Show reviews: Billy Bragg and Wayne Kramer at Amoeba Hollywood, Rocket From The Crypt at Del Mar

Before they played their songs at today’s noontime free in-store at Amoeba Hollywood, Wayne Kramer and Billy Bragg talked about Jail Guitar Doors. The organization was started in England by Bragg, with the intent of raising money to give guitars to prisoners. Not so they’ll be musicians when they are released but so that they have a creative outlet for the rest of their lives. Of course, its namesake is a song by The Clash, and when Bragg was telling the MC5 guitarist about the cause and the tune, Kramer’s response was something like, “That song is about me!” Bragg was embarrassed but excited when the Detroit musician agreed to sign on to spearhead the U.S. arm of the group. When the British punk/folk singer relayed the story to Mick Jones, the singer of “Jail Guitar Doors” didn’t even remember that Kramer was in it!

It was pretty cool to hear the two legendary artist activists share stories and play songs that they perform to prisoners. Kramer started with a Merle Haggard number and then played “Jail Guitar Doors.” So rad. Billy Bragg explained that at concerts the audience comes to see the band but in jail, the artists come to see the audience. I swear he said that in England one can reach prisoners by playing The Smiths. Then he played “Redemption Song” and “I Keep Faith.” What, no songs together? Maybe at tomorrow night’s benefit at the John Anson Ford with Jackson Browne, Tom Morello, Dave and Phil Alvin, and others… Find out how to support the cause at

Last Friday, I got to see the Rocket From The Crypt play their first proper hometown show since reuniting. Six bucks for a full set at the Del Mar Fairgrounds? What a deal. They kicked it off with the opener for Scream Dracula Scream and went on to blow through 90 minutes of favorites with gusto. (In contrast to front man John Reis’s story about seeing Don Ho play “Tiny Bubbles” at the track and hating it.) The band is as tight as ever with the magical balance of punk energy with James Brown showmanship, providing maximum rock ‘n’ roll entertainment. Do yourself a favor and catch them at festivals or wherever you can–maybe even their upcoming traditional Halloween show at the House of Blues.


Quickies on new stuff I’ve been into:

Low on High – Ice Cream Sex. Raging (and surprisingly pretty) lo-fi from underground filmmakers Jon Moritsugu and Amy Davis. [Apathy Productions]

The Julie Ruin – Run Fast. Not only the most refined and realized but perhaps the most enjoyable and subversive music from Kathleen Hanna and friends yet. [Dischord]

No Age – An Object. The noise punk band’s epic-in-scope and far-reaching new work still clocks in around 30 minutes. [Sub Pop]

Neo Boys – Sooner or Later. Two CDs of super raw, super influential, and hard-to-find post punk from the Pacific NW. [K Records]

Joe Higgs – Unity Is Power. Brilliantly composed and executed vintage roots reggae with equal parts musicianship, soul, and purpose. [Pressure Sounds]

Dave Smalley – Punk Rock Days. Acoustic originals and favorites from the Boston-rooted hardcore singer including Dag Nasty songs featuring Brian Baker. [Outer Loop]