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Sunset Junction : Police End Festival A Day Early

September 08, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN

The Sunset Junction Festival--three days' worth of eclectic music scheduled for Saturday through Monday in a Hollywood parking lot--came to an unexpected end when police arrested two festival employees and confiscated the sound equipment after Sunday's concert, forcing the cancellation of Monday's show.

After rocker Billy Zoom's closing set ended at 11 p.m. Sunday, Los Angeles police officers, who had been waiting outside, brought a city truck in and carted away the sound system, citing "hundreds" of complaints from neighbors, after the volume allegedly was turned down late in the afternoon.

John Brown, chairman of the board of the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, was arrested, along with a member of the security staff (both were later released on bail).

LAPD Sgt. Reubin Whittington, standing in front of the stage after the equipment was loaded on the truck, said that the police waited for the music to end Sunday "so we didn't disturb anyone." (A spokesman at the LAPD's Hollywood Division, however, said Monday that the officers took action as soon as a City Attorney's representative had signed the required complaint.)

Whittington added that festival officials had been warned about excessive volume three times Saturday and twice Sunday.

Festival organizers, professing to have all permits in order, stood aside in weary surprise, foreseeing the costly cancellation of Monday's show: a celebration of Brazil's Independence Day featuring a mix of jazz and rock acts.

The Hollywood Division spokesman said Monday that the organizers did not have the required Police Commission permit for amplified music.

On Monday afternoon, a sign reading "CANCELED" hung on the gate and workers were dismantling the concert site. Robin Fish, secretary of the Sunset Junction Alliance, said that the organizers had thought about proceeding, but "with one complaint, the police would come and take the equipment again, so it doesn't make much sense to continue."

Fish said that the Alliance will hold a press conference later this week after seeking legal advice. "The likelihood is we owe a lot of money," he said.

Before Sunday's downbeat ending, the blue sky and the folksy atmosphere made it easy to imagine oneself at a festival in a relaxed mountain town--easy, that is, if you ignored the very Los Angeles booths lining the lot, manned by ethnic food vendors and gay rights advocates and AIDS-marathon volunteers.

Sunday's lineup featured some of the most long-standing names in the local rock arena, including Dave Alvin, Billy Zoom and James Harman. But its most striking feature was to demonstrate once again how strong-willed women have infiltrated, even dominated, the scene. Leading the highlight parade were two women who've released exceptional debut albums this year and seem certain to enjoy national acclaim for many years to come: Flores and Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napolitano.

Flores sings with the sweet voice of experience and innocence--a little of Loretta Lynn's stately resolve, a little of the Collins Kids' youthful exuberance. Her just-released major-label debut provided most of the New Traditionalist material, and a fine band (including Billy Bremner on guitar) provided the rock edges that the album is missing as Flores led them through a romping set of country tinged with rock, blues and swing. A major, major country star in the making here.

Napolitano's mercurial band may take a bit longer to find such a mass audience, but Concrete Blonde seems as destined to make the alternative-to-mainstream crossover as the early Motels and early Lone Justice did (and is even more likely to stay together).

Drawing from the year's best debut album and what sounds like an equally strong follow-up-in-the-making, the group overcame a less-than-ideal sound mix (as the first to go on after a police-inspired volume reduction) with a forceful, friendly and emotional set, Napolitano summoning her usual mixture of femininity and uninhibited aggression.

Other women making strong contributions during the day were Julie Christensen, whose lovely voice complements Chris D.'s lead vocals in the Divine Horsemen (and who sang a duet with Napolitano--twice--on the country-ish "You're the Only One Can Make Me Cry"); and Martha Reeves, the '60s soul veteran, who proved to be in finer voice than ever fronting a pickup band of local musicians that she probably ought to hold on to.

The opening concert on Saturday featured a blend of rock, blues and jazz acts including Etta James, Poncho Sanchez and the Untouchables.

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