The International Swingers
Farmer’s Market, Los Angeles
January 17, 2014
By Victoria Joyce
Photography by Alex Kinnan
The sound-check was very promising. “Hey Ho, Let’s Go!” A Ramones cover kicked off this International Swingers show at The Farmer’s Market, the quintessential Los Angeles 100+ year-old tourist destination that is still, believe it or not, wicked cool. They are all here tonight; Punks, Hippies, Beatniks, Hipsters, Barflies, Old-timers and Newcomers.
We got the invite from Rock Musician/Photographer and Shaker-Upper, Dawn Laureen. She’s had the inside skinny on these guys from the get-go. Tonight is a warm up show before The iSwingers head into Studio 606 (made famous by Dave Grohl’s re-hab job from Sound Studios) to record a new single. Sessions to be filmed for worldwide broadcast this summer.
January 2014 is half gone and tonight is a typical California leather-jacket optional balmy evening that makes it crazy to live anywhere else. Aside from the annoying females giggling nearby taking selfies of each other oblivious to the blessed rock that is gearing up, we know this is going tonight is going to be great. “Would you take a picture of us?” No.
The International Swinger’s pedigree is flawless. Clem Burke of Blondie on drums, James Stevenson of Generation X and the Cult on guitar, Gary Twinn of Twenty Flight Rockers and The Honeydippers on guitar and lead vocals with Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols and Faces on bass guitar. If we included all their collected credits, we’d break the Internet.
They must like playing here. We saw them here last year. They’ve only gotten better together. There is tangible chemistry going on. A lot of strength and a lot of fun.
“Out of Control” opened the show. Then a Blondie cover, “Hanging on the Telephone” with Gary doing Debbie and not quite hitting the high notes, taking it to the tough guy edge. Then busting into the Monkee’s “Stepping Stone” again without the bubblegum sweetness, coming off more angry, more grown man punk with Glen, James and Clem filling backing up nicely on vocals. They bring a big sound to a small space. And looking good amid the combination basketball, red neon beer & wine signs, crawdads and pizza. Parking was a bitch. It’s LA.
Gary intro’ed the members of the band with much whoopla and and went into the next song “FBI,” an Int’nl-S original; a Garage cutie with a touch of Surf. Reminiscent of “Agent Double-O Soul.” Clem’s drums are especially good here. Clem has that DC5 flash chop kickoff that makes every song just blast off daddy-oh.
Sexy Pistol Glen took the lead on the next song “Honey’s Room” with a touch of the Mersey Beat. Know what? He looks a little like Gerry without his Pacemakers.
Gary is back on lead for the love ballad “Live Wire.” Guitar slung to the side and one hand to heaven this was giving testimony. Hallelujah.
Half way thru and the by this time the place is packed. Clem tells the crowd, “God bless MLK! Like we say in Detroit— and slams into “What I Like About You.” Again with the other three on back up vocals – going all Twenty Feet from Stardom. Loud and proud. Nice harmonica solo by Gary. Mid-song Clem gave a shout out to fellow Motor City Boy Sirius Trixon holding court, front and center. There were a lot of old friends here tonight.
Next, a forgotten gem from The Small Faces, “Stay With Me,” done in that sloppy bar band delivery that can only be done well by the best. Asking the crowd for help, Gary began the “stay with me” chorus stadium-style with a perfect guitar riff ending, trading off solos with bass and drums. Expertly done, smooth as silk.
Not much on the between-song-banter, Gary intro’ed the band again, looking cool as ice, tall, thin and silver-haired. The whole band did the Johnny Cash look wearing all black. Is there a more magnificent song than “All the Young Dudes?” Of course everyone sang along like it was the national anthem. (Discussion topic: Bowie or Mott the Hoople?)
Unfortunately a lot of yacking drowned out the next bit. How could you be watching sports at a time like this?? The next song sounded like “96 Tears” but it wasn’t.
“Cover me with kisses,” intro’ed the theme to “American Gigolo”. So Hollywood.
Followed up by a biting song “Gun Control” slithering and slinking around like a “Rock the Casbah” an IS original about the bloody carnage in malls, schools and movies. Sheesh. Great song, lousy topic.
Keeping up the momentum, the final song “Pretty Vacant” from the Johnny Rotten Songbook left the audience spent and breathless. Encores were gorgeous: Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody!” followed by the sound-check song “Blitzkrieg Bop” and another Sex Pistols goodie “No Fun.” Irony, right?