On Tuesday, January 22, 2019, “The Flesh Eaters” raised the roof of the Star Theater in Portland, Oregon. An interesting side note about the venue is that back in the early 1980s it featured strippers and one of them was a teenage Courtney Love, Curt Cobain’s future wife. The opening act that began the show promptly at 9:00 PM was “Lovesores,” a high energy Portland band that primed the audience with a dozen songs like “Blue Suede Collar” and “Rock & Roll Animal,” played with an adrenaline pumping ferocity.
“The Flesh Eaters” took the stage right around 10:00 PM as Chris Desjardins (aka Chris D) stepped to the front and center of the stage, while the other band members took their places. Steve Berlin with a shortened goatee took his place on the left side of the stage with his saxophone after taking a leave of absence from “Los Lobos,” along with D.J. Bonebrake playing marimba and percussion to his right. The thing that some photographers find frustrating is the way that many times the drum kit is directly behind the lead singer’s microphone stand making it difficult to easily include them, unless you have time to wait for them to move or you do, if it’s possible. Bass player John Doe was standing to the right of Bill Bateman on the drum kit and rounded the rhythm section with his hard resonating bass line and contributing vocals, along with amazing hard rock guitarist Dave Alvin who blew the rafters off the house with his shrieking axe. and rounded the rhythm section with his hard resonating bass line and contributing vocals, along with amazing hard rock guitarist Dave Alvin who blew the rafters off the house with his shrieking axe.
Desjardin’s raspy raging voice drove the show on songs like “See You In the Boneyard,” along with the haunting sound of Steve Berlin’s mesmerizing saxophone. Bateman’s hard dynamite drumming punctuated each note on “Satan’s Stomp,” driving home the beat with an insane intensity. The purpose of the current tour is to showcase the new album I Used To Be Pretty, that was the result of a reunion tour that the band reunited for in 2018. They were playing a limited number of dates on the US West Coast and the UK when Desjardins convinced everyone to record an album, which contained a collection of eleven songs. The tunes are a combination of new material, re-recordings and a couple of covers.
The Flesh Eaters formed in L.A. back in the mid 1970s as part of the reaction to Disco and had a rotating lineup until the end of the 1970s when it included the present lineup and they released their second album, A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die, in 1981 before everyone went their separate ways. Over the decades they reformed for short periods when everyone left their day jobs with bands ranging from “The Blasters,” “Los Lobos,” “X” and others to careers in acting and film directing.
“Black Temptation” is the lead song off the album that begins with D.J. Bonebraker’s delightful marimba lead in segueing into John Doe’s dominant heavy handed explosive bass playing as he works his way back and forth across the stage. The album version of that song and four others includes vocals by Desjardin’s ex-wife and singing partner, Julie Christensen that are replaced by the alluring voice of John Doe contrasting Chris D’s demonic one. Dave Allen is a legendary singer-songwriter, guitarist, poet and music producer who toured in 2018 with Jimmie Dale Gilmore after they released an album together covering everything from Delta Blues to 1960s anthem “Get Together” by the “Youngbloods.” “The Green Manalishi” gave Alvin one of his best opportunities to shine as he tore through Peter Green’s composition from “Fleetwood Mac’s” legendary 1968 foundational blues rock album, English Rose. Alvin’s raging guitar rose to high heaven as he stoically played with an insane frenzy that seemed effortless.
“Miss Muerte” was the title cut from “The Flesh Eaters” 2004’s release and was a cinematic reference to the 1966 horror film “The Diabolical Dr. Z,” which was originally titled “Miss Muerte.” The song featured more of Alvin’s sonically rapturous guitar playing alongside another duet between Chris D and Doe. By this time the entire band was animated to the point that it spread like wildfire throughout the venue as people rose to their feet and rocked out. “She’s Like Heroin To Me” is a cover of L.A. Band “The Gun Club” and it raised the intensity level another notch. “The Wedding Dice” was another re-recording, this time from 1982’s Forever Came Today, as Desjardins sang, while Steve Berlin wailed on his sax.
“When they found out we couldn’t get out
Down in Mexico we threw the wedding dice…”
Review by Bob Gersztyn