“Marshall Crenshaw and Los Straitjackets Unrestrained”
Written by Jason Reed
September 14, 2017
On Tuesday September 12th at the Echo in Los Angeles I had the pleasure of witnessing one of the most refreshing and unique musical performances I’ve seen in a while, an amalgamation of melodic and rocking surf guitar mixed with Buddy Holly-esque lyricism that was best embodied by one simple word: “fun.” It was a performance that felt timeless, with artists whose musical sensibilities and influences harken back to the wide-eyed and boundless optimism of youth in America during its zenith in the mid-20th Century. And yet, here I was in 2017, seeing Marshall Crenshaw and Los Straitjackets performing right before my eyes in a spectacle of temporal displacement not seen since Marty McFly McGyvered that flux capacitor, proving that good music is indeed timeless.
Opening up the night was RJ Bloke, an artist from Los Angeles, whose lyrics and country riffs were both beautiful and forlorn. One track in particular, entitled “Fast Life Slow Death” (apparently written for his father) demonstrated the performers’ introspective and melancholic aesthetic.
Then Los Straitjackets took the stage. Wearing their trademark luchador masks, glitter paint and other space-age accouterments, they commanded the stage with a swift attack, not unlike that of U.S. General Patton during the invasion of Normandy. Except here they were invading our ears, liberating us from the tyranny of mediocrity with their sonic assault of feel good tunes.
A few songs into the set, power pop legend Marshall Crenshaw jumped on stage, ready to interject some vocals into the proceedings. Marshall demonstrated his much lauded power pop singing acumen for the rest of the concert, wearing his Motor City influences on his sleeve throughout the set, particularly in playing a Jack Smith rockabilly song and covering Tommy Roe’s “Sheila” (telling the audience that he used to sing the song in an oldies band in the mid 70’s in Detroit).
In keeping with his surf guitar compatriots, Marshall told the audience that he had learned The Ventures’ “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” after many weeks of practicing, then proceeded to adeptly dive into the song. Spanning musical genres, Marshall also lovingly covered the Hollies’ “Bus Stop, ” the Beatles’ “Old Brown Shoe” and Buddy Holly’s “I’m Looking For Someone To Love,” demonstrating his diverse grasp and appreciation of rock ‘n roll history.
Other highlights of the set included Crenshaw classics “Cynical Girl” and “Someday, Someday.” Many a toe was tapping for Marshall and Los Straitjacket’s stellar performance of Nick Lowe’s “Cruel To Be Kind” during the encore as well.
I had the chance to chat with Marshall briefly after the show and get some of my albums autographed. He was a very approachable, super nice guy, just like the dapper, clean-cut, all-American image that his album covers depict.
If you’ve never seen either Marshall or Los Straitjackets perform please do so. By hook or by crook. Someday, someway…..