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Hollywood Fest : Sun Shines On Night Rockers

September 08, 1987|STEVE HOCHMAN

The next fashion trend on Los Angeles' late-night underground rock scene?

It could be-- gasp! --a tan.

That's right: The pale black-clad vampires who come out only in the wee hours to attend such clubs as White Trash Au Go-Go and the Scream not only survived the midday sun at the Hollywood Hills Rock Festival on Sunday, they enjoyed it.

With a nine-act lineup featuring such top local bands as House of Freaks, the Dancing Hoods, the Little Kings and the hilarious, talented young quartet Redd Kross, the festival at the John Anson Ford Theatre had its musical ups and downs. But with an enthusiastic, well-mannered turnout that nearly reached the refurbished facility's capacity of about 1,200, and with the 11-hour program keeping to schedule, the event qualified as a resounding success. Producer Janyce Desoto, who runs White Trash, said she hopes to turn the festival into a semi-annual event.

In fact, it's a shame no one thought of making this part of the Los Angeles Festival--not only did it offer a solid representation of the city's current alternative rock scene, but it was longer than the play "Mahabharata" and as colorful as the Cirque du Soleil.

Or maybe it should have been part of the Fringe Festival; fringe is a word that pretty well describes the nature of the music and the fans, not to mention the seemingly incongruous notion of exposing them to daylight.

But though the beautifulnature-surrounding setting in Cahuenga Pass was hardly the natural setting for the music and its regular fans, the participants had no complaints.

"I think it's great," said Melissa Death. Dressed in black from her leather cap to her fingernail polish, the Los Angeles resident was one of the 100 or so on hand when the show began shortly after noon.

The show, she said, reminded her of the park concerts she had attended often in her native San Francisco. She did suggest, however, that if this sort of thing was to be staged on a regular basis, the promoters might consider starting a little later in the day.

Not everyone fit the fashionable rock fan image. Casually dressed Torrance resident Sondra Thomas-Monson, 23, there with husband Brad and 2-year-old son Bradley, looked as if she could have been headed for a family day at the beach. "My son's the only one of us dressed in black," she joked, referring to the boy's T-shirt, and admitted that she felt a bit out of place.

It wasn't until later in the afternoon that the theater began to fill, which was a shame, because latecomers missed the two terrific acts that opened the day: House of Freaks and the Dancing Hoods.

The first is a dynamic duo consisting of singer-guitarist Brian Harvey and wild-man drummer Johnny Hott. It has become one of the most consistently exhilarating rock attractions locally since moving here from Richmond, Va., last year. The duo was followed by the Hoods, a vibrant quartet that shows the potential of someday appealing to as broad an audience as Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

After that, the quality of the acts declined somewhat. The Sea Hags are a San Francisco-based trio whose main problem is a lack of strong songs. Los Angeles' Little Kings, a sextet with a Rolling Stones-via-Texas-via-Hollywood-trash sound, failed to spark Sunday--as the group has shown it can in clubs. The nadir came next with Damn Yankees, a posturing quartet whose set was lowlighted by a desecration of Elvis Presley's "Burnin' Love."

From there, the show generally headed back up, through the Pandoras, the Unforgiven (whose hokey spaghetti-Western rock has improved recently with a touch of metal power, but is still hokey) and T.S.O.L. (Doors/Alice Cooper metal) before reaching a peak with Redd Kross.

The wait was worth it. The young, long-hair-tossing foursome is probably the most entertaining rock band in town, with a humor-laden, all-fun approach that turns hard-rock cliches inside out--and good enough musicianship and songwriting to transcend its own jokes.

As the children of the night headed home (or wherever) under the nearly full moon, there was hardly a negative word--save for complaints about the stacked-up parking.

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