Misc. Reviews

Johnny Z and the Camaros at the Gold Dust Lounge

Drop a couple bucks in Johnny Z and the Camaros' tip jar, and the trio will gladly ditch "Margaritaville" and "Friends in Low Places" for smooth renditions of Haight-Ashbury acid rock and West Coast stoner-country. It's music that sounds just perfect at the Gold Dust Lounge, a Western noire dive on Powell Street. The place was built back in '33 and sports a gaudy, well-worn decor of gold leafing, crystal chandeliers, red velvet, and rich brocades.

Physically crammed behind a snug, sit-down bar, the Camaros perform at the Gold Dust seven nights a week. It's where drummer Rich Young, guitarist John Nichols, and a rotating cast of pro bassists are always surrounded by haggard tourists who purchase discount vacation packages, befuddled foreigners, local street creatures, and whiskey-soaked convention rats (such as fertilizer company reps from Wisconsin). These neo-Barbary Coast drunkards dance, stagger, and pay to hear refried barroom standards and moldy oldies while Young mercilessly teases them in between songs. Recently, a leggy Euro-blonde carrying a cellphone and stuffed inside a tight sequined dress walked by the band, and Young announced over the PA in a croon dripping concentrated schmaltz, "Well, we all know who went outside to call her drug dealer. Did you get enough for the band, honey?"

However, the cherry on top for this California rock fanatic is the collection of Golden State nuggets tucked inside the Camaros' massive songbook: Buffalo Springfield's "Rock 'n' Roll Woman," a Moby Grape chestnut or two, "Sugar Magnolia," a healthy dose of Creedence, some Jefferson Airplane, Brewer and Shipley, Neil Young, the Stone Canyon Band, and even Love's "My Little Red Book," which the group played the day after Arthur Lee's death.

Of course, the Camaros' versions are far more laid back, but after a few beers, the wild, uniquely San Francisco scene at the Gold Dust gives new meaning to the phrase "psychedelic lounge."

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