Musician/publisher Stax (center) with his psych-rock band the Loons.
“Being based in San Diego has definitely shaped the magazine to some degree,” says Mike Stax, whose publication Ugly Things celebrates its 30th anniversary at the Casbah over Memorial Day weekend with a slew of vintage garage-band reunions and tributes. “The explosion of teenage bands that occurred in the wake of the British Invasion affected neighborhoods across the country, but for various reasons Southern California was particularly hard hit. Perhaps because there’s more actual garages here for bands to practice in.”
Stax moved from England to San Diego in 1981, playing with the Crawdaddys and Tell-Tale Hearts before forming the Loons, all while building and writing about his collection of obscure recordings by groups long forgotten until the Nuggets and Pebbles compilations became popular. “Many of those garage bands released outstanding 45s. For example, the Lyrics from North County, who I tracked down for a story in one of my earliest issues. Or the Contrasts [from the College/Rolando/La Mesa area], who never even released a record, but still had some great stories, photos, and tapes to share.”
For the Casbah bash, San Diego native Glenn Ross Campbell (of the Misunderstood) will perform with the Loons on Friday, May 24, on a bill that also includes Ebbot Lundberg (Soundtrack of Our Lives), Cyril Jordan (Flamin’ Groovies), and the Neumans. May 25 features Lundberg singing with a reunited version of Love called Love Revisited, with other acts to include a Sloths reunion and the Rosalyns (local ladies from the Loons, Schitzophonics, New Kinetics, and Chinese Rocks). Sunday’s show includes Benedict Arnold & the Traitors (tributing Paul Revere & the Raiders), the Rising Ramrods (members of local garage band Nashville Ramblers), and original “I’m A No-Count” singer Ty Wagner, in his first performance since the ’60s.
With the most unlikely act being Love, whose bandleader Arthur Lee died in 2006, I asked cofounder Johnny Echols why he’s “revisiting” the music minus their famously mercurial frontman. “Back in the day,” says Echols, “soon after the [original] group Love broke up, there was a huge controversy when Arthur began playing venues with his new group and calling them Love. He often faced hostile crowds, demanding to know where the original members were. One particularly obnoxious music critic asked him why he continued to play under those circumstances.
“I cannot fathom how re-creating that which you yourself created can somehow be viewed as a negative.”