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L.A. Beat

Dave Alvin reflects on blues music, L.A. punks and opening for Queen

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Dave Alvin is excited to return to  Southern Alberta to play the Wide Skies Music Festival in the Southminster United Church, Thursday, July 27 with his brother Phil Alvin and the Guilty Ones ( guitarist Chris Miller, drummer Lisa Pankratz and her husband Brad Fordham on bass).Dave and Phil Alvin play Wide Skies music Festival next week. Photo courtesy Yep Roc Records
 Dave and Phil Alvin played one of the first Geomatic Attic shows six or seven years ago.

 Dave and Phil Alvin were part of the burgeoning cowpunk scene in Los Angeles in the last ’70s and early ’80s, where as part of the Blasters, opened for a variety of bands like Queen to some of the early Los Angeles punk bands.
 Dave Alvin eventually embarked on a solo career after the Blasters disbanded and reunited with his brother a few years ago to record two albums “Common Ground Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy”— and their most recent CD, 2015’s  “Lost Time.”

“I’ve been able to play rock and roll full time for my whole life, which is pretty nice,” said Dave Alvin from his home in Downey, California.

Alvin contributed an excellent essay about the Blasters’ eternal outsider status, not only in mainstream rock, but also in the punk scene for X co lead singer John Doe’s book “Under the Big Black Sun.”

“It was John Doe’s idea. He gathered a lot of people from bands and from the scene. So it is our book. He’s a great guy. John Doe is all right in my books,” Alvin said, adding he isn’t planning on writing  a book of his own.

“It seems like everybody is writing a book. We don’t need another one,” he said.

He noted the band has had some interesting experiences included getting booed and pelted with debris by  18,000 angry Queen fans while opening for the band in the ’70s. While you wouldn‘t expect Queen fans to get violent, Alvin wasn’t surprised.

“Au contraire. There was a pretty big culture clash. Music fans were pretty divided if you wore your hair in a certain way and we all had pompadours, which would make them angry. But the band themselves really supported us. They asked us to be in the bill. They liked us. They were great guys especially Freddie Mercury,” he said, adding after that,  not much frightened the Blasters, not even playing alongside rowdy punk fans, who could also get violent.

“It was a very vibrant scene. Early punk rock was about creativity. It was very eclectic” he noted, adding in the ’70s the scene included writers, artists, musicians, fashion designers, poets and a diverse collection of people who really didn’t fit in anywhere else.
“Most scenes are like that, Haight -Ashbury in the ’60s, Greenwich Village in the ’50s, Paris in the nineteenth century,” he observed

“It’s funny in the early ’70s, me and my brother used to sneak into a club called the Ash Grove to see blues bands. There were a lot of us there, who really didn’t fit in anywhere. When it  burned down  in 1973, we were a bit lost. But in the late 70s when punk started happening, it ended up  there were a lot of the same people  who were at the Ash Grove so it was like we rediscovered each other,” he said.

Blues and roots music was a natural fit for  the Alvin brothers.

“When I was growing up, you could here Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Hank Williams, Rambling Jack Elliott and the Beatles on the same radio station. That’s just the way it was,” he said.

 He was immediately taken by the sounds of  bluesman Big Bill Broonzy.

“He was one of the first big pre World WarTwo bluesmen I heard,” he observed.

He noted the blues is always in a constant state of flux and change
“Blues music has always been very inspirational. People are always trying to do something a little bit different with it. A lot of damage has been done to blues music, some of it by me,” he chuckled.
“Someone is always trying to take it to the next level,” he continued.

Dave and Phil Alvin play the two Wide Skies music Festival at  Southminster United Church, July 27. the show begins at 8 p.m. with Lindi Ortega.
 A variety of bands  (5:15:Shaela Miller; 5:50: 24th street Wailers; 7:55: Ryland Moranz; 8:50: Deep Dark Woods; 8:15: Mariel Buckley; 9 :15: Alex Cuba) play a free outdoor show on Wednesday
While the Wednesday event is free, festival  passes cost $60, which include preferred seating for Thursday night, swag as well as a transit pass. Organizer Mike Spencer noted there will be a suggested donation of $10 for Wednesday night to help cover expenses.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 19 December 2017 11:32 )  
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