In contrast to Wednesday's Grammy ceremonies, the ACLU of Southern California's third annual "Banned Together" benefit to fight music censorship transpired the same night in the low-key poshness of the LunaPark club.
Though all the performances were heartfelt, the Foremen's boisterous satire and John Doe's powerful portraits of disaffection rooted in his punk past were particularly appropriate at a celebration of freedom of expression.
The Foremen got the evening off to a rousing start. Garbed in suits and armed with potent satire in the Tom Lehrer tradition, they lampooned conservative pundits, fallen liberals and a host of targets in between. Then the music settled into a folk-inflected rock mode, ranging from Judith Owen's pensive piano ballads to the achingly beautiful songs of X's Doe.
Heavier than folk and richer than pop, Doe's set included X's "Burning House of Love" and "See How We Are," as well as Woody Guthrie's "Vigilante Man," which he dedicated to Newt Gingrich.
John Wesley Harding and Michael Penn each put his own spin on the acoustic proceedings: Harding's a wry twist and Penn's an \o7 Angst\f7 -tinged lyrical turn. Satirist Harry Shearer hosted the event, filling the space between music sets with his agile, topical ad-libbing.