Johnny Rad Fest Gets Underway In San Diego this Weekend

Eric & The Happy Thoughts at Ronny's in Chicago, photo by <a href=
Eric & The Happy Thoughts at Ronny's in Chicago, photo by Erin Coleman.
posted Thursday Jul 17th, 2008

The release of the skateboard video, The Search for Animal Chin, in 1987 by Powell Peralta left a lasting impression on many of us who came of age skating in the 80s. For one, it summoned the zeitgeist that would carry millions of skaters worldwide to the realization that nothing is more important than skating and the camaraderie that it surrounds. In a brief, but impacting scene during the Bones Brigade's (Steve Caballero, Tommy Guerrero, Tony Hawk, Mike McGill and Lance Mountain) search for the mystic Animal Chin, they found themselves in a seedy part of Las Vegas at The Blue Tile Lounge, where they were greeted by none other than Johnny Rad. After the epitomic lounge singer scats through a couple of songs, all of them brilliant reflections on skating that are hilarious and inspiring, he goes on to give the pubescent Bones Brigade some useful advise on how and where to find Animal Chin. Johnny Rad's lounge act delivery in that scene certainly laid the acceptably cheesy ground work for acts like Richard Cheese a decade later, but despite that, his cool "party dude" mentorship left a much deeper impression on generations to come.

As evidence of Johnny Rad's impact, The Johnny Rad fest is getting underway tonight in San Diego. The three day festival is loaded from top to bottom with an excellent line up that is sure to be a great time. Tonight's showcase at Tower Bar features Maniqui Lazer and Los Sweepers, along with the brilliant summer pop party upstart band, Eric and the Happy Thoughts. Playing jangly, mid-tempo tunes that reek with good, clean optimism, Eric and the Happy Thoughts inject an infectious emanation of danceable hedonism that will have the whole place bumping. Featuring guitarist, Eric from the Romance Novels, this new incarnation carries on with a similar spirit and has no indications of slowing down. Keep your eyes peeled for their debut 7" on Bubbledumb records sometime later this summer.

Friday's show at Ken Club has a packed line up filled with must-see performances, including Half Rats and Wild Weekend who both have opening slots on the bill. From Portland, Leaders play twisted, fuzz-laden garbage disco, that's brilliantly weird, catchy and reminiscent of some kind of absurd German synth-driven nihilist get-up, minus the turtlenecks. Featuring a member of Meercaz and the pillar of the Portland underground, Joe Pestilence, Leaders debut is due out soon on the Point Wrex imprint and will definitely go fast, so stay on top of that shit.

The Tempe, Arizona blasting power-poppers,The Wongs blew the door wide open with their mid-90s debut single on ReRun records with hits like "Jerkin' it to the Trashwoman" and landed themselves on the notorious Rip Off Records label with the release of their debut album. Playing the sort of gruff, neck-breaking tunes that made a name for Rip Off, The Wongs feature Ryan Rousseau, who's played in everything from The Reatards to Digital Leather, Destruction Unit, and Black Sunday. Headlining Friday's showcase are The Pierced Arrows, a Dead Moon offshoot featuring both Fred and Toody Cole, and conjures the same genius the team is know for producing.

Saturday Night, again at Ken Club, is an insane lineup featuring the local outfit, The Atoms, the dangerously introspective and futuristic musings of Digital Leather, and the Lincoln, Nebraska act Brimstone Howl, who kick out a rollicking cooz-blues sound that would fit right in on a soundtrack to a B-movie featuring a panty-raid scene or other such antics. Tokyo Electron, hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, also featuring Ryan Rousseau, plays the sort of barreling, echo-drenched rock'n'roll that is hazardously blaring, and carries the heavy, soul-crushing guitar sound that's capable of impregnating you and leaving you on the stoop before their sets over.

The Spits came out of the blue in the late 90s, amping a sound that married the glorious pop retardation of the Ramones with the weird future-primitive flavors of early Devo, and they did it while giving a nod to skateboard culture. Their legendary debut album features the Wood brother donning trench coats and doing bonelesses off fireplugs, and gave hope to the hoards of aging skaters who still skated pool-shaped decks, and couldn't land a kick-flip if their lives depended on it. The time was ripe for the kind of skaterock, that would blow the baggy pants off knuckleheads everywhere. By now, the Spits are a household name, with another album still in the works, they will go down in history as being one of the best punk bands this unworthy planet has ever seen.

The Festival wraps up Sunday night with a finale showcase in Tijuana at El Cuatro Amigos, and features a performance from Slab City, the curators of the festival this weekend. They play amped and crazed rock'n'roll that lacerates through the bullshit with straight-from-the-gut gusto, complete with whirling keyboards, thuggish melodies, and vocals that sound like they're being barked from a cave. Their single recently released on Rob's House Records is worth picking up, be sure to check their merch table over the weekend or get it here.

Check our San Diego listings for the full line-up and here for more intimate details.

Here's the clip from In Search of Animal Chin that gave rise to Johnny Rad, and try not to carve your ears off to Tommy Guerrero's horrible rap song at the beginning.