- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

There's something different about Los Straitjackets, the fabulous foursome known for its colorful Mexican wrestling masks and energetic instrumental guitar rock. The headgear and crackling musicianship remain intact, but the group charges up its live act and most recent record by adding vocals to the frenzied fun.

Guitarists Danny Amis and Eddie Angel, bassist Pete Curry and drummer Jimmy Lester fill out the punchy, 34-minute "Sing Along with Los Straitjackets" with dynamic early rock 'n' roll tracks and other material ripe for reinvigoration. Rockabilly star The Reverend Horton Heat grabs the mic for Roy Orbison's "Down the Line" and Mark Lindsay, formerly of Paul Revere & the Raiders, lends his talents to the guitar rave-up "Treat Her Right." Allison Moorer, El Vez, Nick Lowe and Raul Malo also help to establish the juke-joint atmosphere. The Trashmen climb aboard for the album-closing "A Huevo," a return to Los Straitjacket's twangy, surf-rock roots.

"We thought doing a record with vocals would be a novelty for us," Mr. Amis recently told "Guitar Player" magazine. "But we're not abandoning instrumentals that's what we do."

Big Sandy, one of the 13 guest artists who appear on the aptly titled album, will handle the singing during tonight's appearance at Iota.

• • •

Funk-fusion houserockers Galactic launches its five week "Freezestyle Tour" with a Wednesday appearance at the 9:30 Club. The show marks the latest homecoming for bassist Robert Mercurio and guitarist Jeff Raines, suburban Maryland natives who moved to New Orleans to attend college and formed Galactic in 1993.

The band thrives on the incorporation of fresh sounds into its music and relishes the opportunity to improvise on stage. No surprise, then, that Galactic would be adventurous with its choice of opening acts. The six-member group tapped a trio of renowned disc jockeys who revel in the unlit corners of the music business but could emerge from the tour with a significant new fan base.

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Triple Threat DJs Shortkut, Apollo and Vinroc set off mini-earthquakes during every live show. Forget the notion of a DJ as somebody who spins records at the prom. These hip-hop artists drop vinyl on turntables and bulldoze existing songs into new sonic temples. Some moments the crowd remains still, stunned by the precise spinning and sheer art of "turntablism." Then the bodies start to rock, moved to dance by the percussive scratching and grooves deeper than the Grand Canyon.

Though the names aren't familiar to mainstream music audiences, Triple Threat members have elevated themselves to DJ royalty. Apollo helped found the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, one of the Bay Area's most adventurous DJ units. Shortkut was a Skratch Pikl and also a member of the World Famous Beat Junkie crew. Vinroc isn't just along for the ride he's won back-to-back International Turntable Federation World Championships.

A day-long DJ competition may be overwhelming for newcomers. But the Triple Threat set at the 9:30 Club will serve as an appetizing introduction.

• • •

In the pages of the book "Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital," authors Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins chronicle D.C.'s hardcore punk origins and the customs associated with the scene. One of the major developments occurred during the summer of 1980, when a group of teen-age musicians traveled to California to perform and witness the West Coast's established groups. The metro area contingent, which included Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) and Henry Rollins (Black Flag, Rollins Band), watched in awe as certain audience members channeled the music's energy into a new form of violent, anarchic dancing. Upon the tour's conclusion, the teen punks returned and introduced slam-dancing to the District and surrounding suburbs.

The legacy of that long-ago road trip lives on at semi-regular punk shows hosted by Nation. The next event, the "Superbowl of Hardcore" on Sunday, even features one of the Left Coast bands who performed during that fateful night more than 21 years ago, the Circle Jerks. The two-stage, 20-band concert is scheduled to include appearances by Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law, Stretch Armstrong and All Out War. Doors open at 3 p.m. to accommodate the all-ages crowd.

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