(I apologize for the lack of event photographs in this blog, due to camera problems)
As the final gusts of wind and spats of rain littered the Fort Lauderdale sky Friday night, Alejandro Escovedo took the Culture Room stage to a crowd that could almost be called insultingly small. By 9:15, when opening act The Ghost Wolves took the stage, less than 60 people were watching them, a turnout surely spurred on by the whether; considering that George Clinton, Aesop Rock and Bill O’Reilly already canceled tour dates in Broward County because of the storm, it’s a stroke of good fortune that this show went on at all.
Anyway, it was a really nice opening performance from The Ghost Wolves, a husband-and-wife drum-and-guitar duo from Austin, Tex. The set was very short – five songs? – but they really brought it, playing sludgy, no-frills garage punk in the vein of Nirvana’s first record, with guitarist Carley Wolf bringing Sleater Kinney-like energy to her vocals.
The crowd had increased a bit more, thankfully, by the time Escovedo and his three-piece band took the stage shortly after 10. Dressed in all black and accompanied by video-projected images corresponding to the dozen original songs (plus three rip-roaring covers), the band was clearly passionate about being onstage. They played to the crowd’s energy and vice versa, and Escovedo was especially chatty on this night, sharing nostalgic and funny stories about his youth and his travels. The variety of music he offered was expectedly varied; few artists could transition from the raw punk fury of “Chelsea Hotel ‘78” to the tragic mourning of “Sister Lost Soul,” a tune that even jerked a few tears from me in a stripped-down acoustic version.
If I could quibble a little bit with the set list, I would love to have heard a few more old songs. Escovedo’s latest album, “Big Station,” dominated the set, of course, but he only played one song recorded before 2008 – “Try Try Try,” from his “Thirteen Years” album. He played nothing released between 1994 and 2008, neglecting “The Boxing Mirror,” which remains his masterpiece. I’m not the only one who would’ve killed to hear “Arizona” again. At any rate, I can’t complain about the performances of everything he did play. He and his trio of “sensitive boys” put on a fabulous show.
- Sally Was a Cop
- Tender Heart
- Man of the World
- Try Try Try
- The Bottom of the World
- San Antonio Rain
- Sensitive Boys
- Can’t Make Me Run
- Now I Wanna Be Your Dog (Iggy Pop)
- Chelsea Hotel ‘78
- Big Station
- Sister Lost Soul
- Road Runner (Bo Diddly)
- Like a Hurricane (Neil Young)
The next night, it was on to West Palm Beach’s Moonfest, South Florida’s biggest Halloween street party north of Key West. This is the first year Moonfest has been a ticketed, 21-and-older event, and its promoters are surely pleased today: The $10 admission price seemed to deter no one, and the crowd swelled with costumed revelers.
Framing either side of a blocked-off Clematis street, the two main stages hosted live bands and DJs; in the middle, countless food and drink vendors offered seasonal libations, outstanding French fries and meat skewers. I kept an eye out for some of the best costumes among the throng of predictable zombies, blind referees, prison inmates, sexy cops, sexy insects and sexy nurses. Kudos go to the girl dressed as Mitt Romney’s “binder full of women” and the man who appeared as Muammar Gaddafi, complete with a spear through his chest.
The most disgusting costumes of the night were the two guys dressed as Q-tips, topping their heads with white, fluffy beehives smudged with amber-colored “wax.” The winner of the festival’s costume contest, announced around midnight, deservedly went to a group of people dressed as the entire Addams Family, complete with a boom box playing the series’ signature theme song. Extraordinarily done.
The night ended, alas, with disappointment. I was one of the guests who attended Moonfest only to see Bow Bow Bow, the British band whose jungly rhythms and sexualized persona briefly electrified the post-punk scene in the early ‘80s. They never really tour, and Moonfest promised a rare chance to see them live. But we come full-circle to the problematic non-problem of Hurricane Sandy. As a result of the storm, lead singer Annabella Lwin, aka the band’s entire personality, did not make it to Florida.
Seeing Bow Wow Wow without Annabella Lwin is like seeing Talking Heads without David Byrne – or U2 without Bono. The three remaining band members sounded apologetic and they tried their hardest, but instrumental versions of Bow Wow Wow songs complemented by occasional backing vocals was a deflating way to end an otherwise engaging night. Tsk-tsk … couldn’t they find somebody locally who knew the songs?