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Stephen King and Friends Rock the El Ray

Written By: Abel S. - "Honest Abe"

June 25th, 2012 

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Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Matt Groening, Greg Iles, Ridley Pearson, James McBride, Mitch Albom. Being in the same room with any one of these noted authors would cause one to sit up and pay attention. If you are at a reading of one of their latest books, a hush would fill the room and all eyes would be on them. What if said noted author was rocking out with a guitar instead? But what if all those same authors, as well as a few more, were jamming on a stage in front of one amped up crowd? Wait, where the hell am I?

I am at the El Rey Theatre witnessing history. Tonight is the final public performance of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band made up of famous literary talents. The show is part of the band’s final two city concert tour – The Past Our Bedtime Tour.

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For the past twenty years, these literary giants get together for one week and play covers of classic rock and blues songs. What makes them even cooler is that they make no money and all proceeds from their shows go to various benefits and organizations. Tonight’s show is to benefit the Los Angeles Downtown Women’s Center and The Midnight Mission which is dedicated to helping the homeless.

The band was founded by Kathi Kamen Goldmark, a book publicist, who noted that all these authors are essentially rock stars. Over the years, the band has raised 2 million dollars for various literary causes. With the passing of Ms. Goldmark earlier this year it seemed the time to close the book on the band. Dave Barry, co-lead guitarist, says, "It's not that we had a 'creative differences' issue, or some in the band wanted to launch solo music careers, but the fact is that we can no longer play an entire set without having to pee." Barry adds, "We realize the Rolling Stones are celebrating 50 years this year, but we don't want to reach the point where our stage moves involve motorized scooters." Over the years, the band has played with several noted musicians including Warren Zevon, Bruce Springsteen and Roger McGuinn (who joined the band for this final show).

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The El Rey is a small theatre and with standing room only, the show was packed. One by one, each person was introduced to much applause. It was no surprise that Stephen King got the loudest crowd approval. The band kicked things off with The House is Rockin’, followed by (naturally) Paperback Writer. It was at this time that I noticed that Matt Groening had disappeared but there was someone dancing around wearing a Marge Simpson Halloween mask. Hmmmmm. (Throughout the show, Matt would switch it up between Marge and Otto the bus driver masks, when he wasn’t just bobbing around with the Remainderettes.) Each author got his or her own chance to shine. My favorite moments were Amy Tan doing her best cover of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’ while dressed in a leather catsuit and Stephen King belting out Surfin’ Bird. (Even King knows that the bird is the word!) Other highlights included covers of Rock This Town, Jailhouse Rock, Mustang Sally, Leader of the Pack and Turn Turn Turn.

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As the night was dedicated to Ms. Goldmark, the band did a beautiful cover of Warren Zevon’s final hit ‘Keep Me In Your Heart for Awhile’.  It sent a wave of emotion throughout the band as well as the crowd.  After ending the night with ‘Wild Thing’, they returned to the stage for an encore of Van Morrison’s ‘Gloria’.  As the group took their bows, they tossed guitar picks and kazoos to the crowd.  (You had to be there.)  It was a very fun and lively show, clocking in at two hours.  I honestly expected somewhat cheesy cover music for about forty-five minutes or so but what I got was a damm good rockin’ time.  These guys ain’t no slouch, that’s for sure.  Actually, Greg Iles and Dave Barry have both played guitar in rock bands in the past.

I am so glad that I was able to attend this show, not just for being in the presence of greatness but because of the nobility of the night.  The fact that every penny earned goes to charity is refreshing.  This was definitely a once in a lifetime event that neither I nor my wife will soon forget.  (Of course, having King sign a book was the ultimate highlight for her!)

The Los Angeles Downtown Women’s Shelter: www.dwcweb.org

The Midnight Mission: www.midnightmission.org

About the Author: Abel Pinedo has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade. He's also an annual visitor to such conventions as Comikaze, San Diego Comic Con, Wizard World and More. When he's not touring the convention circuit he can usually be found at his keyboard telling the World about his adventures.