‘Tones and Gears and Flag……oh my!
As surely as the Swallows return to San Juan Capistrano each year, as inevitable as the spike in domestic violence and gambling-related suicides on Superbowl Sunday, we await each June for the annual return of prodigal son Jay Lansford.
After the Summer Solstice stretches the day long, we find ourselves squinting into the Western sky—-not for a flock of lice ridden birds, ready to shit a new coat of guano on the mission bells, no.
We wait for Sir Jay to touch down upon the blazing tarmac of LAX, bringing back with him the wiry guitar leads and sensible hair products that have been missing, lo, these past 12 months!
When we released Jay from his CH3 contract, what? almost 25 years ago?—to live among the storied beerhalls of Hanover, it was under the strict condition that he return at least once a year.
Yes, God forbid he forget the taste of proper Chile Rellenos or lose his Southern California dude drawl completely to his adopted Teutonic crew.
Besides, creatures of habit and ritual are we, and it’s a grand thing to have this annual party to kickoff the Summer in proper fashion with The Simpletones!!
The night starts off in the usual fashion:
Icy schooners of Busch and salty fatty specials at Joe Jost’s down the street.
Between bites and burps we go over a tentative set list for the night:
Shall we play True West? Waiting for the Sun?
Open with Lord o the Thighs?
Sadly no….not this time.
We are giddy with the possibilities of the 3 guitar attack as we skip back to our beloved Alex’s in time to catch the White Flag fellas ripping it up:
Has it been that long since we were last kicked out of Alex’s?
The place has been spruced up, a bit of the dusty bric-a-brac stripped from the walls–is that a flat screen?– and I’ll be goddamned if LuLu doesn’t hand me an honest-to-God drink menu when I finally sidle up to the bar…..!
The Jack Rocks comes not in the flimsy urine sample receptacle we’ve grown so fond of, but in an impressively weighted highball glass with craftsmen-select ice cubes…..
ándale!—so hi-tone, Mijo!
The night is rolling now, and the knuckleheads have come out of the proverbial woodwork to get in on this blast!
It’s a rare treat to have The Gears onboard the show, and they get up there before the red velvet and absolutely destroy!
Ah, a night at Alex’s:
With each band the floor gets stickier, the drinks sink faster and the drunks get louder.
And with the crowd warmed up for the main event, the ‘Tones take to stage and ring in the Summer, proper!
The crowd knows these songs, of course, and it’s as if they’ve been waiting the whole year to shout the lyrics out at the top of their lungs.
I can only imagine the puzzled passerby out on Anaheim blvd as they pass the cacophonous roadhouse on this night:
Is it a religious revival?
Military boot camp?
Cultists Karaoke indoctrination?
You wouldn’t be far off with any answer, brother.
For on this night we are all Simpletones, joined in song, a collective organism taking place of dear departed Snickers…..!
The fellas cap off the night with Rock and Roll All Night, a fitting theme to this marathon of sloppy rawk….but the night isn’t over yet!
Yes, once again, yer old pals have to go up and bat cleanup.
We untangle guitar cords and try to get 3 guitars within a semblance of tune before the loopy crowd abandons us for Tacos Mexico or Roscoe’s………
Downbeat? 12:30 am!
I glance to my left, mid-Indian Summer, taken by surprise for a moment by the twin guitar players hacking away.
It is then that I allow my gaze to fall down , and upon the sight: Naked and pale, Euro calves and thighs twitching beneath the klieglights—Gahhh!
Jay has broken CH3 Cardinal Rule 6: No shorts on stage!!
It’s no matter–I guess we can be thankful Jay didn’t show up in a Hasselhoff-esque Speedo, am I right?
I regain composure and we play the stuff–short hair and long! stopping only to address the hecklers and allow people to try on the suspiciously free skate shoes that have been sailing through the air all night….don’t ask!
It is great fun–surely much more so for us than the crowd watching our shameless goofing.
Brings back the memories of a hundred nights just like this, thick Summer nights, playing loud guitars and not so much singing as laughing out loud.
And mid song, we each look and catch each others’ eye, and we smile:
It’s us back together, and where we should be:
On a creaking stage littered with empty cans and shot glasses, wrangling the rumble of the 3 guitars into the same general direction.
Standing on a stage, in a room full of friends who graciously allow us to act like, if not kids, then grown men half our age.
Thanks for additional photos: Martin Wong, Deborah Runions, and anyone else ripped off from Facebook.