Phil and Dave Alvin returned to the historic Lobero theater in downtown Santa Barbara on Saturday, November 21st, to play a sold out concert. The brothers have a long history of performances in various incantations at the theater. One concert, in particular, back in 1982, has become an infamous footnote in punk rock history. Lead guitar veteran Dave Alvin likes to recount the story each time he plays the venue. During that heady performance the brothers played in their rockabilly band the Blasters with the seminal punk rock band X. As Dave remembers it, “The show turned into a full blown riot, with fans ripping out some of the plush seats, and we ended up in the pokey”. Some in the crowd Saturday night may very well have been in that crowd back in 1982, but the mostly silver haired sold out audience was much more subdued for this Alvin brothers concert with their new band, The Guilty Ones. But the energy from the Saturday show was far from subdued. Backstage the sound engineer could be heard chatting with the stage manager, “Should I turn down the sound levels?”, he asked, in keeping with the elegant atmosphere of the ornate little theater and considering the age of the elderly crowd. The manager responded “Too loud, too old, go home”. The show proceeded to go on in the spirit of a real rock and roll show with all amplifiers blazing.
Opening act Dead Rock West played an appropriate set drenched in American roots music. The bands 26-date support slot comes on the heels of their last tour supporting American punk icons X. The Alvin brothers have a long history associating with X, including multiple tours with the band in the Blasters era. Dave Alvin even joined X for a few years as the guitarist, taking over for Billy Zoom. DEAD ROCK WEST is a Los Angeles based vocal duo consisting of Cindy Wasserman and Frank Lee Drennen. They are touring in support of their new album, “IT’S EVERLY TIME!”. The duo played with a full band of talented musicians on the California leg of their tour, including most fittingly, drummer extraordinaire, DJ Bonebrake, the drummer for X.
According to their press release the groups new album was “Released digitally and on vinyl July 17, IT’S EVERLY TIME! (Angel Flight Recording Co.) is a 13 song tribute to the great Everly Brothers. IT’S EVERLY TIME! was produced by Grammy-winning producer Mark Linett (Brian Wilson, Los Lobos, Rickie Lee Jones and Randy Newman) and features DEAD ROCK WEST’s authentic appreciation of iconic Everly Brothers standards such as “Cathy’s Clown,” and lesser-known treasures like “June is as Cold as December.” DEAD ROCK WEST recorded the album live with a band–DJ Bonebrake (drums), Dave Gleason (acoustic rhythm guitar), Elliott Easton (lead electric guitar), multi-instrumentalists Phil Parliapiano and David J. Carpenter–as well as special guests: The Section Quartet, guitarist Dave Alvin and bassist Rob Wasserman (Cindy’s brother). The live magic was captured at Linett’s Your Place or Mine Recording and East West Studios in the very rooms where the Everlys and Beach Boys once worked (and are still equipped with microphones said to have been used by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley)”.
The band began the concert with a history lesson of sorts explaining the link between Everly Brothers music, rockabilly and finally punk music. The set started with elegant music and exquisite vocals and by the encore evolved into a rock drenched jam of roots music, not unlike some of the music of X, itself. The crowd loved it giving the group several standing ovations.
Phil and Dave and The Guilty Ones took the stage after intermission and proceeded to continue the history lesson on American music, this time focusing on their roots in traditional American Blues music. Born in Los Angeles in the 50’s, Phil Alvin and his younger brother Dave were raised on the music of Elvis Presley, T-Bone Walker, and Big Joe Turner. Together they formed the Blasters in 1979, borrowing the name from Jimmy McCracklin’s Blues Blasters. Dave Alvin left the Blasters in 1985 to join X, and Phil returned to graduate school to pursue his master’s degree in mathematics and artificial intelligence. He later earned his Ph.D. from UCLA. Phil resurrected the Blasters and his musical career shortly after, while Dave went on to a solo career. In 2012, Phil who had been fighting a viral infection with antibiotics months earlier, was hospitalized in Spain when he suffered severe breathing difficulties. He fully recovered after an emergency tracheotomy, and in 2013 Phil and Dave began work on their first album together since Dave left the Blasters. The album became a reverent tribute to one of their biggest influences. The result, Common Ground: Dave & Phil Alvin Play & Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy was released in the summer of 2014. The Alvin brothers supported Common Ground with a concert tour, and in 2015 Dave and Phil returned with a lset of electric blues, Lost Time. The set at the Lobero featured songs from some of the bands favorite performers, including explanations of how the brothers met an interacted with the Blues legends.These included Muddy Waters, Big Joe Turner, Willie Dixon, and of course Big Bill Broonzy, among others. Then the sound man turned the amplifiers up to full throttle for some Blasters classics. The band ended with a triple encore, including an X classic “4th of July,” and two more Blasters songs that had the crowd dancing like it was 1982 all over again.