The Upshot: Playing with the energy and enthusiasm of a brand new group looking to prove something, the San Fran legends thrilled a sold out crowd comprising both greying/balding fans and 20-something hipsters aiming to shake some of that magical action.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
The Flamin’ Groovies may have hit their record sales peak in the late 1970s, but you’d be hard pressed to know that, taking in the reaction that greeted the band in Philadelphia last week. Playing a sold out show at Johnny Brenda’s, nearly 300 acolytes from a span of generations came out to catch a rare performance of one of the best straight ahead rock bands San Francisco has ever churned out.
As one person proclaimed at the show, “They’re essentially a bar band. But a really, really great bar band.” [Boy howdy. –Bar band Ed.] And that description is pretty apt considering how many covers the Flamin’ Groovies have recorded over the years, putting their garage rock stamp on songs by everyone from Johnny Rivers and The Byrds to Chuck Barry and The Who. Even as the band took the stage and front man/guitarist Cyril Jordan (interviewed earlier this year at BLURT) broke a string, fellow guitarist Chris Wilson entertained the crowd with an impromptu cover of Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom” as his buddy scrambled to restring.
The band, the American precursors to punk rock and power pop, played a nearly flawless hour-and-a-half-plus set that sounded unbelievably tight. They played with the energy and enthusiasm of a brand new group looking to prove something, despite the fact that these guys earned their stripes – and a lifetime pass to half ass it on stage, should they be so inclined – in 1976 when they put out Shake Some Action. Two years later, in ’78, the Groovies would make their last appearance in this city – it’s been that long.
“We haven’t been back to Philly since then. How you been,” quipped Wilson before plowing into that record’s title track.
The mostly male audience included plenty of gray heads in various stages of balding, but there were also plenty of 20 and 30-somethings that packed in for the performance. One very tall and very thin hipster decked out oddly enough in full Duck Dynasty uniform (from bushy beard to stars and stripes bandana) showed up well into the band’s set and kept imploring people at the front of the balcony to “move over so my chick can get in,” despite the fact that his chick was so drunk she likely thought she was still in her living room. After about 20 minutes of trying to convince folks that have waited decades, plus two opening acts, to see The Flamin’ Groovies live, he finally gave up and skulked away.
The band, ever the entertainers, made the audience wait until the encore before they launched into the opening licks of “Teenage Head,” their 1971 classic (yes, classic). Along with Wilson and original members Jordan and bassist George Alexander, the band was rounded out by drummer Victor Penalosa, who despite being about two decades younger than his bandmates, nearly struggled to keep up with their drive throughout the set.
We are massive fans of the Flamin’ Groovies, needless to say. Go HERE to read editor Mills’ interview interview with Jordan and Wilson, published earlier this year at Stomp & Stammer magazine.