I've written this column in plenty of odd, unexpected contexts—on a godforsaken cruise ship off the coast of Belize; stranded in Austin after SXSW; and holed up in the hotel where Johnny Thunders overdosed in New Orleans. But this is an amusing first: I'm currently on a flight out of Burbank, with the former Mr. Jessica Simpson sitting just a couple of seats away from me. I'm not sure what Nick Lachey is doing flying into Seattle on a Monday afternoon, and I don't particularly care (I'm guessing it has something to do with his one-third share of the Tacoma Rainiers baseball team), but I am impressed that he's flying coach and being gracious to the occasional fan who pauses to gush in his direction.
I suppose it's a fitting end to a five-day stay in Los Angeles, where I've been subjected to plenty of the city's most entertaining and unsettling elements, from the joys of sublime Mexican food and quality punk rock to the dismal spectacle of watching a perfectly svelte girl push food around her plate, inquire about the presence of narcotics, and complain that she still needs to lose more weight. (What remains to be shed, little lady, bone marrow?) In short, visiting L.A. is a periodic pleasure that I'll include in future travel plans, and I understand why many former Seattle musicians have made the city their new home. But a permanent move there isn't something I could personally envision.
One of the highlights of my trip was catching legendary lesbionic punk-rock icons Team Dresch, who played Echo last Thursday night as part of L.A.'s queer film festival Outfest. After tentatively reuniting for a handful of shows on both coasts, the band seems to be headed for a permanent regrouping. It's a wise choice because the recalibrated TD is as potent as the original, and the sprinkling of new material in the band's set was strong enough to suggest a promising future. Donna Dresch herself confirmed that the reunion is more than a fling, and they are in the process of writing songs for a new record. "We've been talking to Kill Rock Stars a little—it's pretty convenient since they have a Portland office in my basement," quipped Dresch. "We'll see what happens."
Sunday afternoon was spent tooling along the Venice Beach boardwalk on vintage cruisers and silently dorking out on the fact that I was immersed in the shooting location for two of my favorite movies: Stacy Peralta's landmark surfing documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys, and the box-office disaster and subsequent cult classic Xanadu. If you share my affection for either of these films, you'll appreciate the fact that you can watch them both projected on the wall just outside Havana this summer. As previously reported in this column, owner Quentin Ertel had aspirations of showing Scarface outside his Capitol Hill club, and got so excited about the outdoor screening concept that he set up a regular Wednesday schedule to run throughout the summer. "I figured if we were going to do it, we might as well do it big, which seems to be the case with everything around Havana," says Ertel. "Combine that with a little obsessive-compulsive disorder, and next thing you know, I'm buying AstroTurf for the parking lot." The series kicks off with Scarface on Wednesday, July 25. It continues with Dogtown and Z Boys on Aug. 1 and Xanadu on Aug. 8, and culminates with Goodfellas and what Ertel describes as a "Little Italy street fair" on Aug. 22. Ertel was also smart enough to pair appropriate DJs with each film, (such as obsessive Goodfellas fan Kerri Harrop, aka DJ Cherry Canoe, with the finale), so the dance party can commence as the credits roll.
On a distinctly less celebratory note, Girlschool guitarist Kelly Johnson recently passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 49, after battling spinal cancer for six years. While history seems to continuously give the Runaways all the credit for being the definitive hard-rocking all-female rock band, England-based Girlschool created a much sharper, smarter, and fearless sound. It earned them legitimate comparisons to Motörhead (with whom they actually recorded a split EP in 1981 called St. Valentine's Day Massacre) and a fiercely supportive fan base that includes former Fastbacks and Visqueen bassist Kim Warnick, who once told me that the four Seattle shows she witnessed were akin to "watching a concussion bomb go off." That Johnson was the source of so much of that power makes it that much harder to acknowledge her death, and my heart goes out to her former bandmates, friends, and family.