Sugarcult Guitarist Marko DeSantis Reporting from Musink VIP Room

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Marko DeSantis with Exene Cervenka (X) at Musink Saturday

Text to [Stray Cats drummer] Slim Jim Phantom: "Hey man, on my way to Musink now; would love to say hi after your set!"

SJP text to me: "Come find me. Lem, Capt Sens and me all sharing a room. Great stuff!"

Subculture nostalgia dominated the Costa Mesa air as I entered the OC Fair & Event Center for Musink Saturday evening. First punk pioneer sighting was Greg Hetson (Bad Religion/Circle Jerks/early-Redd Kross guitarist) at the will call line. Then again, you can't go to a decent party and NOT see that guy! Walked into the main hall with my Levi jacket buttoned up--partly 'cause it was cold and partly 'cause I have a grand total of zero tattoos!

The place was abuzz with tattoo guns, artists, vendors, hawkers, victims and willing volunteers. Despite the majority of my friends and music community peers being well-inked, I still felt kinda like Lady GaGa walking through a convent; or perhaps a nun walking through a hipster club.

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Marko DeSantis with Billy Duffy (the Cult)

Shrugged off the anxiety and headed for the unmistakable gutteral growl of Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister fronting the Headcat; a sweat-to-the-oldies cover band powerhouse also featuring my new pal Slim Jim Phantom (the Stray Cats) on drums and guitarist Danny B. Harvey (The Rockats). They ran through revved up classics, re-imagining them with Lemmy's distinguishing bass via guitar amp trebled tone and Slim Jim's drummer-as-frontman approach. Slim affectionately sang his Stray Cat's hit "Rock this Town" and they closed with Robert Johnson's "Crossroads," a song older than even 64-year-old Lemmy!

After their set, I ran into my old friend Matt Armor, singer of Santa Barbara-based psychobilly band, Blazing Haley. I bummed a few sips of his red wine in a plastic cup, which inspired me to try and breach security so I could get to that open bar backstage. I texted Slim Jim:

Me to SJP: "Fantastic set! Any chance I could slither my way into VIP room?"

SJP to M: "I'll send my son, he's in a red jacket"

Well, that was too easy, I thought to myself as me and Matt waited in line for drinks and chatted with Slim Jim and his 21-year old son TJ; himself a drummer in, "about 5 or 6 bands right now." He handed me a flier for one called Nylon Pink, all Asian girls plus him on drums. 

On this night of vintage UK punk, Slim Jim nailed it, "Who would've thought when I got my first tattoo that I'd be here all these years later with Lemmy, Captain Sensible (The Damned), etc." He later explained, "These guys were some the first people we (The Stray Cats) met when we bought one-way tickets outta Long Island and moved to England in the late '70s." 

He continued: "The Cult played last night and Billy Duffy (Cult guitarist) stayed over in my room so we could all hang out today. Man, the Buzzcocks are on, they always wrote such great songs. Hey, TJ there's Dave Vanian (singer of The Damned), I want you to meet him..."  

I headed stage-right to watch the Buzzcocks. Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle tore through some deeper cuts and then treated us all to "Harmony in My Head," "What Do I Get?" "Ever Fallen In Love?" They closed with a spirited-even-if-obligatory "Orgasm Addict."

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Marko DeSantis
The Damned right before their encore

I had never seen the Damned, so I was especially looking forward to their set. It was cool to note the presence of first wave LA and OC punk luminaries like Exene Cervenka (X), Steve Soto (the Adolescents) along with the countless leather-faced old schoolers in attendance.

Like the Buzzcocks, the Damned are now down to two original members, with singer Dave Vanian's rockabilly-goth swagger and the ever-cartoonish, red-beret wearing Captain Sensible on guitar. It was a supercharged set of fan favorites and cool stage moves, including at least four sunglasses changes on the part of Captain Senible! Neat, neat, neat...

Me to [Slim Jim Phantom]: "Thanx for everything. Had a blast!"

SJP to Me: "Thanks for coming out. Best, sjp"

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