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Call of the Wild

Tiger Mask a Go-Go has found a niche mixing music you don't hear on the radio with wrestling and more.

February 01, 2001|KASTLE WASERMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Alternative-music lovers find validation beyond chart-topping bands. An entire subculture of underground acts and independent record labels lurks at the club level for a legion of fans who find elite status in being in the know.

For those seekers of the cutting edge, L.A. has a like-minded host. Promoter Ralph Carrera is the innovator of Tiger Mask a Go-Go, a show now steadily drawing crowds at the Garage on weekends as well as other venues such as Spaceland, where alternative music is the standard.

The scene is built around what is best described as "trash-culture rock 'n' roll," an on-the-margins genre that embraces punk to garage rock, psychobilly to power pop. That the bands he books aren't "radio-friendly" isn't a problem. In fact, it inspires fierce loyalty among fans.

Tiger Mask crowds look like they stepped out of a classic B-movie about rock 'n' roll hoodlums--tattooed, greaser guys and tough-talkin', street-savvy rock dames ages 20 to 40. Carrera says they're typically record collectors out to see touring acts on indie labels. "They're mainly into bands who have the credibility from being featured in magazines such as Maximum Rock N Roll and Flipside," he said.

Named after a Japanese wrestler, Tiger Mask started taking shape in 1995 when Carrera began booking rockabilly and '60s retro acts in the Pomona area. Over time, the theme for the club expanded to include other rock subcultures such as punk, garage rock, broken blues and even some more fun-loving power pop and glam acts. Current Tiger Mask staples include L.A. bands Throw Rag, the Super Bees, Lords of Altamont, Vice Principals and the Lazy Cowgirls.

The club developed such a devoted audience, it spawned even bigger events. In August Carrera co-produced the Las Vegas Shakedown with rockabilly promoter Tom Ingram. More than 50 bands cranked through two ballrooms over three days at the Gold Coast Hotel as hundreds of leather-clad rockers converged on the hotel.

Though Carrera and those in attendance thought the event was a hit, the hotel asked them never to come back. "They'd never seen people like that before," says Carrera. "We scared their regular older clientele away!" The next Vegas Shakedown will be Sept. 28-30 at the Huntridge Theatre and Sanctuary Nightclub.

Carrera also works with local rockabilly/trash-music icon Johnny Legend on events known as "Incredibly Strange Wrestling" nights, which also take place under the Tiger Mask banner at larger venues. For these shows, a wrestling ring is set up near the stage. The bands and the wrestlers trade off as entertainment to provide frenzied synergy of nonstop action.

"I enjoy wrestling as much as I enjoy music, so why not incorporate the two?" Carrera says. "Half the time, people aren't really into the matches. They just have a good laugh. But there are some serious wrestling fans who go to the shows. So we cater to them just as much as the music fans."

Carrera, with his knack for hosting subculture-driven entertainment, may never be mainstream. But as long as there are charts to top, there will be those scanning for alternative talent under the radar. For them, Tiger Mask is home.

*

* Tiger Mask presents the Warlocks, Flash Express, 3rd Grade Teacher, Slender, Feb. 9, $7 cover. Candy Snatchers, Skulls, Vice Principals, the Fuse, Feb. 16, $8 cover. Both shows at the Garage, 4519 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 662-6802.

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