Right near the corner of Hollywood and Vine is a place called Jack’s Sugar Shack. Every Tuesday night, Ronnie Mack puts on the Barndance, an evening of country and western, rockabilly and American roots music. There’s no cover charge and everybody’s welcome. In some ways it feels like a musician’s guild, with numerous players hanging out, shooting pool, drinking, and sometimes getting up onstage to play a song or two.
All the usual suspects from the local roots-rock scene turned up to pay their respects to the Mack daddy on the occasion of the Barndance’s ninth anniversary. Dave Alvin was playing pool in the back, Rosie Flores was dancing close with some young fella, and James Intveld was busy holding court with his entourage. Rockabilly great Ray Campi showed up with his red, white and blue standup bass to sing a couple of numbers despite a bad cold.
You see, everybody loves Ronnie Mack. The guy works in a cigar store seven days a week so he can help pay for these precious Tuesday nights. Many of the folks in attendance were at the first Barndance party eight years ago, back when it was held at the dearly departed Palomino. By the end of the evening’s festivities, more than 20 artists had hit the stage.
Early in the show, Tony “Wildman” Conn, once dubbed the brightest new rockabilly star of 1956 by Newsweek, came up and sang “Like Wow”. Suddenly the place really began to heat up; people were packed into the small room, and everyone on the dance floor started jitterbugging like crazy. The Blazers, the Lonesome Strangers and the Red Hots all contributed quick, swinging sets. Intveld joined Flores to sing a couple of sweet duets before doing a few tunes with his own band. Tim Polecat was swinging from the ceiling during his real gone version of a Gene Vincent tune. Some guy named Elvis even got up there and rocked the joint. By the time Levi Dexter sang his version of “Rip It Up”, the place was completely up for grabs. Finally, Dave Alvin joined Pearl Harbor onstage for a rousing rendition of “Fujiyama Mama”, and it was all over.