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POP MUSIC REVIEW : '60s Survivor Peter Stampfel at At My Place

June 03, 1988|STEVE HOCHMAN

What the irreverent Holy Modal Rounders were to the great folk revival and the nasty Fugs were to the love generation in the '60s, Peter Stampfel--a member of both those New York groups--still could be to the New Age-sensitive crowd. At least that's what it seemed like at the start of Stampfel's brief early evening set Wednesday at Santa Monica's At My Place, his first local appearance in 20 years.

Greeting the sparse, sedate audience with a song that began "I don't know you, but I'm going to kill you," Stampfel proved to be all the confrontational psycho-folkie his Rounders (best known for "If You Want to Be a Bird," featured in the movie "Easy Rider") had been. Not surprisingly, the couple of dozen people on hand--most apparently there to see the jazz/rock fusion bands that were playing later--seemed at best bemused and at worst offended and confused by this guitar-strumming oddball.

But by following that with a series of whimsical ditties ("Surfer Angel," "Bigfoot Stole My Girl"), pre-rock pop oddities and even a legitimately wistful broken-heart ballad ("Just One Yesterday," which--like "Bigfoot"--will be on his upcoming album with his group, the Bottle Caps), Stampfel revealed himself as a sweet performer whose affection for slightly offbeat music far outweighs his technical deficiencies.

Actually, at a more down-home locale (like nearby McCabe's), Stampfel's strained, off-key singing and occasional forgetting of lyrics might have seemed endearing. At the more upscale At My Place--where taste and technique often are held in higher esteem than heart and passion--his naturally unpretentious approach came off like a shining beacon of childlike wonder cutting through a fog of smug seriousness.

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