LOS ANGELES -- You don't have to be young to rock. Influential roots-rocker Hasil Adkins, 62, proved that again and again Monday night at his packed Spaceland show.
And you don't have to be old to appreciate a veteran rock 'n' roller. His
fans made that abundantly clear during Adkins' performance.
"He's a legend. He outlived Elvis [Presley] for a reason," 27-year-old Jeffrey Cairns of Echo Park said slowly and deliberately. "He's much more in touch. He's
His long-anticipated performance Saturday at another venue had been cut
short during the fourth song -- "Great Balls Of Fire" -- when the high-hat
broke. But after a 42-year absence from the City of Angels, the native
West Virginian singer/songwriter was met with hard-drinking enthusiasm
Monday night at Spaceland.
The night, which started late, stretched until the California legal limit --
2 a.m. It was another stop on the "Eye-Scratchers and Ball-Kickers West
Coast Tour." And it was more than that.
The Fat Possum label had loaded part of its roster onto a bus for this
series of dates featuring straight-up bluesmen Elmo Williams, Robert Cage
and T-Model Ford.
But Adkins appeared to be the big lure for most in the crowd at Spaceland.
His troubled life -- as captured on tape in a cult-favorite documentary,
"The Wild World of Hasil 'Haze' Adkins: One-Man Band and Inventor of the
Hunch" -- has included chaotic relationships with the opposite sex and,
seemingly, years of extreme vodka consumption. Through it all, he's written
songs that stomp through the territory that lies between blues and
rockabilly, inspiring a bevy of ne'er-do-well musicians such as punkabilly
luminaries the Cramps and the Reverend Horton Heat.
Wearing an oversized pair of sunglasses and a fur hat all night, Adkins cut
quite a figure onstage.
"I had a hat like that when I was six," said Lemmy Kilmister, founder of
Motörhead, the band that arguably originated speed-metal. Kilmister was
working Spaceland's pool table and trouncing all takers. "It's a Davy
But fashion was far from Adkins mind. He had come to rock. He perched
behind his drum kit, playing guitar and his drum pedals at the same time as
he sang. The stripped-down rockabilly-blues mix drew people up toward the
stage. The club heated up.
Adkins performed "Ugly Woman" and "Gone Gone Gone," from his new release on Fat Possum Records, What The Hell Was I Thinking?, and ran through
his classic, "She Said." Duck-tailed, tattooed rockabilly-fanatics pressed up
against dressed-down, collegiate rock fans and fresh-faced blues heads.
"I heard that Hasil Adkins inspired the Cramps," said Andrew Boodakian, 28,
of Dusseldorf, Germany, referring to the cover of "She Said" that appears on the
Cramps album Bad Music For Bad People.
The two core members of the Cramps -- bass player "Poison Ivy" Rorschach (born Christine Wallace) and singer Lux Interior (born Erick Purkhiser) -- were, in fact, right up front for the show. "When we did 'She Said,' we didn't know much about him," Rorschach said later, while she and Interior were en route to their car.
The twosome debated for a moment about whether they got to know his work in
1979 or in the early 1980s. Apart from the aborted set on Saturday, this
was the first time they'd ever seen him play.
"It was a thrill," Rorschach said.
"He's so cool," said a woman known only as Toast, who books Al's Bar in the
downtown warehouse district. "I tried to go see him about four years ago.
There was a whole bunch of us waiting around. Eventually, someone came and
told us he wasn't coming because his trailer had caught on fire."
She paused, trying to explain his appeal. "It's like he's traveling
forward and backward through time."
Toast's friend, Kevin Fitzgerald of the country-punk band the Geraldine
Fibbers, put it more simply. "Hasil Adkins is da bomb," he said, grinning
from under a fishing hat.
Opening act Bob Log III, who is also on Fat Possum, was in a world of his
own. He wore a silver motorcycle-helmet with a crazily rigged telephone-receiver as a microphone. While it looked weird, it sounded like old-style
blues coming through the AM speakers of a '47 coupe.
T-Model Ford, who did time for murder in the 1960s, rocked his blues set
hard, closing with "Cut You Loose." "I'm not the marrying kind!" he roared.
Fred Kiko, 27, of Silverlake interviewed Adkins and T-Model Ford on
perennially punk L.A. radio-station KXLU 88.9 earlier in the day.
Listening to the two of them tell stories, he said, "was incredible."
"[Adkins] was awesome," said Stan Fregog, 22. "He looks like an alcoholic,
twisted version of Pat Boone."