Easy Being Green

It seems that every time Fred Green plays in California, the funk trio winds up relying on the kindness of rock heavyweights.

At the group's most recent Redondo Beach gig, a guitarist friend brought ex-Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, and Watt proceeded to get high in the band's van before the show. When he asked how he'd be able to get into the show without paying, someone jokingly suggested that he carry some of Fred's gear into the club. To the group's amazement, Watt did just that.

The time before that, Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez showed up to see Fred play and was so impressed that he ended up buying Cuervo shots for each of the band members.

Unfortunately, Cuervo shots and roadie help from big-name musicians don't necessarily translate into recording contracts, and, though they've long been a source of interest for labels, Fred remains unsigned.

But this band has never been inclined to wait around for other people to create opportunities for them. They have their own production company, which helps other local acts follow the same Colorado circuit that Fred blazed a couple of years ago. And this week, they celebrate the release of their third self-released CD, an 11-song self-titled set.

The album follows in the rhythmically adventurous mode of its predecessors, Dillywagon and Groover, and actually finds new genres for exploration. "Awake" and "Off the Ground," for instance, reveal a growing fascination with Afro-Cuban rhythms. And, as always, the band doesn't hesitate to go from reggae to metal to jazz in the space of a single tune, defying standard notions about song form.

"There was no real theme involved," drummer Chris Peeler says of the new CD. "Some of the tunes were from the first days of writing, that we finally finished, and some tunes just came out of nowhere. We're just the kind of band that does whatever comes to mind as far as tune-style."

"We're still in kind of an experimental mode, but we were more into writing good songs this time--whole, full songs," says Ben Gilley, bassist for the band.

Like the band's previous efforts, the new CD was recorded in a tight space of time (seven days) with Larry Elyea at Mind's Eye studio. The band's creative confidence is so high that they've taken to creating songs in the studio, and they frequently leave arrangements unresolved until the studio clock starts running.

In Elyea, they've found a perfect match. "Larry's a good boy," Gilley says with a laugh. "You can verbally pummel him as much as you want, and he just loves it."

The group's rampant playfulness is featured on "Jefro Bridge" (which lifts a vocal section of Sam & Dave's "I Thank You") and on what's described as a "fryin' pan" remix of "Hybachi," one of the highlights on Groover. The album's most absurd moment, though, is saved for last. "Talkin' to Bob" is a nonsensical disco song that finds Peeler doing a Les Claypool-type rant before the entire band kicks in for a three-part harmony on the chorus. The group says the song grew out of a discussion with their then-manager Willobee Carlan.

"We had a studio in the basement, and he actually lived upstairs," Peeler says. "We'd had a meeting that day, and he said, 'You really need a radio song. I love you guys, but you need a radio song.' So we went downstairs into the studio, and somehow that guitar riff came up. Ben started playing kind of a disco bass line, and I just played the goofiest, most simple drumbeat I could. It is kind of a goof on the idea of a radio tune."

Of course, when you parody something, you always run the risk of becoming what you're mocking. "Talkin' to Bob" is so catchy and so brazenly ridiculous, it could unwittingly become a "radio song." The band is prepared for the dangers.

"It would be ironic if it got played," Peeler says, "because the lyrics are the most annoying ever."

Fred Green is scheduled to play three sets at Boston's in Tempe on Saturday, June 12. Each set will consist of one of the band's CDs, in its entirety. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Bass Instincts: Breakfast of Champions bassist and co-founder Leslie Barton has decided to quit the band, effective August 1. Barton has decided to focus more energy on her fine-art work and plans to move to Scotland at the end of this year.

Barton, the original guitarist in the band, formed the all-girl punk trio early last year with Sioux Milgrove (who started on bass and switched to guitar) and drummer Mary Esquivel.

The band--which is currently working on a CD expected to be released by the end of the summer--plans to continue and is actively searching for a new bassist. Meanwhile, the Barton incarnation of Breakfast of Champions will play twice on the same night this weekend. On Friday, June 11, they'll be opening at Hollywood Alley in Mesa at 9 p.m., and headlining at Cannery Row in Tempe at midnight.

Elvis and Courtney: "There's something about the desert air that makes you rock more, right?"

That was the question that Hole bassist Melissa auf der Maur posed to the exuberant throng at Mesa Amphitheatre on June 2, by way of a greeting. Not to be outdone, Hole's reigning empress Courtney Love said, "There's something about the desert air that makes me wanna fuck." As if to underline the point, within a few minutes Love had stripped off her white tank top (with "Desert Storm" written on it) to showcase her purple bra, announcing that she doesn't like to wear a lot of clothes onstage.

Whatever effect the desert air had on Love's libido, it certainly didn't seem to harm her mood. Although the band's set was a bit short at barely more than an hour (probably due to a noticeable vocal hoarseness that Love apologized for, and that induced her to take repeated swigs of lime-flavored Gatorade), Courtney was in great spirits throughout, working the front rows of the crowd with a cheerfulness and affection that was almost maternal.

Even when she complained about the "hard-core-punk fuckers," whose aggressive jostling made it impossible for her to sing a tune from within the audience, she seemed more amused than angry. After a raucous encore take on "Celebrity Skin," she pulled the by-now-ritualistic act of giving her guitar away to a girl in the crowd. When another girl in the front row expressed disappointment, Love felt guilt-stricken enough to give a second guitar away, for what she said was the first time ever at a Hole show.

The Hole crowd was pretty worshipful, but the Elvis Costello fans who filled Celebrity Theatre four nights later could only be described as adoring. Accompanied only by longtime keyboard foil Steve Nieve, Costello played an amazingly generous set of nearly two and a half hours, heavy on material from his 1998 collaboration with Burt Bacharach, Painted From Memory.

Highlights included a harsh dig at NRA mouthpiece Charlton Heston during a monologue section of "God's Comic," and a touching version of "Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4" (a highly unexpected closer), which Costello performed with no amplification to a hushed, riveted room. It was an awesome demonstration of the man's dramatic gifts, not to mention his lung power.

In Clubland: Punk-rock karaoke has never been this good. On Sunday, June 13, the Green Room takes the concept all the way to the true sources, bringing in a punk-rock dream team to provide backing for the Valley's aspiring hard-core crooners. The band includes Mike Watt on bass, Gregg Hetson (Circle Jerks and Bad Religion) on guitar and members of Social Distortion and NOFX.

Also this weekend, Jesus Chrysler Supercar celebrates the release of its new CD, Land Speed, with shows on Thursday, June 10, at Club Rio; and Friday, June 11, at Boston's, along with Anti-Hero League, a new incarnation of local hard-rock icons Zig Zag Black.

--Gilbert Garcia

Contact Gilbert Garcia at his online address:

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