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Curtain going up

September 18, 2003|Steve Baltin | Special to The Times

On a typical Monday night, the Sunset Strip is quiet, with the street and its denizens still recovering from the weekend. But this is no ordinary Monday. L.A. favorites Dramarama are reuniting for their first show in nine years. By 5 p.m., the line outside the Roxy stretches several blocks.

The lucky few who make it inside for the 45-minute set, which is being taped for future airing on VH-1, are treated to a generous helping of smart, infectious pop gems, such as "Questions" and "Visiting the Zoo," from the band's 1985 debut, "Cinema Verite."

For the encore, lead singer John Easdale strolls back on stage in sunglasses, black jeans and black shirt. There is no question what the song will be -- "Anything, Anything," the power pop/rocker of anguished adolescent love that still ranks among the most-requested songs ever on KROQ-FM.

"That song never seems to go away. And as long it's around, we're always relevant," Easdale said prophetically several weeks ago, before VH-1 approached the band about reuniting.

Out of that show, the band, which formed in New Jersey in 1983 and migrated to L.A. after KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer aired its music, was invited to appear at the KROQ Inland Invasion on Saturday, which happens to be Easdale's 42nd birthday.

When you have an enduring anthem such as "Anything, Anything," the chance to mine nostalgia is always there. But, Easdale says, "this was a special occasion. I really never wanted to cash in on the 'flashback' thing."

Coincidentally, the resurgent interest in Dramarama comes just as Easdale was preparing to resurrect a solo career he put on hold while he worked on the business side of the music industry (as an editor at the now-defunct radio trade Album Network).

Six years after his only solo album, Easdale has a new EP, "Live in NJ," available on his Web site, www.johneasdale.com. The disc, which includes a cover of the Jim Carroll Band's "People Who Died," was recorded in Easdale's native New Jersey.

Easdale, who's lived in L.A. for almost two decades, found going home to be a musical Viagra. "It sounds corny," Easdale says, "the whole returning to your roots thing. But it energized and excited me in ways I never dreamed of.... There's probably a full-length album coming after this."Easdale, who has lived the musician's lifestyle once already, has some trepidation about making a full-fledged return. "I have to be careful," he says. "Rock 'n' roll was the only job I ever had where they gave me a bottle of whiskey to start the day and then another bottle when I finished that one."

Now a family man who lives in Whittier with his wife of 14 years and their four daughters, Easdale has found his priorities have changed. "It's more a labor of love and a joy for me now than it was for a while," Easdale says. "I'm more about the art and the creation; also sharing feelings about stuff."

Easdale had a lot to get off his chest during the writing of this EP. "Live in NJ" was a gift from Easdale to his best friend, Gregg Dwinnell, an L.A. music scene veteran who was president and founder of indie label Eggbert Records. Dwinnell recently died of esophageal cancer at age 42. "This record was made for my friend while he was alive," Easdale says. "He heard it and it made him happy."

*

KROQ Inland Invasion

Where: Hyundai Pavilion, 2575 Glen Helen Way, Devore

When: Saturday, noon (parking lot opens at 10 a.m.)

Cost: Sold out

Info, lineup: www.kroq.com

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