On Saturday, June 18th X headlined The Johnny Cash Music Festival in Ventura, CA. Other acts on the bill (in order of appearance) include: Cash On The Line (Johnny Cash cover band), Pee Wee Moore, Deke Dickerson, Hayden Thompson with Omar & The StringPoppers, Levi Dexter with The Buzz Campbell Band, Lee Rocker, The Blasters and Kris Kristofferson. The bill was crammed with legendary musicians playing their hits and Cash tributes. Whenever an epic bill like this is put together with bands who have been making music for 30+ (many longer) years and they are nice enough to play 30 year old songs I figure it an extreme act of kindness. I mean, it must be somewhat boring. It was anything but boring for me. I can only assume it was anything but boring for the estimate 5,000 in attendance from all the dancing, stage rushing and huge grins plastered across pretty much every face I saw. It was a nice day to be an anachronism. Or to at least feel out of time what with all the pompadours, old cars and James Dean looking dudes + pin up girls walking around.
Levi Dexter was in top form, singing like a wild man and dancing around the stage like his shoes were on fire. Lee Rocker of the Stray Cats was equally ablaze, positioning his stand up bass like a traditional guitar through much of his set, a signature move. Phil Alvin and The Blasters were nothing short of excellent. The Blasters are known for their wide range of musical stylings, playing everything from mountain music to punk rock. A highlight of the festival was when Exene Cervenka came out to sing the Johnny Cash and June Carter classic, "Jackson" with Phil Alvin. Phenomenal. Wordsmith, Kris Kristofferson went on right before X, playing snippets from his enormous musical catalog, including a song he penned for Janis Joplin, "Me And Bobby McGee."
As soon as X took stage the crowd immediately quadrupled and complicated itself, illustrating the diversity of X's fan-base. That X was the opening act amongst a bill crammed with legends and luminaries speaks volumes to how well loved and influential they are. Awesome to see such a phenomenal band that was actively involved in building such an important North American cultural movement headline an outlaw country tribute festival. Particularly a band who traveled through so many musical genres. Post X projects like The Knitters to John Doe's solo work, Exene's solo work including some of the best spoken word/poetry to come out of the 21st century, Billy Zoom's numerous projects and DJ Bonebrake's work w/ the DJB trio and Orchestra Superstring almost make it seem as if they were retracing the musical lineage of punk all the way back to traditional folk music.
This festival was just a stop on X's current tour (dates can be checked at their website: http://xtheband.com/) which commemorates the 31st anniversary of "Los Angeles." In honor of which, X has been and will be playing the album in it's entirety with the full original line-up: Exene Cervenka on vocals (http://www.exenecervenka.net/), John Doe on vocals and bass (http://www.theejohndoe.com/), DJ Bonebrake on drums (http://www.djbonebrakemusic.com/news.html) and Billy Zoom on guitar (http://www.billyzoom.com/main.html) Catch them if you can, they put on a stunning show are likely in the best form they've been in in decades. Exene and John were nice enough to answer a few questions post festival:
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I saw ya'll at the Johnny Cash Music Festival in Ventura, CA. How was it sharing stage space with Phil Alvin of The Blasters?
Exene Cervenka- You are welcome! I love The Blasters, and Phil is my good friend and a musical inspiration.
Exene Cervenka- Fear is the enemy. People don't want to know what's really going on because they are afraid of the awful truth. Yes, this is the country that killed between 10,000,000 and 100,000,000 people for their resources. This is the country made wealthy by 12,000,000 slaves. Do you think the corporations have any allegiance to you? People are shocked that the multinational corporations would leave the country, leave us behind? The ever-trusting middle class? We know the people in power are the same as they've always been, their methods have just gotten better and less out-in-the-open. A nod to Jello Biafra, for tirelessly working to free the slaves, as Michelle Bachman would say...
Punk Globe- I love that you touch on eternal themes (such as the collective unconscious and the soul) in your poetry in particular. Can you discuss this a bit and offer your working definition of the soul? And do you have any thoughts about the role of the artist in all of this?
Exene Cervenka- Mind, soul, spirit, in that order. In the mind, collective unconscious is our giant, untapped psychic resource. Soul to me, animates the body and senses, music, dancing, art, nature, sex, etc. Spirit is the unknown, unseen, higher self. I think it was much easier to access these states in the past, even up until recently. Then we became brainwashed zombies.
The job of an artist is to find those states, higher states, and transmit that energy to others.
Punk Globe- Do you have a favorite X recording?
Exene Cervenka- Oh, I don't know. They all blur together, I like them all....
Can you tell the Punk Globe readers about your new release "The Excitement Of Maybe"?
Exene Cervenka- Love songs. All love songs. With the best musicians I could find on the planet. People I love and respect.
Thanks again, Exene. On behalf of the Punk Globe staff I'd like to wish you a safe and fun rest of the tour. Do you have any words of advice for artists, poets and musicians?
Exene Cervenka- Advice is so seldom taken by the seeker. Everyone wants to learn the hard way. Redundant clarification.
My advice is look at charts and graphs and visual representations of trends and historic events so you can see what the future may look like.
Find refuge in the past.
Learn to grow vegetables and can your own food.
Get a reverse osmosis water purification drip system and a solar oven.
Stock up on prescriptions and pain killers. don't forget booze and cigarettes. you don't want to go out after an earthquake looking for Tylenol and bottled water.
Get a red cross radio, it has a flashlight and weather band, also it's hand-craned or solar or battery, and has a usb port.
Plywood is good to have around, hammer, nails, tarps, staple gun, bug out bag in case you gotta leave fast.
We cannot trust the one world govt which is here. we cannot trust the weather, the sky, the ground, the air. our food supply is dwindling around the world. the Midwest is Flooded and the crops ruined. prices are going up and it's going to get worse. so stock up on whatever canned goods are on sale, dried beans, rice, veg broth, and of course, Don't forget the marshmallows!
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I saw ya'll in Ventura at the Johnny Cash Music Festival and ya'll were wonderful. I noticed that the local cops on horseback kinda plowed through the crowd at one point. What was that all about? Do you have any reflections on the Fest?
John Doe- I think the mounted police were acting on a demand by the over zealous head of security. It was obvious that he had never seen a mosh pit and putting horses between Billy Zoom's amp & a crowd of people is a very risky equation. We were honored to play a fest associated w/ J. Cash but weren't sure that our style of music really belonged.
Can you tell the Punk Globe readers how you and Exene met?
John Doe- Exene & I met at the Venice Poetry Workshop, which I believe still continues in Venice, CA.
Punk Globe- What do you think is the most misunderstood bit about the late 1970s punk scene?
John Doe- That it had humor & fun in addition to trying to change the face of popular music.
Most of us didn't want to destroy pop music, just return it to the people.
Punk Globe- Do you have a favorite X recording? Is there talk of any future X recordings?
John Doe- Los Angeles because it has the best songs, recording & is the most fully realized. Exene and I will continue to write together sporadically but very doubtful that X will record more than a song or two as the opportunity presents itself.
Can you tell us about your new release, "A Day At The Pass"?
John Doe- There a better descriptions online somewhere. A Day at the Pass was fan funded & all basic tracks were recorded in a day at our friend & co-producer, Dave Way's studio; The Pass (it has since been sold to a private party). The fans who donated to the project, came to the studio, hung out and saw us make the record. In the two months following we added a few overdubs, took out a few bum notes & mixed it w/ Dave Way. The proof is in the pudding. Jill Sobule is the BEST!
Thanks again, John. On behalf of the Punk Globe staff I'd like to wish you a safe and fun rest of the tour. Do you have any words of advice for artists, poets and musicians?
John Doe- You are welcome. No general advice because it's unlikely that people will heed it. If they have specific questions they'd like to ask me; they can visit WWJDD on the Know the Music Business website. http://www.knowthemusicbiz.com/category/wwjdd/
Again Punk Globe would like to thank Exene and John for the fun informative interview.. We urge everyone to check them out whey are playing in your area.. You will not be disappointed...