Saturday, November 24, 2012

Don't Stay Out All Night -- The Paladins


As if you didn’t know this already, I used to shop for Blues records all the time at the Electric Fetus record store back in Minneapolis.  One of the bands I stumbled upon from the Alligator Records label was The Paladins.  They were (and possibly still are) a houserockin’ cross between Texas Blues and Southern Cal Rockabilly and they always put on a rockin’ good show.  I saw them a couple times, once at the now famous Wilebski’s Blues Saloon (famous thanks to me of course) and another time at the famed Twin Cities venue, The Cabooze.

It was not until some time later that I realized that The Paladins were from San Diego.  So when I moved to San Diego back in the early 90’s, I figured San Diego would have at least one good band for me to check out when I got there.  It turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.  I checked the San Diego Reader weekly to see if The Paladins were playing anywhere.  I never saw them booked. 

Flash forward about three years.  My girlfriend and I had moved up to Los Angeles.  My buddy Mark and his girlfriend Crystal came over from Phoenix for a visit.  It so happened that my girlfriend worked with a woman whose husband worked for one of the big record labels.  They asked us if we wanted to join them at this Rockabillly music festival somewhere down south of L.A.  This guy was going there to scout out bands.  The festival was either in southern L.A. County or northern Orange County, I can’t remember for sure.  Either way, it was up in the the middle of the woods somewhere in the foothills.  I wanted to go because The Paladins and Reverend Horton Heat were playing.

So we get to this festival and it becomes immediately apparent that we are not dressed for the occasion.  Now if you have ever lived in Southern Cal, you know that people don’t go just part of the way.  They go all the way.  If they make Rockabilly their music of choice, they dedicate their entire life to it.  They make a commitment.  The women were all decked out in fifties style dresses and bobby socks.  The guys wore dungarees, had cigarette cases rolled up in their white T-shirts and hair slicked back with Brillcream like Elvis.  And parked all along the dirt road leading to this gig were custom rebuilt cars from the fifties--’57 Chevys, Lincolns, Cadillacs and so on.  And this was not some kind of Halloween like event either.  These people were living it.

We, on the other hand, pull up in my Nissan Maxima and are dressed in shorts and golf shirts.

When I first visualized the festival in my mind, I envisioned a good natured outdoor concert with people drinking beer and having a good time.  Not quite.  There was definitely a vibe of repressed violence.  This was not the Ricky Nelson fifties we were imagining, it was the Vic Morrow fifties for sure.  When we first walked in, the first stage we saw was not people having fun and dancing, there was a menacing mosh pit in front of the stage.  Definitely not what I expected from a Rockabilly/Blues festival.

My girlfriend took off with her friend and her husband so they could go backstage and hob-knob with the show biz folks.  This did not interest Mark, Crystal or myself so we sought out a safe place to hide from the miscreants of the music festival.  

We found a nice place in the grass under a big shady tree behind this metal fence backstop from the softball field.  We peacefully sat there drinking our very expensive beer away from the crowd.  Before long, three suspicious looking young men (dressed in full thug rockabilly regalia) came over and leaned up against the backstop.  One of the guys was big--easily 6’3” and over a couple hundred pounds.  This guy had a very intense look on his face.  He was preparing for something.  We could not hear what they were saying to each other, but they certainly were not joking around and having some laughs.  They were up to something else.

Just then, this huge group of young men (all dressed exactly like the guys leaning against the fence) moved in on these three guys and starting beating the hell out of them.  They were punching them in the face and body and when they fell to the ground the gang took turns kicking them.  I’ll never forget that big guy’s face when the violence was about to start.  He just clenched his teeth with intensity daring this group to do their worst.

The whole assault lasted probably less than twenty seconds.  The gang stopped the assault as suddenly as they began.  It turned out to be a friggin’ gang initiation.   The victims got up, dusted themselves off and the rest of the gang started hugging them and shaking their hands and giving them other sorts of congratulations.  

What fun, right?  Come to have a good time and listen to some music and instead we see a fucking gang fight.

The fun was just beginning at this “festival of peace and music” in the Southern Cal woods.  Trying to make the best of the situation, my friends and I walk back over to the beer tent to get a drink and calm our nerves.  As we leave the tent, Mark and I see these vendors selling various paraphernalia.  One of the items that caught my eye were these Hillbilly Teeth.  They were like plastic Dracula fangs only like decaying Hillbilly teeth.  They were funny and I thought about buying some.  The problem was that nobody was manning the table.

I saw some girl sitting behind the table next door and asked, “Are you the one selling these Hillbilly Teeth?”  Pretty innocuous question, right?  Apparently not to this young lady.  She was insulted at the implication.  “What the fuck do you think I am?”  My friends and I were speechless.  “I’m sorry, I mean, I didn’t...” I stammered in amazement.  How could she have been so insulted?  Afterall, she was sitting behind the vending tables.

My friends and I stood there uncertain whether this was all some kind of sick joke.  But then she insulted us again and stormed off threatening to get her boyfriend and others to come and take care of our asses.  

Now that’s what I call customer service.  I bet they sold a whole lot of those Hillbilly Teeth.

Anyway, after seeing the gang initiation, Mark and I made haste away from there and immediately went on the search for our girlfriends. When we found them, we said it was time to leave.  We had had enough.

Anyway, that was the one fateful effort I made to see The Paladins while living in Southern California.  In commemoration, here is The Paladins.





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