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The Knitters @ Safari Sam's, 12.29.06

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We've been to quite a few shows lately at Safari Sam's, one of Hollywood's newest live music venues, but until Friday night's show had yet to see the man behind the scenes: Sam himself. Before the show began, Sam appeared on stage to tell the audience about how excited he was to have the Knitters play his venue; they (and X) have been one of his favorite bands for a very long time. Even before The Knitters began playing, it was obvious that if this was a big deal to Sam, it should be a pretty big deal to everyone.

The show opened with San Diego's Nathan James and Ben Hernandez, playing traditional blues like it was meant to be played; besides guitars, the duo dabbled around with a washtub bass, coffee can percussion, the kazoo, spoons and harmonica. The knee-slappin' blues mixed with gospel set the stage for the Americana theme of the night.

A rootin' tootin' country side project from essential Los Angeles punk band X, The Knitters consist of vocalist Exene Cervenka, singer/bassist John Doe, guitarist Dave Alvin, and drummer DJ Bonebrake. While the style is much more traditional rock and roll than punk rock, X's signature sound of John Doe's Elvis-like impersonation juxtaposed with Exene's bratty, cynical wailing is still alive and well. The members have been on a rough and rocky road since X's formation thirty years ago, but songs like "Poor Little Critter on the Road," "In This House That I Call Home," and "Burning House of Love" were shining examples of how much fun songs about political wrongdoings, ghosts, drinking, and dead people can be.