Roots-Rocker Hasil Adkins Makes Triumphant Return To L.A.

Lively crowd for influential, West Virginia-based singer/songwriter includes Cramps' Poison Ivy, Lux Interior.

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

still rocking."

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

Crockett hat."

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."