Saturday, December 19, 2009

Surfing the Spectacular

Last night, Amy and I saw the Brian Setzer Orchestra's Holiday Spectacular concert at the Gibson Amphitheater on Universal Citywalk. (The Gibson is filled with ads for Verizon -- which makes me wonder whether the Verizon Amphitheater is festooned with Gibson guitars.) Incidentally, the Amphitheater -- back when it was an open-air venue, and was known as the Universal Amphitheater -- was the first place I ever saw a big-name rock concert: While the family was vacationing in SoCal in 1980, I saw Jefferson Starship (sans Grace Slick) there.

As wonderful as Mr. Setzer's set was (and it was quite wonderful -- he's an amazing showman as well as an amazing guitarist), it was almost eclipsed by one of his opening acts: The Ventures, the kings of instrumental surf music and the best-selling instrumental band of all time. The lineup included two original members, Don Wilson and Nokie Edwards. They're getting up in years -- the band was formed in Tacoma, Washington in 1958 -- but they still play with the same tightly-controlled virtuosity you hear on their '60's recordings. For anyone who spent any time in the '60's (or has seen movies or TV from that era), the expressive guitars and the fast drum work conjure of images of surfers, drag racers, spies, and everything cool about that era. If The Ventures played the soundtrack for your life, what an exciting life you'd lead.

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