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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Technical Problems Plague Peace Rock '87

December 01, 1987|STEVE HOCHMAN

"I like to think that this is about what nuclear war is going to be like," said Divine Weeks bassist George Edmonson, trying to laugh off the technical difficulties that were plaguing his band's set at Peace Rock '87, a benefit concert for the SANE/Freeze anti-nuclear campaign Sunday at the Variety Arts Center.

Unfortunately, that episode was all too typical of an event that was intended to organize against--rather than demonstrate the consequences of--nuclear proliferation. An evening that was meant to center on great L.A.-based music and political consciousness-raising instead was marked by the frequently horrible sound of the rented, shared equipment and, especially, by the frustrating scheduling.

No program that included excellent sets from the Dream Syndicate, Firehose, House of Freaks and Peter Case, and that brought black-clad, Scream Club-ready youths into earnest conversations with aging blue-jeaned activists about nonviolent protest, could really be called a loss.

But only a post-holocaust mutation allowing people to be in two places at once could have made the show a success, as the solid lineup of some of the best talent in L.A. rock (ranging from old-timers Ray Manzarek and Sky Saxon to newer entries like Walking Wounded and Divine Weeks) was divided between two rooms four stories apart.

The most frustrating point came when fans were forced to choose between the Dream Syndicate, playing at its thundering, emotional peak in the downstairs theater, and Firehose, equally enthralling in the smaller upstairs ballroom. That many of the acts managed to overcome the show's innate problems is a tribute to their strengths. But in the end, the show stands as another piece of evidence that the rock benefit grind has reached the burnout stage.

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