Steve MacKay and Liquorball
April 4
Grady’s Record Refuge, Ventura

When was the last time you saw a six-time rejected member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame play in your town?  The reject in question is Steve MacKay, sax player with the Stooges from Fun House up through the past 35 years (and member of Club Foot Orchestra, founded by the late and almost forgotten Richard Delmer Kelly), who has teamed up with Liquorball, cream of the Bay Area crop of arch-strangeness. This night’s lineup featured Grady Runyan on guitar, Titch Turner on drums, Marlon Kasberg on bass, Doug Pearson on electronics and Jason X on second sax, with guests Gordon Roberts on electric viola and Jeff Grimes on harmonica. And where were you? 

The keyboards came on like a shortwave radio hopped up on PCP and running free through fields of stereophonic sound, and at points the whole contraption fell into great pits of black-hole puzzlement and came shooting out the other side across a rickety suspension bridge of trebly arpeggios. Grimes’ harmonica came unhinged and was occasionally lost and then found in the Sargasso Sea of disheveled noise, and the synth might as well have been SynthCoke for all its overactive antics equaling those of squalling octopi crying for their mothers. 

It was a taster for MacKay’s appearance at the following evening’s Hop-Frog Kollectiv-presented Post-Asiatic Festival, set squarely in the bosom of gently burgeoning gentrification of Downtown Los Angeles. This night, however, presented a finely-paced session of free improvisation that stripped the loneliness off the Downtown Main Street neighborhood populated by the hallmarks of neon-fed decay: dive bars and pool halls and dusty abandoned storefronts; check-cashing agencies and ice cream. The grit and grainy byproducts of the Motor City lay in these suburban streets which oddly vow as their inverse that there is in fact one way out: be weirder. Preserve your identity. Don’t be afraid — after all, it’s only life. That’s what we had, for the pleasure and edification of, oh, about 15 people. 

‘Twas ever thus, and MacKay nodded sagely and Turner lost a stick — cosmic coincidence control center calling — and the saxes met, almost locking bells, rising up through a haze of drones until coalescing into a thick slab of rock-infused groove rocketing through on its way to another dimension entirely. A fire engine with its lights ablaze paused but ultimately passed. MacKay beamed and said, “Yeah, what the fuck, right?”  Rather!  It seemed as though there was no concrete plan to rock — such is the buried treasure of improvisation — but as though the third mind itself had come to visit, it encountered the Stove Top stuffing of this night’s serving of rock, it’s stayin’. They split, came together and split again, fissile materials of great heat and fury that coaxed even the cue-hardened faithful to come over from the billiards hall next door to see what all the fuss was about — and it’s the sound of what happens in 2001 where the apes discover bones make great drumsticks, just before the sudden leap into the future.