I'm in the back of Louis XIV's tour bus as the San Diego group's front man Jason Hill is knocking out a new composition on acoustic guitar on the couch next to me, something with the refrain, "I don't want to be a fool no more." I wait politely for Hill to finish, as I'd caught him in midsong when I arrived for our pre-concert confab prior to he and his boys rockin' the Marquee Theatre in Tempe this past Saturday evening.
"I usually write up until stage time," explains Hill, indicating a small black notebook with scribbled-over pages. "But some days it depends on how much privacy you can get."
Dressed in jeans and a generic blue tee that reads "California," lounging with a brew in one hand after he's set the guitar aside, he looks less rock god and more laid-back West Coast musician. Less a young Ozzy Osbourne, who he resembles in videos, and more Don Henley circa Hotel California. But as you probably know from hearing the hit single "Finding Out True Love Is Blind" off the album The Best Little Secrets Are Kept, Hill and Louis XIV have a raunchy, bump-uglies sort of sound, full of dirty guitar and sneering-leering vocals with lyrics like "Wind you up and make you crawl to me/Tie you up until you call to me," or "Ah chocolate girl, well you're looking like something I want/And your little Asian friend well, she can come if she wants . . ."
I'm feelin' the style because for too long rock's been the domain of gelding neo-punkers howling about how Suzy Creamcheese from around the way won't change their diapers, or some such crybaby nonsense. Like when did rockers start having to check their nads at the door? That B.S. never happened with hip-hop, praise Jay-sus and Jay-Z. But all Louis XIV has to do is put a little butt-crack on their CD, make some lewd comments on their tracks, and a lot of precious little music scribes get their panties in a twist.
"There was this feature recently where this writer did, like, a thesis article about why we should be stopped and why you shouldn't like our music," Hill relates. "It included calling us racists. . . . Said the cover of our record depicted a dead woman that we'd defiled by writing on her."
"Dead woman?" I scratch my chin looking at the cover again, a copy of which I have with me. "She doesn't look dead to me. But so what if she was?"
"It was so outlandish!" continues Hill. "Complained about the phrase 'little Asian friend.' To me it's like, 'Hey, honey, come over here,' or something like that. It's like my version of the Beach Boys' 'California Girls.' But I say 'chocolate girl,' and this and that. I don't know a single black girl that would get offended by that phrase.
"There's one part where the article says, 'I just want my rock 'n' roll to have a little more responsibility,'" Hill chuckles. "I certainly don't. I want it to be irresponsible and bold, to take chances and make people question things and feel freedom. Too much responsibility in rock 'n' roll is a bad idea."
Yeah, screw that responsibility crap. Bring on the hookers and the mounds of blow! But that's where I have to say I'm slightly disappointed in my man Hill. Of course, if he was really a sex-obsessed, Sadean narcissist ravaging the countryside's womenfolk and taking names -- you know, like the Ying Yang Twins, or somethin' -- he'd prolly be too busy bonin' to mess with the press. But when I ask him why his tour bus isn't a nonstop orgy on wheels, the cat almost blushes!
"You'll have to see it for yourself after midnight," he suggests. "I wouldn't be a gentleman if I went around talking about things like that."
Seems Hill resides in girlfriend-land these days. But can you blame me for wanting some old-fashioned Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry decadence with a capital D? Not so much of that at the concert, which ran for about an hour, and highlighted some slammin' musicianship from Hill and bandmates, with a black-and-white image of the Sun King hanging behind them. Hill was still dressed down, having changed to a tight black shirt with yellow stripes on the shoulders -- a far cry from the hipster royalty of Louis XIV's image. High point of the eve came with the chicks in the crowd singing along campfire-style to "Finding Out True Love Is Blind."
If you're wondering, the Jettster made the concert, but not the Q&A with Hill, mainly because I knew that if we hopped that Louis XIV bus together in the Marquee parking lot, they'd have to pry her out with a crowbar. I didn't want her turning into Kate Hudson à la Almost Famous. You know how hard it is to find a good AC/DC Jett in this town? As is, when we connect, all she can talk about is meeting the band at the official after-party at The Rogue, during Shake!, the popular Saturday night debauch hosted by William Fucking Reed (www.myspace.com/wilyem).
"What do you think, Kreme, you think I look hot?" she asks.
"Hotter than a Boy Scout after a bolt of lightning," I quip. "Since when do you get nervous?"
"I can't wait to meet them," she squirms. "Are they really gonna be there?"
"According to William Fucking Reed, that Hell on Heels chick Katie Rose bartends there," I tell her. "And she knows someone who knows the band and has thus scored an appearance."
Indeed, when we arrive, Scottsdale's Rogue East at 423 North Scottsdale Road (www.roguebar.com) is plastered with Louis XIV posters announcing the band's imminent arrival, and the spot is packed tighter than Oprah's feedbag. Seems there have been changes afoot since we stopped by in May of last year ("Punk Rock Paradise," Inferno, May 13, 2004). There's still no cover. Let me repeat, NO COVER! And the pool tables are still there, though no one's using them because of the density of flesh. The big TV screening A Clockwork Orange doesn't seem out of place, but the band stage to the left of the bar is now a dance floor, and (gasp!) there are some fine breezies on it, gyratin' to tracks WFR (that's Mr. Fucking Reed to you) is layin' like pipe. At least on this night, what used to be a knuckle-dragger dive is a little more fabulous -- similar to Hot Pink!, but with better music.
"It's an eclectic mix of rock-based music, most of it dancey," is how WFR describes the six-month-old dance party to us at one point. "I weave out of the last four or five decades of music. You can hear anything from the Beach Boys to T. Rex, to The Jam, The Raspberries, Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, The Clash, and all the new stuff like The Killers, The Bravery, and White Rose Movement that's coming out of New York and London now. But it's all rock-based. No electroclash or New Wave, really."
While the bi-Sienna Miller and I are grabbing a brewski, we hear Reed drop T. Rex's "Bang a Gong," Roxy Music's "Love Is the Drug," Bowie's "Suffragette City," OutKast's "Hey Ya," Hot Hot Heat's "Bandages," and a number of other tunes that keep the squalies movin'. We bump into owner Mark Maertens, the guy who renamed the bar The Rogue when he bought it as Sneaky Pete's some four years ago.
"We're still an underground bar," he asserts. "But we're trying to get away from the hardcore punk thing and be a little more L.A.-style. Over the last few months we've gotten a huge response to Shake!. We're drawing very interesting folks. Artists, fashion designers, band people. A fun, intelligent crowd."
The Jettster starts chatting up these dime-pieces Melinda and Ann, and Melinda tells us that The Rogue's new image has won her and her pals over.
"We heard that the club had redecorated and gotten a dance floor and booths," states the sultry brunette with stunning décolletage. "My friends brought me here last week, and I loved it. I came here before when it was kind of grungy and dirty. There's a lot more energy now. And the people are warmer and friendlier than the crowd that used to hang here."
At a nearby table, hot boy Jonathan, with slicked-back hair, black eyeliner, and tattoos up and down his arms, is in complete agreement. We last saw him in a black suit and silver tie at Tranzylvania, but he looks 180 degrees different in this milieu.
"It's fucking awesome here!" Jonathan says, sucking on a Malibu and Coke. "A really good mix of genres and crowds. The people are amazing, and it doesn't cost that much money."
"And William Reed rocks," slurs a honey, stumbling into Jett and me as we conversate with Jonathan.
"I believe that's William Fucking Reed," the J-unit corrects her.
"Fuck yeah! William Fucking Reed!" growls the drunk chick, flashing us the devil sign.
That's when Maertens comes by and informs us that Louis XIV is in house. We go in search of the band, but the crowd is pretty thick, and I'm not seeing the band's members. Finally, we look outside and see bassist Jimmy Armbrust sitting on the trunk of someone's car, along with Katie from Hell on Heels and various other wenches. Jimmy says his bandmates have just left him, and he'll have to catch up later. The J-girl buttonholes him, and the next thing I know, she, Jimmy and some other dude are sneaking around the corner of the building together. To do what? Heh, let's just say I've been sworn to secrecy.
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"Sorry, Kreme," she announces with a swagger when I see her again in da club. "I had to help Jimmy with a little somethin'-somethin'."
"Did you kneel before rock royalty?" I query. "Or just snog?"
"I didn't do anything nasty," she says, slapping my shoulder hard. "Don't be a hater, Special K. I just gave him directions back to Tempe!"
"Sure," I spit. "And Band Aids ain't just a strip club on Seventh Street."