Los Straitjackets Surfed into Lexington...Played To Unrestrained Audience

By David Lilly

Is it gimmicky for a band to wear masks while playing on stage? In many cases, yes. For Los Straitjackets, the Mexican wrestling masks are props that enhance their entertainment value. The quality of their October 19 show at Lynagh's far outweighed the minimal ticket price. The stage in Lynagh's is comparable in size to Coyote's stage. Then there's the seating. Gosh, an entire basketball team, and the coach, could sit in there. Seating mattered very little, though - most people who had seats stood with everybody else through the entire show. And what a show it was...Kawanga!

First, there was no warm-up act. The excellent sound system played pre-recorded surf music "on-the-rocks." I'm talking of music so cool it was hot - if it was physical, your flesh would burn at the touch.

Taking the stage promptly at 10 p.m., the band - guitarist Eddie Angel in the black mask, guitarist Danny Amis in the silver mask, bassist Pete Curry donning the winged mask, and drummer Jimmy Lester in the red mask - plunged into rocking out (with the exception of a slow-dance number or two). They did choreography aplenty, which has probably taken mucho practice, but they make it look natural and easy. Songs included "Lonely Apache," "Hornet's Nest," "State Fair," "Itchy Chicken" and "Rockula." Not all songs were introduced, but any introductions were done by Amis, who spoke mostly in rapid Spanish, while quickly tossing in the English titles at the end of each intro. Intermission came after about an hour.

A good singer/entertainer named Big Sandy joined LS during the second half. He wore a black Bat-signal mask, but removed it after three songs. He had good interaction with the audience, with a lot of eye contact. He actually waded a few feet into the crowd at one point, while still singing. LS and Sandy did several songs from the new LS disc, and others just for fun - including two sung in Español. Since this was my first LS show, I appreciated a part of the show being instrumental and a part that included a vocalist.

Curry remained behind Lester for most of the show, except to go stage right and sing backup with Angel during Big Sandy's stage time. While Sandy took a break, LS continued playing. The audience responded with plenty of kinetic energy. Angel played guitar behind his head once or twice, while facing the audience. Amis bobbed his head in break-neck `yes & no' manner occasionally. During the second half, he appeared wide-eyed and mesmerized not only by the audience, but by everything - that could've been sheer concentration on his part (or maybe he's myopic). He was splendid to watch. The Titanic sank again as the band turned Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" into a blast of fun. At one point, the two guitars and bass made a pyramid shape over the drum kit as Lester was given a salute by his bandmates during a short solo.

During the first encore, Sandy sang the song that includes, "Black is black / I want my baby back," then a slow-dance number followed by a song to sprint to. The stage emptied. Finally, the five returned. Sandy sang one more song and left. LS played another giddy number and waved goodnight.

The show was tons of fun, and educational. I could see that surf music isn't easy to play, and probably difficult to play well. Also, this band takes only three things seriously: their musicianship (which is excellent), entertaining the audience, and having a good time. They definitely succeeded at all three.

Check `em out at www.los.straitjackets.com