. By the time the headliners, the Rolling Stones, took the stage that evening, the scene was pure chaos, reaching a dark crescendo when a man in the crowd was stabbed to death by Hells Angels.

For all its ugliness, Altamont remains fascinating, because it's the anti-Woodstock, the event that unwittingly exposed the bullshit behind the hippie dream. So it's perfectly fitting that, as we're again being led down the path of golden nostalgia with a 30th anniversary Woodstock festival this summer, the good people at the Green Room have decided to stage Altamont 2, a 30th anniversary tribute to what Jerry Garcia (of opening act the Grateful Dead) once referred to as "a nice little day in hell."

Forget for a moment that Altamont's anniversary is actually five months away. Let's not quibble about such trivial details. The important thing is that, in its own small way, Altamont 2 offers an antidote for all the pastoral self-satisfaction of Woodstock '99. No one likes a pool stick over the back of the head, but Altamont's deeper legacy is that no matter how much you go around flashing peace signs and babbling about flower power, you can't eliminate the nastier side of human nature. Ultimately, it's better to admit it and cope with it, rather than try to pretend that you're more highly evolved just because you've taken acid or ecstacy, or anything else, for that matter.

The Green Room's Altamont 2 won't bring back any of the original acts, so don't go looking for Marty Balin on the patio. But it does offer some conceptual planning. Taking advantage of the fact that the 1969 show was at a Northern California speedway, Altamont 2 will feature Jesus Chrysler Supercar, a band positively beloved on the NASCAR circuit. Also on the bill will be Yoko Love and Mr. Pink, two bands with great troublemaking potential.

Green Room booking agent Charlie Levy says the club is hoping to add the coup de gráce by finding some local Hells Angels who can help with security. The only question is, which singer will be the first to appropriate a fake British accent and ask: "Who's fighting, and what for?"

Altamont 2 is scheduled for Sunday, July 4, at the Green Room in Tempe, with Jesus Chrysler Supercar, Yoko Love, and Mr. Pink.

Where There's a Will: Career momentum and name recognition are two concepts that seem quite alien to Will Oldham. Why else would the creative force behind the critically acclaimed Palace franchise change his recording identity with each successive release?

In fact, it seems the Kentucky native has a sharp disdain for the most basic principles of Marketing 101. Whether recording as Palace, Palace Brothers, Palace Music or Bonnie Prince Billy, Oldham's desire for commercial anonymity hasn't diminished the power of his gloomy songcraft. Although critics have used genre tags ranging from Americana to singer-songwriter to describe his work, Oldham's output has been too eclectic and subtle to be stuck with any broad musical labels. With his taste for Appalachian music, early 20th century country and blues, and modern anti-folk, Oldham has created a unique musical vision that resists simple characterization.

At the same time, his decadelong career has served as a blueprint for the forlorn lo-fi aesthetic of other notoriously shy musical auteurs like Smog's Bill Callahan and Cat Power's Chan Marshall. While Oldham's commitment to stark emotional themes and minimalist sonic backdrops has never wavered, his latest album, I See a Darkness, hints at a rapidly developing sense of melody. A trend that began with his previous release (1997's Joya), it's an element that makes the record more accessible--although no more commercial--than its predecessors.

Known for his intensely personal solo performances, Oldham's quiet songs of sin and redemption are best enjoyed in a small, uncluttered atmosphere. That opportunity comes about on Friday, July 2, when he's scheduled to perform at downtown's Modified.

Korn Fed: As if we didn't already know it, last week's third annual Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands contest at Boston's drove home the point that the Korn/Limp Bizkit school of rock is the sound of the moment for disaffected white kids.

With the exception of the garage-punk Balls (whose set-opening cover of Tom Petty's "I Need to Know" felt like Petty as reinterpreted by Gwen Stefani), every band in the contest milked the rap/scream vocals and grinding, repetitious guitar riffs that put Jonathan Davis and Co. on the map. Musically, there was little to choose from between Projex, Animals of Evolution and Five on One. Nary a melody, interesting chord change, rhythmic groove nor discernible lyric was heard from any of these bands, but Five on One's black-leather fashion sense and higher degree of stage hyperactivity were enough to carry them to victory. The victory enabled the group to play the "Locals Only Stage" of the Vans Warped Tour show at Celebrity Theatre on June 29.

Bring On the Phunk: The Phunk Junkeez are busy at work on a follow-up to last year's Fear of a Wack Planet, but they'll take a break from recording to play two Independence-weekend gigs at Bash on Ash. On Friday, July 2, the band will play a 21-and-over show with Chet (a Phunk Junkeez spin-off band that includes Jesus Chrysler singer Mitch Steele), Surf Ballistics and Five on One. The following night will feature an all-ages show, including such support acts as Orange County band Dial Seven, Ph.D. and Lik Shotz. Showtime is 8 p.m. for both shows.

--Gilbert Garcia

Contact Gilbert Garcia at his online address: ggarcia@newtimes.com

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