There aren’t many clubs in the L.A. area where you can ride your horse up to the back entrance, mosey on inside and catch country-music legends like Red Simpson and Riders of the Purple Sage — for free. The longtime Mexican restaurant Viva Cantina is uniquely situated next door to the L.A. Equestrian Center and across the street from the Pickwick Gardens ice rink and bowling alley, in that semi-mystical place where the concrete jungle of Burbank gives way to the pastoral wonderland of northeastern Griffith Park. Much like the Old West, there’s plenty of elbow room at Viva Cantina. If the frantically coiffed rockabilly revivalists in the front room disturb you, wander into the Riverside Rancho Room, where the experienced country ministrations of house fixture Cody Bryant await. Although the Cantina is best known for presenting stubbornly authentic anti-Nashville holdouts, the surprisingly daft booking policy also encompasses garage, Chicano soul, punk, roots, folk and surf. It’s not unusual to see a raving mob of punk maniacs like the Bloody Brains back to back with the iconic lounge-pop stylist Troy Walker and former ’50s teen rock idol Jimmy Angel. At most restaurants, you’re lucky if there’s even a good jukebox. 900 Riverside Dr., Burbank. (818) 845-2425, www.vivacantina.com.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VIVA FRESH 900 W RIVERSIDE DR, BURBANK
(818) 845-2425. www.vivacantina.com
One of Viva's very favorite groups is Cow Bop, the Western swing band led by revered jazz guitarist Bruce Forman and his very talented spouse and vocalist Pinto Pammy. Here, the articulate and very funny Forman discusses the bands just released "Cowlifornia Swing" CD, their recent experience taking the group's unique version of the sound to the dancehalls of Texas and Oklahoma, his rather surprising perspective on the state of contemporary jazz and the formation and philosophy of Cow Bop. Catch them live in our Cantina, coming up on two consecutive Fridays April 19 & April 26, plus, next month on Sat., May 4, and Fri., May 17 & 31, all for free, of course.
"This is the fourth album we've done and its a new direction for Cow Bop. We went from being very fiddle-centric to more horn-centric, it kind of happened last spring, we had mixed fiddle and horn and I have this great young player, David Wise, and I thought, 'Well, just switch it around,' because we had this Southwestern tour coming up and I thought that in Texas, it will really make us stand out. And coming out of the jazz world, it's just easier for me, and then having a lower voice with the baritone sax than the tenor, it makes it easier with a girl singer."
"And it was, well, I was a little trepidacious about taking it to Texas, but they did take it well, they loved it, musicians and fans both and that made me re-double my efforts. My feeling is more modern in terms of a lot of my arrangements, and I like being an entertainer -- I played with Richic Cole and Alto Madness and Dizzy Gillespie, which were both highly entertaining, burning jazz ensembles, it was always a really great show and we didn't mind people having fun with us."
"Now, with what I call the Wynton Marsalis-ization of jazz, it was like the second coming the 2nd Miles Davis, that thing where you're just supposed to sit and scowl and we play stuff AT you and you dig how great we are, and the musicians are very much of a certain type, the way they look and act and the sets are all programmed. . . . that never sat well with me. "
"I dig the music and I respect them but that, taken with the fact that I am a western horseman, and I ride and compete and really know that world, led me to Cow Bop. And we were going to to all the cowboy festivals and people would ask us to play, so Pammy and I would get up and do "Don't Fence Me In" and "I'm an Old Cowhand" and it just started up, because I had the cowboy credibilty. So, what we are really selling is fun, which is our knee jerk reaction to what's going on in the music world. Yes, Fun is the new unhappy!
"It does almost feel as if I've been guided to this. The majority of my living and work is playing straight ahead jazz, but Cow Bop may be almost 50 percent now. And Pammy is the coolest person, really like a big band singer from the 40s, and she also has the vintage country aesthetic, she understands that presentation, so were not having to fight a diva on the bandstand, because, really, we're like a gang of monkeys up there, going nuts, and she's like our Keely Smith, and this is all really coming out of that musical history, the big bands and Louis Prima and Western swing. It's just fun, those good old tunes are fun to play, all the arrangements I have written, everybody wants to play, they sound like Charlie Parker stuff, and now we have a lot of great payers who sit in, like [sax great] Pete Christlieb, he subs with us sometimes when David can't make it and he loves it, and he even told me 'I'm gonna get me some cowboy boots!' You'd be surprised how many musicians are clamoring to hang with the band. It's a regular mosh pit of humanity."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VIVA CANTINA,900 W RIVERSIDE DR, BURBANK. For info call 818-848-8810. For dinner reservations (818) 845-2425. www.vivacantina.com
Here are highlight's for Viva Cantina's live music the week of May 17-23. Named "Best Country Venue" in LA WEEKLY's prestigious 2012 "Best of L.A" issue, but Viva has so much MORE to offer. With everything from big bands to punk rock to rockabilly, psychobilly, garage trash Italian, hard funk and straight up country, bluegrass and Western swing, both our Cantina and Riverside Rancho room have been jumping ferociously and pulling in an eclectic array of celebrity attendees like Pat Boone, Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon, Poison Ivy Rorshach, Ketty Lester, Johnny Tillotson, Off!-Circle Jerks-Black Flag singer Keith Morris, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Marky Ramone, comedian Tom Kenny (the voice of Sponge Bob Squarepants), filmmaker Julien Nitzberg, the infamous "Dancing Outlaw" Jesco White, former Elvis Presley back up singer Kathy Westmoreland, and Blasters frontman Phil Alvin, dropping by to check out the freewheeling roster of performers who are quickly establishing Viva as the hottest music spot in Los Angeles. No Age Limit, No Cover, No Minimum and acres of free parking across the street at Pickwick Gardens!
FRIDAY, MAY 17 COW BOP The brilliant jazz guitar champion Bruce Forman and his singing spouse Pinto Pammy saddle up for another astonishing evening of hard bop-tinged Western Swing. 8 p.m. Free. First, sensational 15 piece aggregation THE WOODY JAMES BIG BAND kicks off another wild weekend at Viva, 1:30-3:30 p.m. Free.
In the Riverside Rancho Room: RIO BRAVO performs classic rock and blues, 8:30 p.m. Free.
SATURDAY, MAY 18 THE CODY BRYANT EXPERIENCE Sensational country, bluegrass, surf, Italian, rock & roll and more from the shockingly talented multi-instrumentalist (and Viva's own Fearless Leader) Cody Bryant, 8 p.m. Free,
In the Riverside Rancho Room: Rev. Martini's Rockabilly Club features THE MOONLIGHT TRIO, THE TWANG DANGLERS, plus DJ Rockin' Vic, more, 9 p.m. Free. First up, wildly original teenage hard rockers CHASING NORMAN, 8 p.m. Free.
SUNDAY, MAY 19: THE MESSAROUND honors the late George Jones with a special tribute featuring fabled Blues Guitar Wizard PETE ANDERSON, Hollywood Hell raisers GROOVY REDNECKS, a Dose of Classic George & Tammy Duets from BRIAN HOGAN & CHRISTINE NELSON, Brilliant Alabama Rebel Child TONYA WATTS, Incendiary Southern Rock Gyrls LYNETTE SKYNYRD, Hardcore Honky Tonk Outlaws THE FREIGHT SHAKERS, Country-Rockabilly Guru Extraordinaire RONNIE MACK, California Hard Country Empress PATTY BOOKER, Renowned Golden State Provocateur RICK SHEA, plus special guests galore, 6 p.m. Free!
MONDAY, MAY 20: BLUEGRASS NIGHT with sensational house band THE BROMBIES!! Featuring LA studio star-singer-mandolinist George Doering (who's on the soundtrack of just about every movie made) as well as songwriter JoEllen Doering on guitar, the great Bill Bryson (Bluegrass Cardinals, Desert Rose Band, Chris Hillman Band, mucho mas) on bass and bluegrass phenom Patrick Sauber on banjo, this superb band never ceases to amaze. No cover, plus great food and drink specials (details of which can be found at vivacantina.com)! 7:30-10:30 p.m.
In the Riverside Rancho Room: DAN COBB & OFF THE RECORD Swinger's Delight! The first-rate 12 piece outfit blows a swinging gale of hot Big Band Jazz and always packs the dance floor, 7 p.m. Free
TUESDAY, MAY 21: Another swinging, live-wire all-Italiano session with DON CODIONI & THE FLYING ARMANI BROTHERS. Always featuring an impressive ensemble of guest vocalists, it's a night of earthy, exciting music that runs the gamut from Louis Prima-style hilarity to swingin' 1960's Roman rock, to straight up Old World "Funucli, Funicula," even world class operatics, 7:30-10:30 p.m. No Cover.
In the Riverside Rancho Room: BASC Concert Night, with discounted food and drink specials, and music from the fine local bluegrass quintet GRASSLANDS, 7 p.m. Free.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 22: THE GLEN ROBERTS BIG BAND The 17-piece group brings decades of experience, musical passion and perfected technique, with an amazingly expressive crew of talented veteran soloists, fine, swinging arrangements and superb choice of material. Beautiful, classic American music. 7 p.m. No Cover. Next, MARTINI'S ROCKABILLY RECORD HOP, with discounted drink specials, guest DJs. Free.
THURSDAY MAY 23: A dazzling dose of Classic Hollywood Cowboy Swing, put across with symphonic sweep and dizzying technique, from CODY BRYANT with FOY WILLINGS' RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE, 8 p.m No Cover.
In the Riverside Rancho Room: MARTINI'S ROCKABILLY DANCE CLUB PARTY with special guest DJs, discounted drink specials, 10:30 p.m. No Cover.