Show reviews: The Jesus & Mary Chain, DYS, It’s Casual, Negative Approach, Jimmy Cliff

The first time I saw The Jesus & Mary Chain was a religious experience. I was still in high school when Rodney on the ROQ first played “Never Understand” and then announced that the JAMC were going to play their first gig in the U.S. at the Roxy in 1985. The show, which was a couple of nights before Christmas, didn’t last more than 20 minutes with Jim and William Reid mostly facing away audience and Bobby Gillespie banging on a single tom. The set was as out of control as the feedback, and just as rad. So were the next JAMC shows I saw at the Santa Monica Civic and Palladium. When I found out that I could see them at Hollywood Park for only 10 bucks, how could I resist?

These days the band is an expanded full five-piece that plays for more than an hour. The sound is sort of cleaned up but mostly just refined. Somehow, even the feedback seems pure. What hasn’t changed is Jim’s bad relationship with microphone stands. I felt sorry for that thing every time it got readjusted, leaned on, and dropped. But what a great set, peppered with the old hits, “Just Like Honey,” “Taste of Cindy,” “Some Candy Talking”… Luckily, you don’t need to know the newer stuff since you don’t have to dig through the fuzz and it sounds brilliant upon first listen. Can’t beat the fuzzed-out, dark, and gorgeous “Never Understand,” though, which is probably why it ended the show. (By the way, the racetrack was a great place for a show with decent sound and a ton of food trucks to choose from while watching the ponies.)

Was super stoked to find out about last Friday’s DYS/Negative Approach pairing at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach. I was a fan of bands that the singers went on to join/found (DYS’s Dave Smalley to Dag Nasty, ALL, and Down By Law, Negative Approach’s John Brannen to Laughing Hyenas and Easy Action) but never got to see the hardcore originals. What a lineup.

DYS never made it out to California back in the day, so it was rad to hear the reconfigured band bust out jams like “City to City” and “Wolfpack.” They brought a ton of energy, and got a good pit going in this one-off show. And Dave sounded great. Haven’t seen my old friend in years, but I got to catch up with him for a little bit before and after the set. Mostly we just talked about our families, but he is psyched about hitting the road with Down By Law next month… Look forward to seeing him again. (So when is ALL or Dag Nasty happening, right?)

It’s Casual went on next because they were stuck in traffic. As if the local band wouldn’t know better, but the duo’s short and rad set was a perfect divider between the co-headliners.

Their amps are stacked tall like at a KISS concert but there is no fucking around at an It’s Casual show. Somewhere between metal and punk and the 10 and the 101, the band plays fast, angry, and fun. I was stoked about expecting to see two old favorites but finding a new one. Holy crap, is It’s Casual great. They’ve got chops, energy, a sense of humor, and bitter yet understanding songs about L.A.

I almost saw Negative Approach when they got back together for the Touch & Go anniversary show, but I missed them (and Seam and Three Mile Pilot and Shellac and…) because of a mag deadline. Luckily, the band has stayed pissed and kept playing angry music for masochistic audiences ever since, and this show helped me heal just a little bit.

Who would have thought a bar packed with drunk old punkers would go ape shit for a 1.5-generation hardcore band that plays songs like “Free To Fight”? It was rough and awesome hardcore show with a great cover of Sham 69′s “Borstal Breakout” thrown in for good measure. Do yourself a favor and witness the band before one of the members dies or falls in love.

On Wednesday night I saw the legendary Jimmy Cliff at the Troubadour. To see a music god of his caliber in a small club (last time was the Hollywood Bowl) was a real treat, especially now that he’s on a post-Coachella roll with great new songs produced by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong. He mixes the new songs (“One More”), the classics (“You Can Get It If You Really Want”), favorite covers (“Wild World”), and newer covers (“Guns of Brixton”) in the 90-minute show. He updated “Vietnam” as “Afghanistan” and reenacted some scenes from The Harder They Come before playing the theme s0ng. And what about the ska medley with “My Miss Jamaica”? Too cool for words.

I was a little bummed that the Troubadour bouncers wouldn’t let me bring in my camera–hence the grainy and blurry pics–but didn’t let that stop me from enjoying an intimate gig by Jimmy fucking Cliff and his band. Three shows in a row featuring many of my musical heroes does not suck. Who got next?