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Live in California

Costa Mesa and L.A.
May 13 and 14, 1999
Review and photos by DFFD123

That seismic activity felt on the West Coast on May 13 wasn't the usual earthquake-mudslide-volcano-what have you, it was the feet of the world heavyweight champion Dictators hitting Southern California soil.

And as laid-back and ambivalent as L.A. residents seem to be to the rocking and rolling of the earth beneath them, don't think they didn't take notice of the boys' arrival.

After all, it had been a seven-year Dictator drought, and the local press delivered glowing testimonials to steer the rock-starved masses to the trough. The New Times Los Angeles interviewed Andy and ran a full-page story heralding the upcoming Spaceland show, and the L.A. Weekly used a photo with its small preview on the prominent Scoring the Clubs page.

Studio
Sunset Gower TV Studios in Hollywood:
Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

The buzz was felt on the streets too, and I could feel it as soon as I arrived from New York. At a record store on Melrose, a shopkeeper went fairly apopletic at the sight of my friend's Dictators T-shirt. He had never seen the legends in the flesh before and was going to both shows, come hell or high water.

The same garment caused a furor at an Alice Cooper record-signing at Tower Records on the Sunset Strip later that day:

"Who's in the band these days?"
"What about Mark 'the Animal' Mendoza?"
"No?"
"Well, do you know what he's doing now?"

And I overheard this exchange between fans at Club Mesa in Costa Mesa the next day:

"I knew you'd be here."
"There's no place in the world I'd rather be tonight.... Do you know what Mark 'the Animal' Mendoza is up to nowadays?"

Maybe HDM isn't the Secret Weapon after all....

Okay, so sometimes the level of interest was mind-boggling, but expectations were high for both shows and we excitedly piled into the car for the hour-plus drive from Hollywood to the hamlet of Costa Mesa, "Behind the Orange Curtain" in Orange County.



Club Mesa



"We came 3,000 miles to play a strip mall!"
Handsome Dick Manitoba,
on stage in Costa Mesa


I had been warned about Club Mesa by the locals, and early signs were indeed ominous. When we got there, beefy frat-boy security guys in white T-shirts outnumbered fans. In addition, the club sells beer in mugs as big as kegs. An ugly combination, for sure.

But no, there was no eruption of violence, from meathead bouncers or overenthusiastic moshers. In fact, the security guys were pretty charming and the handful of fans who showed up pretty much had the Dictators--and all that beer--to themselves. In fact, the worse thing that happened all night was that I, being the only sober one in our party, had to take the wheel and drive.

Or maybe the worse thing was that opener Texas Terri canvassed the club in various states of undress, at one point mooning those of us at the bar from atop the merch table. Still, her set was decent--even if she wasn't--and included a workmanlike cover of "Baby, Let's Twist." In the middle slot were the Lazy Cowgirls, who just smoked. That's a band that obviously loves to be playing and performing. I looked forward to catching them the next night at Spaceland in Silver Lake.

Scott and Ross

Next up: The Dictators. My friend couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the band, the whole band--but no Mendoza, of course--on stage, with instruments, ready to rock on his coast, even if it was only Orange County.

Fresh from a transcontinental flight, Manitoba was obviously less than impressed with the gig's low-rent digs, but he admitted to being under the thunder from some foul Mexican food--a statistical near-impossibility in Southern California, as he pointed out from the stage.

Still, frontman, Top Ten, Ross the Boss and Andy all rocked hard, with drummer J.P. "Thunderbolt" Patterson doing impressive work on the skins. The crowd roared appreciatively, but no encore was forthcoming. No "Next Big Thing." No "Two Tub Man." I don't know if I've ever seen the 'Tators do a full set without "Two Tub." At the very least, I don't want to see one again.

No, it was clear that this show was essentially a warm-up for the next night's gig. The Dictators had their eyes on the prize: L.A.


"Put down your bean sprouts and avocados!"
Handsome Dick Manitoba,
to the assembled at Spaceland

The buzz was especially loud on this show, and there was fear of a sellout. Spaceland isn't very big and all the hipsters who refused to make the trip south to Costa Mesa would be trying to get in tonight for sure.

We got there early and snagged decent parking--a miracle in those parts, I'm told--but a line had already formed and was snaking down the block. There was some panic, but we made it in, just in time to hear the last note of Texas Terri's set.

D'oh!

Spaceland: I came 3,000 miles to stand outside!

The Lazy Cowgirls followed and performed another rip-roarin' set, but all my energy was focused on finding a decent place to stand for the Dictators. It was already packed in front, and there seemed to be a lot of reunions going on in the room of mostly 30-something concertgoers. I saw a lot of the same faces from the night before too.

I couldn't get closer than six people from the stage before the band came out to whoops and hollers. They play their usual "New York, New York," "Haircut and Attitude," "Master Race Rock" opening, bam-bam-bam! The crowd actually seemed stunned. Heck, even I was amazed by the band's intensity--and I'd seen them three times in one week at that point. Not to mention all three times with the same opening! Something was clearly different about this night.

They gave the crowd a minute to breath--and HDM a moment to spout off about technology--before ripping into "Science Gone Too Far." The crowd, coming to after that opening round, went berserk.

And they didn't stop. There was moshing, stage-diving, go-go dancing on stage and fights. Whoever said Californians are mellow has clearly not seen them at a Dictators show. The waves in the crowd were so strong, several audience members repeatedly got pushed on stage all at once. Some tried to stay. Most jumped back in.

The reaction from the fans made the band play that much faster and louder. This was already one of the best Dictators shows I'd ever seen--and that was before Dick donned his wrestling mask for "The Next Big Thing."

There was no backstage, so the encores came fast and furious. Sure enough, I got my "Two Tub Man," and we were treated to "Slow Death" (which I'm told the band performed with Roy Loney of the Flamin' Groovies in San Francisco the following night).

And this show ended the only way it could: out there having fun, listening to "California Sun."


The mask

HDM drives 'em wild in L.A.

Costa Mesa and L.A.
May 13 and 14, 1999
Review by Ariel Thunders

Without a doubt, tonight's rock 'n' roll show (5-14-99) at L.A.'s Spaceland was easily in the top five (or six) best rock 'n' roll shows ever witnessed by yours truly. (In no particular order my top five are Ian Hunter,1979; the Faces,1975; Slade, 1976; Cheap Trick, 1998 House of Blues trilogy; the Stones, 1992).

Who was it? Well, if you didn't know already, it was THE DICTATORS.

After seeing the boys on Thursday (5-13-99) in Costa Mesa, I was using terms such as "Spinal Tap" to describe the band's performance that night. There was only a handful of fans mixed in with the regular crew of white trash miscreants at Club Mesa, resulting in a lackluster show (who could blame them?). The band performed a perfunctory set that lasted little over an hour. It was good but not great.

Friday (5-14-99/Spaceland-LA) was a different story.

Where to begin?

Let's start with the women.

Never has my elbow, shoulders or groin rubbed against such a plethora of nubile flesh in one place. The place was packed, sweaty and reeking of pheromones. There were porno stars and porno star wannabe's crawling all over the place (not to mention the usual crowd of Silver Lake ho's). I love L.A. Even the ugly chicks are good looking.

Next up ... the booze. Full bar, shitty English/Irish and Bud beer on tap, but with Sierra Nevada in bottles (a good thing). Prices were in line with most bars in the city.

I guess the music would be next (did I mention the great parking spot I got?... never mind).

The songs performed would not have disappointed anyone. They opened with "New York, New York" and finished with a tremendous version of "California Sun" that had Top Ten and Ross the Boss riffing off each other like a pair of wrestlers going at each other for the world championship. There was intensity and passion that I have not seen or heard in eons from a rock band. These boys live for RnR. God bless THE DICTATORS!!!

Other songs performed this night included "The Party Starts Now," "Master Race Rock," "Science Gone Too Far," "Haircut and Attitude," "Weekend," "Slow Death," "Stay with Me," "Faster & Louder," "Two Tub Man," "Who Will Save Rock & Roll?" "Sonic Reducer," "I Am Right," "The Savage Beat" and "The Minnesota Strip."

A great night of rock 'n' roll.

In the words of Dr. Winston O'Boogie, "You should have been there."


Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco
May 15, 1999
Review by Keith Storer

I first heard the Dictators when "Bloodbrothers" came out, made a tape and my friend David and I took off in his Granada for a pool party at a rich kid's house near Columbus, Ohio. We parked and watched great-looking girls slink past the car and into the party. As "Slow Death" came to an end, we couldn't believe how great the record was and proceeded to listen to it two more times before going in and trying to play it for everyone at the party. Like all great things, it was ours--everyone else hated it and Marshall Tucker and Skynyrd were put back on.

Twenty years later. He and I are still friends and both living in San Francisco, "Bloodbrothers" finally comes out on CD and takes its place along with Wild Kingdom on the jukebox at David's bar Toranado. Then we hear about the Bottom of the Hill show--unbelievable. The bar is small, the kind of place where people seem to go without knowing or caring who's playing. It's packed though; how do all these people know about the Dictators? They're not old enough, or half cool enough to really know.

We expected a lot from the Dictators, maybe too much I thought, every other band that I've seen and used to love has been either tired, pathetic, or completely different people. Was this going to be another in a long series of letdowns? No. Fuck no.

The Dictators kicked ass. The tightest band I've ever seen. The loudest, best-sounding show I've ever seen/heard. I'm not a guy who remembers the order of the songs or the banter, I can say that I believe the show was pretty much the same as I've read on the site with one exception--they played my favorite, "Slow Death." They played it with the guy who wrote it--Roy Loney from the Flamin' Groovies. A great time, "Slow Death" was better than in the car outside that party 20 some-odd years ago. Who will save rock and roll? Nobody reading this has any doubt and neither does David or I.


Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco
May 15, 1999
Review by Chris Baker

The Dictators with Jacksaints, Kingdom First (bad name, dynamite front man)

(I think these were all the songs, the order isn't right though--hey, send me a tape and prove me wrong!)

Intro house music: (I Live for) Cars and Girls

New York, New York
Haircut and Attitude
Science Gone Too Far
Master Race Rock
The Savage Beat
Baby, Let's Twist
What's Up With That
Who Will Save Rock & Roll?
Weekend
Minnesota Strip
The Party Starts Now
Faster and Louder
Sonic Reducer
I Am Right
Stay With Me
----------------
The Next Big Thing
Two-Tub Man
---------------
Slow Death
California Sun


--Some guy behind me greeted the band's appearance by screaming "Fuck you!!!! Dictators you suck!!!" Then spitting something (probably semen) onto the stage, at which Andy Shernoff fixed him with a deadly glare and said "Hey man ... don't spit." Cut him some slack, Andy! He'd been studying the Time/Life Punk Retrospective Issue and had read that that's what he's supposed to do!

--Some guy (possibly the expectorator) screamed "Manitoba, you take it up the ass!" HD nodded sadly at him, said "And I'm in the right town for that, AREN'T I?"

--More unhinged crowd members: some guy leapt onstage so he could give the finger to a girl at ringside ... uh, by the side of the stage, I mean. I guess she was a girlfriend/ex-girlfriend and she'd been shaking it a little too lewdly in the band's direction. Jeez buddy, nothing like making sure nobody in the house misses it ... so okay, she's a slut, play past it! Then he dove into the crowd, executing what I believe is called the Drunk Cuckold's Sprawl. None of this fazed the band at all.

--Powerhouse drumming by J.P. Patterson, who seems to carry some piece of gear in a Barney lunchbox (?). He was playing with a fairly basic kit and just beating the holy hell out of it.

--Ross was great as ever, guitar assault that makes me think of the intersection of Buck Dharma and Chuck Berry, and that's some goddamned neighborhood there ... but the style's all Ross and he was tearing it up. Some of his solos were not as loud/distinct as I would have liked ... I also was right up front (and not on his side of the stage) so possibly that was due to my location. Overall the sound of the show was just what I'd hoped for, very loud but with a lot of crunch, not just a high-volume stew. If it had been any louder in that small club (capacity 271), I think the instruments would have just bled together. And my ears would have bled with 'em. Speaking of which, does nobody in the band use earplugs?

--Top Ten was looking ace, what's his hair now, yellow? White? (There's a roots rock joke in there somewhere...) Hard to tell under the lights, nifty duds though--some kind of mechanics jumpsuit with "Elvis" stitched on it. Ross' lead playing always made such an impression on me that I really never gave Top Ten's playing its due, but it was really clear tonight (as it's been on those phenomenal last couple of singles) how integral he is to the band's sound. And how fucking good he is. He's also got sharp moves to spare, great fun to watch him sling that guitar around.

--There seemed to be a little uncertainty about when and how the solo in "California Sun" is supposed to end, with Scott grimacing at Ross in a way that made it clear it wasn't his fault ... hey, one mistake a show, that sounds about right. Scott and HD also had a discussion before Roy Loney of the Flamin' Groovies came up for "Slow Death," apparently about getting/giving RL a guitar ... for whatever reason (probably lack of guitars) they didn't, so RL didn't have a whole lot to do on stage for the bulk of the song. He seemed cool with it though, and his vocals were very strong.

--Andy let the rest of the guys do their stage stuff, just hammered out the bass lines, sang ... took lead vocal on "What's Up with That," don't think I'd ever heard this before, good tune. He did look a little amused at HD's anti-Internet rap, as well he should, since he's apparently behind the band's web site. HD said at one point that "Brian Wilson here has been writing some new songs."

--What can I say about the Handsome One? "It's been a long time between drinks," he announced at the show's beginning. And later ... "You may love me...you may hate me...but you can't ignore me...I AM HANDSOME DICK MANITOBA...AND I AM RIGHT!!!" Great vox, great jokes, great god in heaven ... the expression on his face as he sang "... And we're scared of growing old" was classic...

--This was the fifth Dictators show I've seen since '74, and the best parts of it were as good as the best I've ever heard 'em. And the best parts of this show were most of 'em. Andy Shernoff has said that the upcoming Dictators album will be the best one ever. I'd bet the rent on it.


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