Summer's here and the time is right. Today we headed off once more to Santa Fe Springs, which is not a cactusland spa resort in Arizona, but a swap meet in deepest Southern California, a little way up the road from Disneyland in Anaheim. I say swap meet, but it's not. When I think of a swap meet, I think of the flea market in Amsterdam I used to go to as a kid, filled with penniless hippies selling their shoes, bits of newspaper they've collected and various debris they've picked up on the road. Or I think of Brick Lane in London where sharp-tongued East Enders sell old meat-grinders and shoe-trees and boxes of random brown stuff they've found in their cellars (or other people's cellars). The Santa Fe Springs swap meet sells new clothes, shoes, belt buckles, knives, air guns and rabbits. I wasn't there for any of those things, but having a couple of hours to spare, I wandered round looking at them.
Most of the adult clothes were black, with skulls and roses. Some were candy skulls, some tattoo-artist skulls. Many of the shirts with the tattoo skulls had blades with curved spikes, like a Klingon bat'leth. Since I was a teen the main thing that's happened is the artists have spent years perfecting tattoo art. One can imagine them in junior high carving skulls and crosses on their desks with their shiny, alien-looking flick-knives. And thus we found ourselves at one point looking through not-very-official looking DVDs of bands with names like Slipknot, surrounded by teddy bears in bondage (on black t shirts), Mexican wrestlers' masks and skulls, and yet finding the usual leaf-litter of the counterculture, like Penelope Spheeris movies and Russ Meyer t-shirts underneath all of this like the grain of sand that forms a pearl. Believe me, it was hard not to buy some.
Jamie Hince of the Kills said that skulls symbolize rock. Photographic evidence backs him up. But note that Harley Davidson and curvy Klingon knife shapes are also rock and roll. (The lady's tattoo is of an eagle tearing at the eye of a skull.)
I was there to watch Led Zepagain, who play Santa Fe Springs at least once a year, and at a dollar on the door, the price is definitely right. They play three sets in a day there, although I've never actually seen the first two as getting up on Saturday morning is not my strong point. There's a fair sized stage inside a dance area with some aluminum bleacher-type seating. It fills up rapidly for a band like Led Zepagain, a mixed crowd in age and gender, mostly Hispanic, and mostly drinking beer in giant plastic tumblers labeled "BEER". (I think the labeling is so that people can be carded; the American attitude to beer and ID will remain a mystery to me forever, so I can't be sure.) It was in the high 90s F today and simply walking around the swap meet at a leisurely amble was enervating, so the chance to sit on the tiered stands under a garden shade-cloth was very welcome. Still, the sweat was pouring down my back. It hasn't been this hot where I live or work - it must have one of those Southern California outbreaks of joke weather arranged by some trickster god somewhere.
Luckily Dad had put this little girl in charge of spraying the audience with water, so we were quite comfortable.
Led Zepagain play a storming set. The four members act the parts of the four members of Led Zeppelin and their music and vocals are spot on. The effect is the same as hearing the vinyl (or The Song Remains the Same) played through a full-sized PA, with the added interest of having real people to applaud and cheer and generally react to. The band mix and match albums and years, playing a couple today that Swan, the singer, said don’t always go down well live, but today they did. (One was The Rover; I don't remember what the other one was.) Well, they all sounded perfectly fine to me. The crowd was happy and excited, and moving as much as anybody could in that heat. "Complicated music," my friend said. "Difficult time signatures and odd keys." And he's right. Led Zeppelin's music is complicated compared with modern rock. I wondered several times throughout this performance what younger people thought of it. To modern ears, Led Zeppelin's music must sound as though it can't be done live – despite the fact that Zeppelin did not use Pro Tools, Autotune or any other modern perfecting software, it does not sound rough on vinyl and the complexities of the music are scary. Led Zepagain make it sound easy. (And for those who are convinced Robert Plant used Varispeed on The Song Remains the Same – well, Swan can sing it with the same tone at the same pitch live.) We had a great time, a good singalong to Black Dog and Whole Lotta Love, and almost wrecked the bleachers (we read the notice too late that said "no jumping on the stands").
This time I didn't get away with less than one minimal erythemal dose. I burned my nose. But overall, not bad for a buck.