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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #384  (Vol. 8, No. 31) This edition is for the week of July 30--August 5, 2007.

"The Simpsons Movie"  by Mike Smith
Stan Ridgway in Concert - July 29th, 2007 .... Remembering Ingmar Bergman and Laszlo Kovacs  by Andy Lalino
Welcome to Retrorama!  by ED Tucker
Book Review: Resurrection Angel by William Mize  by Lisa Ciurro
Art House Sorrow .... Ironic .... Geeks Rejoice .... Nice Timing....Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 26: Steve Guttenberg  by Mike Smith
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

Wall of Voodoo and Barbecued Iguanas:
Stan Ridgway in Concert - July 29th, 2007 The Tamiami Bar, St. Petersburg. Songs That Made This Country Great

It's always an exciting prospect experiencing a concert by a performer you've never seen before. On a pleasant Sunday evening in downtown St. Petersburg, I was about to be given the privilege by attending a rare show by solo artist/Wall of Voodoo frontman/punk innovator Stan Ridgway. Whenever I attend these Neo-New Wave shows, it's always a mixture of mirth and melancholy; sure, this is not 1982 when the music of Wall of Voodoo was fresh and new, but then again a Stan Ridgway show in 2007 benefits by having a sumptuous buffet of songs to select from. Not that I had much of a choice anyway, so I pocketed the reminiscing and decided to get as much out of the show as possible.

I have to say that this was one I've been looking forward to, even more so than some of the other eclipsing shows over the past month (Erasure, Morrissey) which, incidentally, have all been first-timers for me. I knew Ridgway and band would thrash out a great show, fed from a quality body of work from 1979 to today.

For those young 'uns or the ill-informed, Stan Ridgway began his musical career as singer/keyboardist for a very odd New Wave band known as Wall of Voodoo. Most remember them for their memorable hit (and music video) "Mexican Radio", which was in heavy rotation on MTV in its fledgling (and better) years. Some may refer to Wall of Voodoo as a "one-hit wonder", a demoralizing term I never liked, and choose to gloss over their collective works in favor of focusing on their one bonafide hit. Real Neo-New Wavers opt instead to groove on non-singles and obscurities, as now evidenced by the surprising amount of people at last night's show who cackled to all of Ridgway's songs, most of which are not known by the regular guy living next door to you. My personal favorite Wall of Voodoo obscurity: the 1980 single "Can't Make Love" that has to be one of the most whacked singles ever recorded, sounding like Men Without Hats meets Dizzy World. If you can, imagine the quirky-voiced Ridgway bellowing:

"Well, I can't make love
To the boys in this city
'Cause the boys
Say I abuse them
And I won't go out
With boys because
Boys will fall in love with you
Everybody's lonely, that's true
Maybe it's psychology
I don't know, I gotta move someplace
Where the boys are easy
And it makes me miss my lonely city
And the girls are so easy
And it makes me miss my lonely city
And everybody's so easy
But I can't say the words that are on my mind..."

Incredible stuff. Ridgway has been described as "equal parts Raymond Chandler and John Huston, Johnny Cash and Rod Serling", and it's true. Both his work with Wall of Voodoo and his solo material is a mash-up of crazed New Wave, general strangeness, and spaghetti western themes. His "Best of " CD, "Songs That Made This Country Great" is an essential collection for all fans of art rock, and displays just what kind of caliber talent you're dealing with here when spinning Ridgway tunes. They're fascinating "little stories" complete with interesting characters inhabiting the underbelly of the American dream. What fascinates me, however, is how Ridgway never gets too acoustic and folksy, instead incorporating hard-driving synthpop accompaniments into his compositions, which I think truly appeals to his loyal base: those who appreciate New Wave music.

Horror fans take note: In the late 1970's before Wall of Voodoo gelled, Ridgway composed soundtracks, as he describes, for "low budget horror films". His evident interest in mystery and the bizarre surfaces in select songs, most notably the ghost story "Camouflage" about a soldier who meets up with the apparition of a "mighty big Marine", and saving him from certain death, and the sci-fi/future shock epic "The Overlords".

After visiting my parents for dinner, I arrived at Jannus Landing, say, about 7pm (way early for a 9:30pm start time). I was amazed that for once I was able to get a close by parking spot right in front of the Landing's entrance gates - fate must have been with me that night. Evidently, the show was not at the Jannus Landing stage which I am accustomed; rather, it was at the Tamiami Bar which is set at the outside perimeter of the courtyard.

I actually had to circle the entire block to try and find the right bar (there are a lot of them), but my cluelessness was somehow rewarded when I ran smack dab into Ridgway and his band, who were looking to get some grub. Stan was lagging behind the other members, and I took the opportunity to get in some Stan time. I showed him my CD booklet for "Songs That Made This Country Great", and he scoffed. He told me he would sign merchandise after the show, but for right now they were just looking for food. I told him where he could find some tummy-tempting barbecued iguana, which gave him a chuckle. Bravely, I asked where exactly the bar he would be performing was at, and he graciously gave directions.

So, I walked around Jannus until I finally found the Tamiami. I ordered a beer and sat around until the show began. Ridgway actually had a very good booth set up, chock full of Ridgway/Wall of Voodoo memorabilia: T-shirts, 8x10's, CD's, DVD's, buttons, bags, etc. It was a nice setup, and I could have easily plopped down a couple hundred just on merchandise alone.

I noted by wording on the merchandise, a Ridgway interview by the St. Petersburg Times, and through Stan's official website that the tour was partially a celebration of Wall of Voodoo's keynote "Call of the West" (1982), the album that made the band a household name in the New Wave-dominated early '80s. I had heard mixed rumors that Ridgway was going to perform the album in its entirety, but other concert reviews stated that was not the case. It indeed wasn't.

At about 8pm a local duo (which turned into a trio, later adding a mandolin player) took stage and played various acoustic pieces. They were quite good. While the opening band was striking their setup, I had the chance to look around for anyone recognizable. Someone actually came up to me, and knew me as one of the organizers of the Horror + Hotties Film Festival, which we held last March. He too is a StanFan, and we talked about recent concerts, Stan's solo work and Wall of Voodoo. I recognized others in the audience as seminal rock & roll fans who I've seen for many decades at similar shows, but who I did not know. It's like a club of common interest strangers.

The Show
9:30pm rolled around, and in walked Stan and the band. Room was tight. Stan nearly tripped thrice trying to step onstage from a non-existent walkway. He immediately got the crowd going with a rousing, buoyant version of Wall of Voodoo's "(I'll Do It) Tomorrow". The set was an avant-garde mixture of western guitar (acoustic & electric), creative percussion and killer synth. The acoustics were excellent - never once did Stan's signature crooning get overpowered by guitars and keyboards.

The rest of the show was a good mixture of Wall of Voodoo, Stan's solo work, and new material. Many critics site the WOV single "Lost Weekend" as being Ridgway at his very best, and that's hard to argue. The live version is just as riveting, with Ridgway recreating the oh-so-on target vocal characterizations from the studio single. Other Voodoo songs performed: "Factory", their 1979 cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire", "The Passenger", and "Call of the West". Regarding "Ring of Fire"; one has to wonder if the 1993 U2/Cash collaboration "The Wanderer" drew its synth inspiration from Voodoo's "electrofied" cover.

Of course, the big crowd pleaser, deservedly so, was WOV's manic hit single "Mexican Radio". There was not a stoic foot in the house when Ridgway and band belted it out.

Stan's body of solo material is every bit as good as WOV, and contained no shortage of favorites, which the crowd ate up like barbecued iguanas: the film noir-ish "Peg and Pete and Me", "Lonely Town", "Calling Out to Carol", the aforementioned "Camouflage", and "The Big Heat".

New songs were performed fom Ridgway's new album "Snakebite" as well as Stan's Drywall band project. The newer material went over very well, and never seemed to slow down the show's impact and energy.

I would be remiss not to give kudos to Ridgway's wonderful band, who not only sounded fantastic, but looked the part of a tight, Neo-New Wave art rock ensemble: Ridgway's wife Pietra Wexstun (keyboards, synthesizer), Rick King (guitar), and Joe Berardi (drums/percussion). Interesting to note that Berardi was the best-dressed and King looked a lot like Rick Wakeman, and was perhaps the band's token album rocker. All too often I've seen New Wave concerts where live musicians simply don't look the part. This band did. Incidentally, Stan was dressed simply, shoulders-to-toe in black, in a short-sleeved dress shirt (hey, it's July in Florida...) and jeans.

It's Stan's tactic to get real interactive with the audience via humor, stories, and spoken word. The night's funniest moments came when a gadfly fan who spasmodically gyrated in front of the stage (he reminded me of the New Wave dancer in Devo's cover of "Satisfaction") who drew Stan's ire. But I have to hand it to the spaz - he mouthed all of Stan's songs flawlessly. Lucky guy, he got to be baptized by Stan with Zephyrhills H20.

Casualties (song's I wish he played but did not): "Can't Make Love", "I Wanna Be A Boss", "The Overlords", and "Southbound".

Final Oddservations
It goes without saying that I did not recognize a single Crazed Fanboy in the audience mix, even ones proclaiming to be 'audiophiles' or genuine U2 fans. Guess they were too busy at home peeling shrimp or something to have bothered to come out to support Ridgway. No wonder there's no New Wave - or cult cinema - anymore.

Remembering Ingmar Bergman and Laszlo Kovacs
Though I briefly mentioned it to you, thanks for the nice write-up on Kovacs in last week's PCR. You're probably one of the few who mentioned that it was the exploitation/cult film world that provided Kovacs, a immigrant who fled his home country of Hungry from communism along with friend Vilmos Zsigmond, with the opportunity to work in America as a cinematographer. Just take a look at some of the great cult movies he composed: "Kiss Me Quick!", "Hell's Bloody Devils"/"Blood of Dracula's Castle" (Al Adamson), the aforementioned "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies" (Ray Dennis Steckler), "The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill" (produced by David F. Friedman), "A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine" (Friedman), "Mantis in Lace", "Psych-Out", and Bogdonovich's "Targets".

Much about Kovac's (and Zsigmond's) participation in cult cinema is chronicled in the tome "Schlock-O-Rama: The Films of Al Adamson".

Real film fans were given the treat of experiencing Kovacs' work in distinguished films of the '70s and early '80s: "Easy Rider", "Five Easy Pieces", "Paper Moon", "Nickelodeon", and "Ghostbusters".

I have to say that it's so terribly sad to see Kovacs ending his career DP'ing junk like 'Miss Congeniality', which I'm sure provided a hefty paycheck, but offered a creative assignment no more challenging than navigating a slow walk through one's own living room. Just imagine if years ago Kovacs had, since he was farther along in his career, contacted either Al Adamson or Cash Flagg and said "hey, guys, let's make a low-budget horror picture in that will really wow 'em!". Wouldn't that have been grand?

Also, a fond farewell to cinema's master Ingmar Bergman, auteur of "The Seventh Seal", "Fanny & Alexander" and "The Silence", and whose vision influenced some of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

"Oddservations" is ©2007 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.