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VALLEY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Glendale Concert Series Lifts Off With Starship

The first of the city's free summer rock nights features Paul Kantner and company, plus a traffic-signal light show.

June 27, 1996|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Things got rockin' early in Glendale last Saturday. It was the first of Glendale's free summer concerts.

It was still daylight when rock-blues guitarist Elvin Bishop took the stage, followed in the night by Lee Rocker and the Jefferson Starship.

They closed off five blocks in Glendale to accommodate the street concert, but nobody turned off the traffic lights. So, all during the evening, the traffic lights kept flashing green, yellow and red in complete indifference to what was really going on, giving the scene a rather surreal texture.

The crowd was mixed--unrepentant hippies, repentant hippies, yuppies, Gen-Xer's, bikers and kids--lots of kids. We're talking the "stroller and pampers" kind as opposed to the "I love my wife, but oh, you kid," variety. More than too many men were smoking cigars.

And there were cops, lots of cops.

Up near the police barricade at the edge of the stage was a row of beach chairs placed, no doubt, by rockers with varicosity problems in their lower extremities and the good sense to arrive early.

Radio personality Dr. Demento acted as emcee for the show, although most of his schtick was ignored by the majority of the audience. Even Glendale Mayor Sheldon Baker was there among his rockin' constituents, as was KROQ's Rodney Bingenheimer.

Following Bishop, Lee Rocker and his band played a rousing set, but then the switch over for the Jefferson Starship took awhile, and it seemed to drain the limited energy supply of the audience.

But, the traffic lights kept flashing stop and go. Stop and go. Stop and go.

Finally about 10 p.m. the Jefferson Starship took the stage. The energy returned and the audience lustily welcomed them. After their first number, cries of "White Rabbit" rang out.

Paul Kantner told the crowd, "Get a hold of yourself, people," and one otherwise respectable-looking type near me yelled back, "It's easy, now that we're older."

Huh?

Ignoring the chant for "White Rabbit," which was quickly running out of gas, Kantner dedicated the Marty Balin song "Ganja of Love" and Diana Mangano's "Lawman" to all of Glendale's finest who were circulating in the crowd.

It was that kind of night.

* Glendale plans two more free summer street concerts: "Cruise Night," featuring the Drifters, the Surfaris and the Blazers, on July 20 and "Glendale Rocks," featuring Eric Burdon and Iron Butterfly, on Aug. 24. Call (818) 548-6464.

*

They Got Rhythm: Dale Peterson of the Rhythm Lords has a theory as to why roots music is so popular right now.

"People want to go back to a simpler time," he says. "That's where I want to go, and I hope some people want to go with me."

In keeping with that desire, the Rhythm Lords, who will perform at Smokin' Johnnie's Friday night, play vintage instruments and drive old cars. Peterson's vehicle of choice for that trip back in time is a 1950 Chevy.

The Long Beach band plays a blues-based sound with traces of early rock and country swing flavorings. Besides lead guitarist and singer Peterson, the band consists of bassist Steph Traino, drummer Kip Dabbs and harmonica player Eric Von Herzen.

All kidding aside, Peterson thinks the current popularity of blues and other roots music is because people were tired of the electronic tones and precision of synthesizers and drum machines.

"People want to hear the wood," Peterson says. "People want to hear the mistakes, the strings clack. The mistakes are almost as important as the right notes, it's the human element."

The Rhythm Lords have been criticized by some, however, for not being real blues players.

"The blues maniacs are down on anything that's not straight out of the Delta," Peterson says. "I like rockin' blues and up-tempo stuff. It's a little too coarse for some blues purists."

The band's new CD, "Lone Wolf," has nine original songs plus three covers of straight-ahead blues tunes.

"This one is the one," Peterson says. "Our sound has come together."

Peterson is proud that his band draws a wide audience of people to their gigs, from car club types to blues freaks to other endangered species.

"There's nothing like having two or three hundred people sweating and dancing to our music," he says.

* The Rhythm Lords play Friday night at Smokin' Johnnie's, 11720 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. No cover. Call (818) 760-6631.

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