Concert Review: Plenty of Boston at L.A. Festivals

By Susie Davidson

So why am I going to write about the Nuggets concert for a New England outlet? Because, totally surprising to me, there was a lot of Boston in the show.

The Alex Theatre in Glendale. Photo: Susie Davidson

On May 19, I trotted down Brand Boulevard in Glendale. I was mainly taking in the upscale cityscapes, especially because I had just checked out of a Hollywood hostel in a questionable area (of course, I have no preferences).

I was in L.A. for the annual Cruel World 80s alternative festival the next day at the Rose Bowl, and that was the only live music on my mind. But as I passed the Alex Theatre I did a double take, astounded to see that that very night, it was hosting the “Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968” all-star tribute show.

I had heard about the July 28 and 29 50th-anniversary concert celebrating the legendary, hugely influential, 15-volume Nuggets record series at City Winery in New York, and had made a mental note. But wowsa, right here in Glendale, that night! The stars were aligned — in more ways than one.

Golden Jubilee events (the first Nuggets was released in October, 1972) were put together by record collector, music producer, Sirius XM “Underground Garage” DJ, proto-punk/garage rock expert and Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, along with Nuggets label Rhino Records.

And according to the theater window poster I checked out, Kaye and The Wild Honey Orchestra Nuggets All-Star Band would be backing an eye-popping roster of guest artists on songs from the records. Those guests would include Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Elliot Easton (The Cars), Mike Peters (The Alarm), Peter Case (Plimsouls), The Three O’Clock [THE THREE O’CLOCK!], Peter Zaremba (The Fleshtones), Kathy Valentine (The Go-Go’s) Carla Olson, Weird Al Yankovic, Wayne Kramer of the MC5, Scott McCaughey (Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows, R.E.M.), Johnny Echols (Love), Billy Vera, Jim Pons (The Leaves), David Aguilar (The Chocolate Watchband), Van Dyke Parks, Paul Kopf & Daryl Hooper (The Seeds), and more.

The extravaganza was a benefit for the Autism Healthcare Collaborative. It was a zero-brainer. I was there.

It helped that my new hotel was a block away and that I had some time to chill from what had thus far and would continue to be a whirlwind trip. On Wednesday night when I arrived, I got together with Cali pal Richard and dear friends Irv Ziskind (who was in the Boston band Uzi) and his wife, Deborah.

The next night I had dinner with Richard and two of my cousins, Jonathan and Steven, in the Valley.

In between, I did the Walk of the Stars (very sobering to see homeless tents adjacent to those for Audrey Meadows, Lucille Ball, and Gregory Peck, to say the least) and an equally important walk through Amoeba Records’ new Hollywood locale.

I walked to the theater an hour beforehand to buy a ticket (no TicketShyster for me!) and was lucky to procure one of the final seats left.

So why am I going to write about the Nuggets concert for a New England outlet? Because, totally surprising to me, there was a lot of Boston in the show.

The theater was just what you would want and expect, an old-timey lobby featuring displays of venerable films and stars, filled with decked out Californians in period attire.

I felt like I personified the Plimsouls’ hit “A Million Miles Away” from the Boston music scene. But it was not to be.

The very second song, “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?,” sung by Cindy Lee Berryhill, a singer-songwriter who co-founded the New York Antifolk movement, was a 1965 hit for The Barbarians, and remains a novelty staple.

Kaye explained after the song that back then, having long hair was perceived as just revolutionary.

And so it was for the Barbarians, who formed in Provincetown in 1964, began playing at the local club The Rumpus Room, and continued to wear beach attire at their shows that included sandals, open shirts and, inordinately longish hair. Their song “Moulty,” about their drummer Victor Moulton (who somehow played drums with a prosthetic left hand), was included in the 1972 Nuggets compilation.

The very next song, “Little Bit o’ Soul,” a 1967 #2 hit by The Music Explosion, was performed by the Paley Brothers. As they were introduced, I thought to myself, “Aren’t they from Boston?” Sure enough, Kaye raved about their band the Sidewinders, one I remember from high school. And, Jonathan Paley was a guitarist in the beloved Boston early punk/new wave band The Nervous Eaters, who are still playing and recording.

On through delightful renditions of classics like “96 Tears,” “Liar, Liar,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Sugar and Spice” and “Lies” (sung by Case, speaking of the Plimsouls).

Next was Billy Vera, performing the garagey classic he wrote, “Don’t Look Back,” a 1966 hit for the Remains (and later, covered by Robert Plant). The Remains? Weren’t they…. Wait a minute, didn’t they open for the Beatles? Yes, and yes.

Another Boston-hailing band, the original members were dorm-mates at Boston University and formed the band in 1964. The hard-gigging quartet played at the Rat and lots of other clubs, appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, and in 1966, were offered the dream of a lifetime, a three-week opening stint for the Fab Four. That included the show at Suffolk Downs.

Three more still-highly entertaining classics ensued, including “Pushin’ Too Hard” by the Seeds, with original members Paul Kopf and Daryl Hooper joining Kaye on this punk-prequel classic.

Next? Well, it was the Fleshtones’ Zaremba (who is a DJ mate on the Sirius Show with Kaye), along with Elliot Easton, who attended Berklee and whose famed band was of course formed in Boston, doing the Standells’ “Dirty Water.”

And so I was sitting there, a complete outsider among funky and wildly dressed Californians, while they were singing “Down by the river, down by the banks of the river Charles,” and then, “Boston, you’re my home.”

Bostonians, we are on the map!

The Barbarians in performance at the Alex Theatre. Photo: Susie Davidson

And I’ve got proof, because I filmed it. Attendee Richard Trepsas sent some confirmation: “The Barbarians and the Remains were both Boston bands! The Remains were on the Beatles tour playing I think it was 1966, when I saw them at the Suffolk Downs racetrack.”

Trepsas, who likely saw Massachusetts in my YouTube moniker, continued. “Barry [Tashian, of the Remains] said the Beatles were very friendly, and came back to talk to the guys in his band during the flight. Boston pride❤.”

I found Trepsas on Facebook and he wrote back. He’s a native Bostonian raised in Stoughton and had learned about the show from his friend Brian Goslow, a fellow WCUW (Worcester) volunteer DJ. “Way back in 1978, we were also both DJs at WMBR,” Trepsas wrote. “I was there from 1978 through 1981, doing a morning wake up musical variety show called ‘The Alternative Alarm Clock,’ and an alternating Friday night rock show.”

Well, I barely had time to bask after “Dirty Water,” as it was followed up by the Syndicate of Sound’s “Little Girl,” with its utterly infectious rolling guitar sequence.

The set concluded in grand style with one of my faves, Mike Peters of The Alarm, joined by Wayne Kramer of the MC5 on The Amboy Dukes’ 1968 hit “Baby Please Don’t Go.”

Thankfully, they weren’t going. It was only intermission, a chance for audience members to bid on albums and books on tables in the lobby. And again, to take it all in.

All I can say about the second set is if you remember it, you weren’t there. You had Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles with Owen Elliott (daughter of “Mama” Cass Elliott) doing Steven Stills’ “Sit Down, I Think I Love You,” and on accordion, Weird Al.

The Three O’Clock performing at the Alex Theatre. Photo: Susie Davidson

Another of my faves, The Three O’Clock, a star band among the ’80s “Paisley Underground” L.A. psychedelic revival scene and protegés of Prince (whose Paisley Park was named for that particular era), covered Todd Rundgren’s psychedelia blast “Open My Eyes.”

After that, James Lowe, founder of the Electric Prunes, led their 1966 #11 hit “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night.” What could be better?

Well, maybe Kenn Ellner, original (in Dracula trench) of Count Five, doing their 1966 #5 song “Psychotic Reaction” (Elliot Easton on guitar).

Or ex-R.E.M.s Peter Buck joining Scott McCaughey (both of The Minus 5) and Kaye on The Premiere’s 1964 #19 song “Farmer John.”

Lastly, there was a stage-filled finale of what Kaye called the “National Anthem of Garage Rock.” Originally recorded in 1965 by Them, and also Shadows of Knight and later so many others, that was “Gloria.” (Of course, Kaye also got to play it in Patti Smith’s stupendous 1981 rendition, which ranked at #97 on Rolling Stone’s 2021 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.)

There weren’t just the Glendale and New York concerts commemorating the Nuggets milestone. Kaye and Rhino Records had organized three days of free events in Los Angeles and put out a vinyl box set (including unreleased cuts, new liner notes, and author bios) for Record Store Day on April 22.

On April 20, at Sheep’s Clothing, Kaye answered questions from DJ/producer Tana Yonas. The following day, a psychedelic dance party was held at Gold Diggers with live music, go-go dancers, and a psychedelic light show.

On Record Store Day, Rhino and Amoeba Hollywood hosted an after-party on the Kimpton Everly Hollywood’s rooftop, where Kaye spun an all-vinyl DJ set, and signed copies of the boxed set, which was limited to 10,000 numbered copies.

Billy Vera, performing his song “Don’t Look Back,” a 1966 hit for the Remains (and later covered by Robert Plant) at the Alex Theatre. Photo: Susie Davidson

Now I’m just sayin’, but you might kick yourself if you miss the New York editions, which will again be hosted by Lenny Kaye and will feature Patti Smith, Bob Mould, Juliana Hatfield, Jesse Malin, Marshall Crenshaw, Ivan Julian, Peter Buck, James Mastro and others.

On to Cruel World.

The next day I boarded the bus to Pasadena and fell into a bunch of people heading to the free Cruel World shuttle. When we got there, like everyone else I filled my water bottle, to be told that the next person over loved my accent and was I from the East Coast? I said “Yeah, Boston, second year in a row.” (Oh well, you try to lose the Boston accent to no avail.)

Made it inside to catch Animotion, whom I had met two years ago in Belgium at the W Fest that I attend every August. (Yes, have ’80s festivals, I travel.)

Before he introduced the Vapors, a local radio station DJ remarked that people had come from all over to attend. “There are people here from Boston [!],” he said, “New York, and even Europe.”

With tens of thousands in attendance, the odds for that were pretty good, but my hometown, nonetheless.

Prior to a phenomenal set by Gang of Four, I heard a fan behind me (stage-front) say that he had not cut his hair since the pandemic began. I turned around and said “Me too, and same for many of my friends. We all just let our hair grow for that year and a half, and then we decided that we kind of liked it long.”

And I told him about “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl” (which he knew), and how Kaye said that back then, it was just radical!

I am safely back now, by that “dirty water.” You can go home again, albeit with a head full of memories.

Susie Davidson is a longtime freelance correspondent based in Brookline, MA. Her articles have appeared in news outlets including the Houston Chronicle, the Huffington Post, the Forward, Boston Globe, WickedLocal/Gannett, Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post.


  1. Lisa Plosker on May 29, 2023 at 12:09 pm

    Great story, and can’t wait for CW 2024!

  2. Dave on May 29, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    I was only 11 when Nuggets came out in 1972 but my older brother played this constantly and grew to love it.

    Great article and coverage of this important and influential compilation!

  3. Carelle on May 29, 2023 at 5:23 pm

    This was a very important period in the music history. Really great to read about it from Belgium. My thanks to the author.

  4. Alan on May 29, 2023 at 8:10 pm

    Great musical history!! Glad Boston was part of it!
    Great article!

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