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Ugly Things magazine celebrates 40 years with reunions & showcases

Little Italy and South Park to host weekend long local-centric celebration

"We cover underground garage bands, many of them obscure and most from the '60s," says Ugly Things magazine publisher Mike Stax. The publication bills itself as "the ultimate rock & roll read, bringing you wild sounds from past dimensions, from times when rock & roll was young, daring, dangerous and vital."   

As Stax explains, “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 while building and writing about his collection of obscure recordings by long forgotten performers. 

“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.” In 2011, Stax's local label Ugly Things Records released a Contrasts CD compilation, including unreleased demos.

Stax specializes in searching for long-lost recording artists, unreleased tracks, and untold tales. Sometimes, he just wants to know if one of his unheralded heroes is still alive. "The way I usually track these guys down is by going through [Internet] phone directories from all over the country -- just finding people with the same last name and making phone calls to everyone in hopes of finding my guy directly or maybe a family member who can put me on the right path."

On August 25 and 26, Ugly Things celebrates its 40th anniversary with a weekend of concert programming at the Casbah in Little Italy, and a daytime celebration at the Whistle Stop in South Park on August 26 and 27. Day one at the Casbah features Stax with his current band The Loons along with Mohama Sez, the Uni Boys, DJs, and other guests. 

Upcoming Event

Mohama Saz and The Loons

  • Friday, August 25, 2023, 8 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • Age Limit: 21+ / $20

More

Day two at the Casbah includes a reunion of local garage heroes The Nashville Ramblers, along with The Wyld Gooms and a tribute to Gabor Szabo in the Razzmatazz Room, with a light show courtesy of Operation: Mindblow. The Ramblers were founded by members of noted local combos such as The Crawdaddys, The Gravedigger Five, and Mystery Machine. Led by Carl Rusk (guitar) with Tom Ward (bass) and Ron Silva (drums), they released their song “The Trains” in 1986. The tune is now considered a power-pop classic, and was included in the Children of Nuggets box set from Rhino Records. Steven Van Zandt, guitarist for the E Street Band and host of Little Steven’s Underground Garage, called the tune “one of the most unspeakably gorgeous instances of romantic yearning disguised as a pop song.” 

“In 1986, ‘Trains’ and one other Ramblers song appeared on an obscure U.K.-only compilation, but few people noticed,” says Stax, whose Ugly Things Records released the tune on vinyl in January 2011. “But it’s never had a proper release before. The [Ugly Things] release is an attempt to rectify that.” Part of the song’s appeal stems from the ’60s-style recording, achieved utilizing a vacuum tube three-track Ampex 300, with an echo chamber driven by a tube mono one-track deck. “Everyone that hears it seems to fall in love with it,” says Stax. “It’s that good.”

Upcoming Event

The Nashville Ramblers and The Wyld Gooms

  • Saturday, August 26, 2023, 8 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • Age Limit: 21+ / $20

More

Sponsored
Sponsored

The Ramblers have played a number of notable reunion gigs. The cult power pop band played an April 12, 2014 set at the Casbah. They reunited again at Til Two on May 16, 2015, for a bill that also included the Rosalyns. A January 7, 2017 gig at a private party in Hollywood found former Monkee Micky Dolenz performing with the group.

The Whistle Stop Bar in South Park will host a daytime Ugly Things celebration on Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27. The Saturday event includes a record swap meet with a live DJ, merch stalls, and exhibitions from 1-5pm. "All of the daytime events will be free of charge," notes Stax. "We have various vendors on the Saturday such as Dionysus Records, JJ’s Hoard vintage clothes, The Record Room, @sundazedmusic, Ready Steady Pop Archives, and Steve Kader & Chris Stillwell rare 45s & LPs. We will also have our Ugly Things guest DJs take turns on the decks. Feel free to bring a small box of records to trade if you’d like."

Sunday's festivities kick off at 2pm and include a Q&A panel with Eddie Shaw of The Monks, five American GIs who formed a band while stationed in Germany in 1966. "Since they couldn't grow their hair long like most rock and rollers," says Stax (who originally tracked down Shaw for an article), "they shaved their heads like monks, dressed in black robes with a rope around their necks, and actually got signed by Polydor Records. They had a minimalist, stripped-down sound, with tribal drumbeats, feedback, an electric banjo they used as kind of a percussion instrument -- very ahead of their time. This was before anyone had ever heard of the Velvet Underground or Jimi Hendrix. They all had common names so I was having no luck finding them through phone books. Then, quite by accident, it turned out that a friend of a friend's uncle was Eddie Shaw from the Monks. Once I got a hold of Eddie by phone, I drove all the way out to Carson City, Nevada, to meet with him. We spent a weekend going through all his scrapbooks and photos, his original clothes, even his bass guitar. It was quite amazing, this long-lost time capsule he dusted off for us."

Courtesy Mike Stax/Ugly Things

The Whistle Stop will also host a Sunday Q&A session with filmmaker Hank Rank, drummer for the seminal California punk rock 'n' roll group Crime, another band heavily featured in Ugly Things. In addition, the South Park venue will screen the related film Crime 1978 - San Francisco's First and Only Rock 'N' Roll Movie. The project is compiled from footage for Larry Larson's uncompleted documentary Punk Is, featuring unreleased Super 8 footage of Crime and other material.

Upcoming Event

Ugly Things Magazine 40th anniversary Celebration

  • Saturday, August 26, 2023, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Whistle Stop Bar, 2236 Fern Street, San Diego
  • Age Limit: Not available

More

When not playing with The Loons and publishing Ugly Things (which features multiple contributors besides his own articles), Stax found time to release a book in 2016, Swim Through the Darkness: My Search for Craig Smith and the Mystery of Maitreya Kali, published by Process Media. "It's a strange, tragic story of music and madness that took me fifteen years to piece together based on hundreds of hours of interviews, deep research, and sleepless nights. This book haunted my dreams. Whether or not you're familiar with Craig Smith's music [Penny Arkade, Chris & Craig, Maitreya Kali, the Good Time Singers], I believe you'll find his story compelling." The book includes rare photos, many of them previously unpublished, and a companion compilation of rare and unreleased music.



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"We cover underground garage bands, many of them obscure and most from the '60s," says Ugly Things magazine publisher Mike Stax. The publication bills itself as "the ultimate rock & roll read, bringing you wild sounds from past dimensions, from times when rock & roll was young, daring, dangerous and vital."   

As Stax explains, “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 while building and writing about his collection of obscure recordings by long forgotten performers. 

“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.” In 2011, Stax's local label Ugly Things Records released a Contrasts CD compilation, including unreleased demos.

Stax specializes in searching for long-lost recording artists, unreleased tracks, and untold tales. Sometimes, he just wants to know if one of his unheralded heroes is still alive. "The way I usually track these guys down is by going through [Internet] phone directories from all over the country -- just finding people with the same last name and making phone calls to everyone in hopes of finding my guy directly or maybe a family member who can put me on the right path."

On August 25 and 26, Ugly Things celebrates its 40th anniversary with a weekend of concert programming at the Casbah in Little Italy, and a daytime celebration at the Whistle Stop in South Park on August 26 and 27. Day one at the Casbah features Stax with his current band The Loons along with Mohama Sez, the Uni Boys, DJs, and other guests. 

Upcoming Event

Mohama Saz and The Loons

  • Friday, August 25, 2023, 8 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • Age Limit: 21+ / $20

More

Day two at the Casbah includes a reunion of local garage heroes The Nashville Ramblers, along with The Wyld Gooms and a tribute to Gabor Szabo in the Razzmatazz Room, with a light show courtesy of Operation: Mindblow. The Ramblers were founded by members of noted local combos such as The Crawdaddys, The Gravedigger Five, and Mystery Machine. Led by Carl Rusk (guitar) with Tom Ward (bass) and Ron Silva (drums), they released their song “The Trains” in 1986. The tune is now considered a power-pop classic, and was included in the Children of Nuggets box set from Rhino Records. Steven Van Zandt, guitarist for the E Street Band and host of Little Steven’s Underground Garage, called the tune “one of the most unspeakably gorgeous instances of romantic yearning disguised as a pop song.” 

“In 1986, ‘Trains’ and one other Ramblers song appeared on an obscure U.K.-only compilation, but few people noticed,” says Stax, whose Ugly Things Records released the tune on vinyl in January 2011. “But it’s never had a proper release before. The [Ugly Things] release is an attempt to rectify that.” Part of the song’s appeal stems from the ’60s-style recording, achieved utilizing a vacuum tube three-track Ampex 300, with an echo chamber driven by a tube mono one-track deck. “Everyone that hears it seems to fall in love with it,” says Stax. “It’s that good.”

Upcoming Event

The Nashville Ramblers and The Wyld Gooms

  • Saturday, August 26, 2023, 8 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • Age Limit: 21+ / $20

More

Sponsored
Sponsored

The Ramblers have played a number of notable reunion gigs. The cult power pop band played an April 12, 2014 set at the Casbah. They reunited again at Til Two on May 16, 2015, for a bill that also included the Rosalyns. A January 7, 2017 gig at a private party in Hollywood found former Monkee Micky Dolenz performing with the group.

The Whistle Stop Bar in South Park will host a daytime Ugly Things celebration on Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27. The Saturday event includes a record swap meet with a live DJ, merch stalls, and exhibitions from 1-5pm. "All of the daytime events will be free of charge," notes Stax. "We have various vendors on the Saturday such as Dionysus Records, JJ’s Hoard vintage clothes, The Record Room, @sundazedmusic, Ready Steady Pop Archives, and Steve Kader & Chris Stillwell rare 45s & LPs. We will also have our Ugly Things guest DJs take turns on the decks. Feel free to bring a small box of records to trade if you’d like."

Sunday's festivities kick off at 2pm and include a Q&A panel with Eddie Shaw of The Monks, five American GIs who formed a band while stationed in Germany in 1966. "Since they couldn't grow their hair long like most rock and rollers," says Stax (who originally tracked down Shaw for an article), "they shaved their heads like monks, dressed in black robes with a rope around their necks, and actually got signed by Polydor Records. They had a minimalist, stripped-down sound, with tribal drumbeats, feedback, an electric banjo they used as kind of a percussion instrument -- very ahead of their time. This was before anyone had ever heard of the Velvet Underground or Jimi Hendrix. They all had common names so I was having no luck finding them through phone books. Then, quite by accident, it turned out that a friend of a friend's uncle was Eddie Shaw from the Monks. Once I got a hold of Eddie by phone, I drove all the way out to Carson City, Nevada, to meet with him. We spent a weekend going through all his scrapbooks and photos, his original clothes, even his bass guitar. It was quite amazing, this long-lost time capsule he dusted off for us."

Courtesy Mike Stax/Ugly Things

The Whistle Stop will also host a Sunday Q&A session with filmmaker Hank Rank, drummer for the seminal California punk rock 'n' roll group Crime, another band heavily featured in Ugly Things. In addition, the South Park venue will screen the related film Crime 1978 - San Francisco's First and Only Rock 'N' Roll Movie. The project is compiled from footage for Larry Larson's uncompleted documentary Punk Is, featuring unreleased Super 8 footage of Crime and other material.

Upcoming Event

Ugly Things Magazine 40th anniversary Celebration

  • Saturday, August 26, 2023, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Whistle Stop Bar, 2236 Fern Street, San Diego
  • Age Limit: Not available

More

When not playing with The Loons and publishing Ugly Things (which features multiple contributors besides his own articles), Stax found time to release a book in 2016, Swim Through the Darkness: My Search for Craig Smith and the Mystery of Maitreya Kali, published by Process Media. "It's a strange, tragic story of music and madness that took me fifteen years to piece together based on hundreds of hours of interviews, deep research, and sleepless nights. This book haunted my dreams. Whether or not you're familiar with Craig Smith's music [Penny Arkade, Chris & Craig, Maitreya Kali, the Good Time Singers], I believe you'll find his story compelling." The book includes rare photos, many of them previously unpublished, and a companion compilation of rare and unreleased music.



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