Monday, July 7, 2014

Ronnie Spector, Burger Boogaloo Rock Oakland

By Sam Lefebvre
Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Shannon & the Clams
  • Kaliisa Conlon
  • Shannon & the Clams

Burger Records was founded by two bedraggled twentysomethings in Orange County in 2007. Fixated on yesteryear’s bubblegum pop, juvenile punk, and ramshackle garage rock, Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard began releasing music by contemporary bands with nostalgic leanings on a suitably outmoded format: cassette. By 2012, Burger Records had sold 80,000 tapes. In 2014, Burger is still headquartered in a nondescript industrial park, only New York Times writers drop by to report on the label’s pot smoking habits and unabashed rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasm. Last weekend, Burger Records collaborated with local concert promoters Total Trash to present the Burger Boogaloo in Oakland’s Mosswood Park.

Much of the Boogaloo crowd conformed to a definite visual aesthetic. Three-inch band buttons were legion, pinned to an array of denim, leather, and polka dot garbs. Many devotees traveled from afar, as announced by back-patches bearing Rat Fink-style graphics anchored by city names. On Sunday, the tribe congregated in Mosswood’s concrete amphitheater, bobbing kindly to local acts like Shannon & the Clams and Personal & the Pizzas. Lining the stage, balloons spelled out the phrase “Be My Baby” in anticipation of the evening’s headliner, Ronnie Spector of legendary 1960s girl group The Ronettes.

Spector was a perfect choice to headline because she’s retained grace, grit, and impeccable style throughout most of modern pop music’s history. Clad in purple with a towering hairdo, Spector’s consummate singing eschewed showy histrionics in favor of sustaining a rich, evocative timbre. Her cover of Johnny Thunders’ plaintive solo ballad “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” was devastating, and a telling reminder of Spector’s seminal historic role. Co-founder of proto-punk outfit The New York Dolls, Thunders is an icon to the sort of listeners rallying around Burger. Still, as Thunders often admitted, his songwriting was heavily indebted to figures like Spector. Through her deeply emotive rendition of a disciple’s song, Spector reminded the Boogaloo crowd that its scene, heroes, and anthems practically belong to her.

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