Blackboard Jungle

Blackboard Jungle Reunion Show 2016
With Swinging Thing, Image Nation, Love Razors
& Brent Muscat’s Alley Cats
The Viper Room, The Sunset Strip
West Hollywood, California
By Victoria Joyce

Aging gracefully for Rockers means water bottles litter stages instead of beer cans, wives hang out, not groupies and baby sitters have replaced cocaine dealers as the most important number in your phone. Aging gracefully for rock journalists means turning off the Memorial Day movie marathon and go out to the club for a sure bet to see one of the best shows of the year. Hell, I’ve seen “Kelly’s Heroes” about as many times as I’ve seen Blackboard Jungle. Anyway, Spoiler Alert: Germany loses.

Around here summer is launched with the reunion show for local and loved 80s rockers  – Blackboard Jungle. In its 11th year (or maybe the 12th) we are celebrating at the Viper Room; The Key and Cat Clubs are long gone. (The Roxy is still booking bands but The House of Blues is about to be demolished and The Sunset Strip’s music scene is on life-support. Thank God for the Viper Room.)

Taking their name from the break through, 50s social-commentary drama, distinguished by being the first ever feature film to use a Rock and Roll song over the opening credits. Legend has it – the kids stood on their seats and screamed for “Rock Around the Clock.”

Blackboard Jungle was born in the late 80s when Kenny Price, Britt Pennella, Dave Zinc and Joel Patterson migrated to the West Coast from New Jersey to find fame and fortune in Hollywood. And yeah, word is they ran around with the late legend, Kim Fowley. Here we are in the 21st Century and once a year they sell out the Viper Room and prove it all night all over again.

“Get there early. This will sell out!” We took DJ Jamie Scap’s warning seriously and walked in on Swingin’ Thing’s set opening for BBJ with their slamming heavy metal, touched with raging Hip Hop. From the same vintage – the grown men of S’Thing can kick out the jams like time has stopped. In a sense, it has. Music is music. And the good stuff stays good.

Ouch! We missed the first band – Image Nation featuring Tryx guitarist, Brian DeVeau and Chris Panketh (Swingin Thing) to sing lead. With Alley Cat Scratch drummer, Robbi Black and Queeny Blast Pop/God Zoo guitarist Lil’ Dee the evening was off to a serious start. Anyone who thinks there is no good music happening in LA needs to get out more.

BB Jungle was introduced by stand up comedian, “Inappropriate” Earl Skakel who was fan-boy enthusiastic and ice-cold cool at the same time. Check his fun interview with bass & song writer, Britt Pannella linked here:

Blackboard Jungle was always more on the Punk side of the Hair Metal bands. Aquanet with razor blades, if you will. Very sharp and very risky. Tonight’s set was a nice mix of fan favorites like “Villa Carena” and “California” with some rarities thrown in. Their songs stand the test of time (see picture of set list taken post-show on the sidewalk). It’s standard for any band to wind up with a cover for the final song and Blackboard J did gave their fans a slashing flashing version of  “You Spin Me Right Round” sans eye-patch. Who remembers Dead or Alive?

We loved the timeless “Generation (Bored to Death)” with its swooping swirling melody and the empty existentialist themes that could be Paris in the 20s, Berlin in the 30s, Harlem in the 40s, Greenwich Village in the 50s, San Francisco in the 60s, London in the 70s, New York in the 80s or LA in the 90s.

Lead singer Kenny Price is in excellent singing voice delivering power ballads solidly and the speed metal punk with the appropriate chops. Nice job considering this is pretty much it for him. Price’s post-Jungle bands; Jet 68 and our favorite, No Thanks – have long fallen by the wayside. Kenny wore the BBJ commemorative tee shirt – there’s a new one for every year – every fan’s Must Have for the summer (conceived by Britt and designed by DJ Jamie) with his signature white pointy boots, Price still cuts a fine figure and gave a great performance.

Bassist Brit Panella who came down from San Francisco (his current band is El Granada) gave a solid but subdued show providing a strong bass line for the band. Drummer Joel Patterson is as reliable as Death and Taxes and stays very much in the game touring with David J. Haskins, Sky Parade and Gene Loves Jezebel. We gotta say, lead guitar Dave Zinc was a revelation and for us, stole the show with a mesmerizing performance. He’s hooked up with Cosmic Bendito back home in Arizona.

Without a doubt, Blackboard Jungle saves it up for a year and packs 365 days worth of power punch into one show. Bam!

Glamour Punks lead singer, Mandy joined BBJ on stage for the perfect Punk Anthem -  “You Should Be (More Like Me)” and sincerely thanked them on stage, “I know it sounds corny, but thanks for bringing us together every year. Seriously it’s the closest thing we have to a family reunion.” I’m getting all misty.

Ending the set and saying good-bye till next time Kenny Price kept repeating “2016! 2016?” like he couldn’t believe it himself. “See ya in 2017!”

Till next time, Rockers.