Sep. 28, 2014

Wild Honey's "Big Star" Benefit at Wilshire Ebell Theatre

by Marc Platt
September 27, 2014
Los Angeles, CA

Big Star was a band from Memphis, Tennessee in the early 1970s that has reached such great posthumous plaudits so many years since they barely made a dent in the music world.

It is their afterlife that so many musicians and hard core 60s/70s pop revere.

There was quite a cast of 1980s indie and major label heroes on hand at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre to not only pay tribute, but add their own talents to two of the band's album recordings.

'Big Star #1 Record' was first on the agenda. You knew from the first notes of "Feel," the first song on '#1 Record" that you were in for a special evening as Posies/Big Star alum Ken Stringfellow faithfully executed that lead track with all of the power of the original. 

Semisonic's Dan Wilson sang "Ballad of El Goodo" with as much Alex Chilton sensitivity as could be expected with Sue Hoffs and the Peterson sisters singing the harmonies. The Bangles gals would be back many times throughout the evening in several roles.

"#1 Record sailed along with Mike Mills (R.E.M.) "In The Street," North Carolina singer-songwriter-and-future-star Skylar Gudasz singing Chilton's "Thirteen" with beauty and grace.

Jason Falkner and the Posies Jon Auer rocked the house with "Don't Lie To Me." I need to mention Mitch Easter's BRILLIANT guitar work starting right here. He was emaculate throughout the evening, but I really started to notice it on this song that he was carrying all the old Alex Chilton parts perfectly. Mitch Easter is a monster guitar player and this evening really brought that home.

One of the highlights of this first set was Big Star's original drummer Jody Stephens stepping up to the microphone and singing Andy Hummel's (the deceased bass player) "The India Song." This man can sing very well. Who knew Jody Stephens was this good. He sang several more songs throughout the night.

After the intermission Django Haskins sang the opening track of 'Sister Lovers' Edxen Ahbez's "Nature Boy," a song oriiginally made famous by Nat King Cole. It was fabulous.

One of the highlights of the night was Mike Mills campy version of the campy tongue-in-cheeky "Jesus Christ." It was perfect, along with the sleighbells.

The true highlight of 'Sister Lovers' was Brett Harris singing the experimental "Kanga Roo." I was wondering how they were going to pull this track off. Home run. It was amazing. Van Dyke Parks must be commended on his brilliant string arrangements and conducting.

The encores were great, including a Mitch Easter version of the Kinks "Til The End of the Day."

The night ended with The Bangles reprising their version of Big Star's "September Gurls" from the Radio City Album and an impromptu no-mic version of "I'm In Love With A Girl."

The evening benefitted the Autism Think Tank and was sponsored by the new company. The Wild Honey Orchestra does a few of these benefits annually and is headed up by Paul Rock, whose son is autistic.