Thursday, August 10, 2017

"MoFo" weekend in LA

Ty Campbell & Stick Figure
(A weekend in LA- 2003)

Instead of heading straight home to Sacramento from a job in Louisville, I flew to Los Angeles. I was pretty pumped as I was heading for a date to see son, Tyler and his group perform at a concert on Sunset Strip in Hollywood. His band; “Stick Figure”, later known as “Sixteen Switch.” 
Stick Figure/Sixteen Switch circa '03

Much, much earlier I went to my first, and I thought my last, rock concert in LA in 1970. I was in the Air Force, stationed at March Air Force Base so wife Julieann and I were in Riverside, California. My brother David was visiting. He was a teenager and we were still pretty young ourselves so we decided to take him to see Iron Butterfly and Canned Heat in action. Their concert was held at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.

We liked all that music but didn’t often go to concerts so I decided to mark the occasion by trying to get us some of the best tickets in the house. Our seats were right on the floor of the Forum where the Lakers played basketball at the time. We were around 50 feet from the stage and the sound engineers were behind us dialing in the noise.  

It was a fine concert but the sound was so loud my ears were ringing when we left and they still are today, over 45 years later. So, I wasn’t thinking I would ever go to another concert. However, there was another I had to attend that weekend  in '03 so I got my trusty earplugs packed in Louisville and flew straight to Los Angeles.  

The Key Club show would be one concert TC (very senior) just had to see but before I lay it out, a little on how TC Jr. got there. About a year earlier Tyler had auditioned with a local Sacramento band that had lost their lead singer. The band’s name; “Stick Figure” and their type of music; sort of “Metal-reggae rap” and yes, the lyrics are pretty explicit. 

They picked him so he added “band practice” to his college and work schedule. After a couple of months or so of practice, they began playing local clubs. Mom, Dad and Sister would go occasionally. The band did a good job and kept improving.

A couple month’s ago, their agent who was an engineer by day and promoter/agent by night got them set up to open for Ice-T’s group, “Bodycount” at the Key Club in LA. You may know Ice-T as an actor who plays a cop on the TV series, Law and Order and also as a rapper who stirred a lot of controversy in the early rap music days for a song titled “Cop Killer."

So, everybody got fired up and we checked out the Key Club on the web. We found it right on Sunset Strip, in a group of music clubs and just a few blocks down from the Whiskey a Go-Go that Johnny Rivers made famous a couple of million years ago.

The Key Club was named “Club of the Year” in LA the year before and had hosted, among others, Santana and Sarah McLaughlin so it sure looked respectable enough for Julieann, daughter Samantha and her best pal, Ashley to attend.

Of course, we didn’t expect reverent chamber music so we weren’t surprised to see that this particular booking was limited to those age 16 and over. But, I knew Samantha, having an eight-year older brother, was quite educated on things scatological and Ashley couldn’t be too far behind. These were two very bright, athletic girls who excelled in everything and knew more about life than I did when I was thirty.

So I, being the ultra-conservative, over protecting father I was (yeah right), called the club to see it there was any way I could get one of their performer’s underage sister and “cousin” in that night. They were very kind and suggested I fax an explanatory note to their manager. I heard right back from them. It was “fine”; they would hold our seats for us and sit us on the restaurant level of the club. It overlooked the stage and main floor of the club and sounded pretty good to me.

Then, a couple of weeks earlier, TC and his group played a couple of shows in Fresno. “Ernie C”, Bodycount’s lead guitar player watched them and told Tyler he thought they would do fine in their LA performance. That is when I started believing it might really happen. I was a little suspicious before.

I had a couple of free nights from all my road warrior duty as a traveling consultant so we booked a room a few miles from the Strip at the Los Angeles Marriott and we were ready to roll!

Somehow, we all ended up there on Friday night. Julieann, Samantha and Ashley had driven from Sacramento after school. I flew in from Louisville and Tyler and his group arrived in a couple of other vehicles. 

The concert wasn’t until Saturday night so we had a good day of goofing around in anticipation. We dropped the girls off for a day at the Universal Studios theme park while Julie and I went out for a little run around the area to rehash the old days when we used to live not far away. Ty hung out with his group as they collectively recovered from partying Friday night on the Strip.

Julie and I ended up having breakfast at the famous Farmer’s Market, cruising Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, and hiking the Santa Monica pier so we had a pretty full day. We ran into TC and his group while walking on the pier, a damn fine surprise. TC made fun of my surfer shirt and I made fun of his outfit: situation normal.

The ladies and I hit the Key Club at 8pm, right when I was advised they would let us in. We noticed there was a line outside all the clubs we saw there on the Strip and ours was no exception. Even though it was sold out, we had to wait while they did something to get the inside ready.

While we were standing there, we noticed this fairly large, electronic marquee in front. Right there, underneath Bodycount, was the name of one other group and…Stick Figure! In Hollywood no less! We were definitely dazzled.

Then, a guy in line behind us asked Samantha where she got this backward baseball cap she was wearing. She said, “at the Mall” as the guy was wondering if he could buy one there at the Club. TC had it made as a present for his sister. On the front it was embroidered with “Stick Figure”.  On the back, “Campbell”.

We finally got in after Julieann waited patiently (yeah, right) for fifteen minutes or so with us. Security was fair as they were patting down the younger guys. Don’t know why they didn’t check me as I was thinking I was pretty tough looking? We were then shown to the second, restaurant level. It looked like all the seats there were reserved.  The place was pretty new inside and the restaurant level was nicely appointed. We sat at a booth immediately above the stage and had a great, eagle eye view.

Ty’s group played second and there were five bands total that night. I would say the place was around half full when they came on and the crowd was pretty responsive to them. They had a good-sized stage so Ty and the others could move around well.

When they were setting up, Ty looked up at us and we exchanged waves. Samantha attempted to show me the proper way to do it but it was too late.  Then I yelled the old classic showbiz line down to Ty, “Break a leg!” Sam then attempted to educate me that the current line is “F___ up!” but that advice was also too late. 

Tyler and bass man Joel - Key Club '03
There were two sound engineers facing the stage on our level to guide things and the show was terrific to watch. They had about 30 minutes on stage and the second song they did was one Ty wrote.  Mom told me she was very proud. Ty looked like he was having a terrific time, the crowd enjoyed them and lots of Stick Figure demo cd’s were tossed out to them afterward.

It turned out they had a couple of radio stations interview them afterward and Ty had to come up and borrow a pen for autographs! I asked him if he had a good time during one of his visits to us upstairs and he said, “There was nothing I didn’t like about it”.

After a couple of other bands, Bodycount came on and Ice-T “MF’d” just about everyone and everything in the whole world.  Of course, all the preceding bands did their best to support him by doing pretty much the same thing. And I was thinking, they are cheapening the use of the word. Now, how will it have any shock impact when I use it?!

About that time, the head banger crowd on the floor downstairs was “moshing” fairly out of control. I had read about this before but it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t have full effect without being witnessed. Arms flailing, stumbling around in circles, shoving the folks nearby, generally looking frenzied. One of Ty’s long time pals, “PB”had made the trip with the band. He is a big man and when he stepped on the mosh floor he was tossing bodies all over the place. It was serious mayhem and PB was totally in charge. It looked a little like a final review of a written contract proposal when I am trying to manage my client’s crowd of very reluctant participants.  

But that’s what it is all about. Most everyone was smiling and, when someone would fall down, someone else would reach to help them get up. It was fascinating stuff to watch and very good to watch from a safe distance.

Ice-T and his entourage drove the show very hard. It was tough assed, in your face music and there was a little kid, 5 or 6 maybe, on the side of the stage with them (someone told us it was Ice-T’s son). What was that all about?  And what kind of environment was that for a little kid? The music for the final act was really loud though my earplugs were doing the job. I was thinking, by the time that he is 9 years old, he will be “MFing” all over the place and deaf to boot.

A couple of funny things happened while Bodycount was on.  Once, a guy was lifted to “surf” the top of the mosh crowd and they slid him right onto the front of the stage. He got up and started having ‘mosh pit spasms’ right there.  Then, this huge bodyguard swept the little fella’ right up in his arms and he was carried, arms and legs flailing all the while, right off stage left. I never saw him again.

A little while after that, another mosher suddenly appeared stage left, ran past Ice-T to the front of the stage and threw himself out to body surf the crowd. He went down pretty quick and I am not sure if I heard a “clunk” as he hit the floor or not.

Now, I am wondering if that stuff was real, or whether it was staged. If it was staged, it was very cleverly orchestrated and either way, it was a gas.

We left before Bodycount was finished because they were much louder than the other groups and we also wanted to be well clear of the Club when the moshers were ready to close it up.

So, we got in the Jeep and my sainted wife of almost 34 years was all fired up. She couldn’t get over all the “MF’in” that was going on.  She was trying it out for herself for affect, that is, the word itself and different abbreviations. I am busy telling them all that the word has been overused now and has no value. Then, Sam pipes in and reminds her Mom the current, correct abbreviated reference is “MoFo”, pronounced with a couple of  hard ”o’s”.  

So, what did I think about all this? I may have regained some innocence (or maybe the correct term is ignorance) over the years.  I was also wondering why my daughter had to spend her formative years learning vocabulary from her brother. Furthermore, what would I do with this wife who was busy trying out different ways to turn the sky blue?  As the old saying goes, “nothing is sacred.” The Campbell’s sure did their collective part to contribute to that expression over the weekend.  

Sixteen Switch - '04
Epilogue 2017: Some time later, Tyler left Sixteen Switch and formed his own band, Arden Park Roots. Four albums and years later, that story is all over Google.  Julieann, Samantha and I are still attending concerts and I remain among the world’s oldest groupies.

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