Years ago in happier times (1978-1986, that is), for one fabulous summer weekend per year, punk and grandmas and toddlers and jocks of all colors and creeds roamed the cordoned-off streets of downtown Los Angeles--arm in arm, hand in hand, all enjoying the rock stylings of local heroes like Jane's Addiction and the Three O'Clock--and all was right with the world.
This weekend was called the L.A. Street Scene, and it was awesome.
But then some bad people with guns ruined it for everybody, the Ramones' Street Scene show was subsequently cancelled, thousands of angry young Ramones fans subsequently rioted, stormtrooping police officers subsequently beat on those supposed brats with baseball bats (OK, well, specifically with billy clubs)...and subsequently that was, unsurprisingly, the final Street Scene.
It was such a disaster that in his famous book about L.A., City Of Quartz, brilliant sociologist Mike Davis hypothesized that the death of the Street Scene actually signified the death of public space in Los Angeles.
But public space was happily public once again this past weekend at the L.A. Weekly's second annual Detour Festival, where for the second year in a row all sorts of super bands (Bloc Party, Kinky, the Noisettes, Justice, Teddybears, Shout Out Louds, the Raveonettes) played for The People on L.A.'s downtown streets. And, for the second year in a row, no one rioted or got shot. Huzzah!
So I was there, of course, quite frankly savoring the subversive thrill of watching a bunch of kool kids with perfect Lego hair D.A.N.C.E. their little hearts out in the middle of Main Street during Justice's DJ set. Or spotting tart-tongued pop tart Pink enthusiastically rubbing glitzy, epaulet-festooned shoulders with the Noisettes' Shingai Shoniwa out on the pavement. Or, perhaps most subversively thrilling of all, seeing Turbonegro's shirtless, beer-gutted, raccoon-eyed, profusely sweating/sweating Hank Von Helvete belt out "Blow Me (Like The Wind)" in front of L.A.'s City Hall building.
Among the highlights of a day that was, frankly, pretty low on lowlights was the Noisettes' set. Yes, most people, not even L.A.'s hot It Girl actress-slash-model-slash-waitress types, couldn't pull off metallic gold diaper-style hot pants and Patti LaBelle bonsai hair with such panache. But Shingai Shoniwa is not most people. No wonder Pink was impressed! The Noisettes' tossed-off cover of the Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen" (a favor for local station Indie 103.1FM, for whom Pistols guitarist Steve Jones moonlights as a DJ) was almost as impressive as Shingai's mylar short-shorts.
Then there were Swedish nutcases the Teddybears. Sharp suits, songs about punks, a fierce guest performance from Aimee Echo of the Start (filling in for Iggy Pop on "Punkrocker"), and oh yeah--gigantic Residents-style bear heads. Really, what wasn't there to like about these guys?
Meanwhile, with their eight-minute psych-rock jams and windblown wild 'n' wooly tresses, the Aliens--a new group featuring former members of the Beta Band, momentarily turned Detour into another Woodstock. (The original Woodstock, that is--not the one from 1999 with the fires and rapes and looting and, um, Limp Bizkit.)
At last but not least, there was Celebrity Skin. Most people reading won't know who Celebrity Skin are/were. Hell, most people at Detour didn't know who they were. But at one time, somewhere back in the early '90s, Celebrity Skin wasn't a Hole album title. No, back then Celebrity Skin the band was the biggest, brashest, balliest glam squad on the L.A. scene, a Moby Dick-sized fish in a very small pond that included other also-unknown bands like the Ultras and Imperial Butt Wizards. Sadly, Celeb Skin didn't become the biggest band on the planet (which explains why only about 100 people bothered to show up to their Detour set), but one look at this clip proves that they truly deserved to be. These dudes (among them former Germs drummer Don Bolles) played to those 100 fans like it was a crowd of 10,000...while, er, about 10,000 other people watched Justice on the South stage a couple blocks away. Oh well.
Anyhoo, a swell, incident-free time was had by all. So please, my fellow Angelenos, if you're reading this: No one riot or shoot anyone at future Detour Fests, OK? Because this Detour tradition really needs to continue. Let's prove Mike Davis wrong, damn it!