Saturday, September 04, 2004

Louiemania, Pt. 2

Louie Fest 1 had ramifications. Returning to Portland, and still in the heat of Louiemania, I started getting the itch for one of them new fangled electrical guitars. For the next few months, guitar shopping became an obsession of its own. Six months later, after a couple of misfires with Les Pauls, I finally settled on two keepers: a red 1986 Japanese Squier Strat and a metalflake black 2002 Korean Squier Double Fat Tele. I was ready to rock.

But there was a catch. I had to learn to play the damn things. That’s a chore I’m still working on, and it’s slow going. Another six months later, I’ve nearly mastered the really important stuff. I can almost play The Ballad of Davy Crockett in the key of C, and I can now slop out Louie, Louie in every key there is.

Louie Fest 2 had higher aspirations than the first. It was scheduled as a two-day event at the Tacoma Dome, with a wide variety of music on five stages. The climax of Day 2 would be back-to-back concerts by The Wailers and The Kingsmen, followed by the second attempt to take the world’s record away from the Canadians.

I had higher aspirations, too. I hoped to lure my old buddy Drew Bentley all the way from Omaha to join in the madness. Circa 1967, Drew and I were seriously demented high-schoolers in Spokane, where we formed a two-man band called The Strychnine Five, largely in tribute to Northwest bands like The Wailers, The Kingsmen, The Sonics and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Drew then went on national tour as a bass player for a lounge act called The Entourage, and later a rocker in Bush Lake Road. From there he gravitated into the radio biz, and is now boss jock and Program Director at Superhits 99.9 KGOR in Omaha. As proof I didn’t make him up, his official KGOR web page is here:

For The Strychnine Five to reunite 37 years later and play with guys from three of our four favorite Northwest bands seemed the ultimate indulgence in Louiemania. And it almost worked. Drew bought his plane tickets and everything looked great right up until the day he was scheduled to leave, when blam! his gol-durned gall bladder threw a wingding. So the show went on without him, and he spent the weekend recovering instead of rocking.

And, sad to say, the show had troubles of its own. Four days before the event, the John Kerry campaign announced it was holding a public rally in one of the Tacoma Dome parking lots, on opening day of Louie Fest. Trouble was, this was the parking lot Louie Fest promoters had counted on for their attendees use. Since Louie Fest was already taking up a couple of parking lots with its outdoor events, that meant there was no parking available for the Kerry crowd either. The local media played it up big: NO PARKING AVAILABLE AT THE TACOMA DOME! And Tacomans got the message. They stayed away in droves. The Kerry thing suffered too, drawing only about 15,000, when a similar rally had attracted 40 or 50,000 in Portland two weeks earlier.

Cap’n Bob and I arrived (via public transportation) around noon on Saturday to find the Dome almost deserted. There were lots of great bands playing, it was just a little lonely with hardly anyone else around to listen to them. I probably wouldn’t have been there either, if I’d known The Wailers were across the street performing Louie, Louie and Shanghaied at the Kerry rally. They weren’t officially endorsing him, they explained, but they had an old connection. The Electras, the band Kerry played bass for in his high school days, had covered The Wailers’ original tune Shanghaied on their one and only album. So The Wailers issued an invitation for Kerry to join them on bass. Unfortunately, Kerry arrived late, so they were never on stage together.

Meanwhile, back at the Dome, the show went on. Two outdoor stages alternated blues and rock acts all day long. Inside they had a folk stage, a jazz stage, and something called an evolution stage, featuring tribute acts. The Cap’n and I drifted around to the various stages during the day, and the two original groups that impressed me most were Olympia blues band Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin’ Daddies ( and the hard-rockin’ country band Voodoo Ranch (

In between the miscellaneous stuff, we managed to catch nearly all the tribute shows. In a matter of a few hours we saw Buddy Holly, Elvis, The Blues Brothers, Roy Orbison, George Harrison & Ringo Starr and Jimi Hendrix. Sort of. Buddy (Les Fradkin) was OK. Elvis (Tracy Allan Moore) and The New Blues Brothers Review (Ken Elhard & Mitch Reems, who performed karaoke-style without their band) were great. George & Ringo (Les Fradkin & an unnamed drummer) neither looked nor sounded right, but did an entertaining batch of Beatles covers.

The act I found most interesting was the Roy Orbison tribute. As for the real Orbison, I can take him or leave him. The only Roy I really like is named Rogers. But I’ve always been a big fan of Wailers lead singer Kent Morrill. I’d heard stories that after the group disbanded in 1969, Kent went to Las Vegas to do an Orbison tribute in the Legends show. But I’d never seen him do it, and was never able to find any recordings. So I finally got my chance, on both counts. Kent came out in a shiny black suit, black wig and horn-rimmed sunglasses, and toting a black guitar as a prop. He did Pretty Woman, Only the Lonely, Crying, Leah, and Mean Woman Blues – and got the only standing ovation of the day, bringing him back to do Ooby Dooby as an encore. AND, a local music store had a booth selling tapes and CDs of his old Vegas show. ($5 & $10. Interested Orbison and/or Morrill fans should contact Buzzard’s CDs at 253 591-0183.)

After that, my day should have been complete, but I couldn’t resist hanging around long enough to see Randy Hansen’s Jimi Hendrix act. While achieving the true Hendrix look is beyond his biological abilities, he did well with the hair and costume, and his guitar playing was so good it made me want to go home and try picking with my teeth. Did I do it? Find out next time, as we visit Louie Fest 2004, Day 2. In the meantime, you can take a gander at Randy’s official site right here:


Blogger Bill said...

Welcome to the blogosphere, Dave. Even if you aren't a Roy Orbison fan (I am).

September 5, 2004 at 12:34 PM  

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