Triple Threat

Posted August 27, 2009 in Music

Last we checked, the sleepy summer boating resort town of Lake Arrowhead wasn’t really known for being a rock music mecca of the Inland Empire. That distinction’s been laid on a few other flatlander locales such as Riverside and Pomona. But come this week, the tree-lined town’s going to be visited by a pioneer of Los Angeles’ Paisley Underground scene (who has since relocated to the Big Apple), an indie pop rock veteran of the Pacific Northwest and a multi-platinum Grammy Award-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted alternative rock guitarist. And the Lake, generally better known for toddlers tubin‘ with their parents down hills in its winter guise, will host the aforementioned well-known quantities in—get this—three different setups.


The former L.A. resident is Steve Wynn, best known for his work as the frontman of the ’80s psych-rock ensemble Dream Syndicate (and not for his mega-billion dollar Vegas Strip hotels—that’s a much wealthier Steve Wynn), who’ll be trekking it up the hill with his “band” of sorts, the Steve Wynn IV. Incahoots with Wynn are his wife Linda on drums, Young Fresh Fellows/The Minus 5 lead Scott McCaughey (whose Portland/Seattle connections are stronger than the Trail Blazers hanging at a Starbucks) and the aforementioned award-winning guitarist Peter Buck of R.E.M. Now, as discussed earlier, the foursome won’t be exclusive to the Steve Wynn IV, as they’ll also be performing as The Baseball Project and The Minus 5. If it seems complicated, try being in the band(s).


“We’ve got our work cut out for us ’cause we’re three bands in one,” says Wynn, freshly home from a busy summer that included a European tour. “It’s a unique thing having a triple bill with four people—it’s a real variety show. No two shows will be exactly the same.”


So, why embark on touring with this triumvirate of ensembles? First, it’s for convenience’s sake. Wynn couldn’t tour last year and neither could Buck, who spent his days on the road with R.E.M. This was an opportunity, initially staged by McCaughey that had to be seized. And, it allowed the old friends to hang together on the road—the last time Buck and Wynn toured together was when Dream Syndicate opened for R.E.M. for two months in 1984. Furthermore, it was a chance to put The Baseball Project on the road for the first time, as the act’s only played live twice before, at the Wynns’ wedding and on The Late Show with David Letterman.


“I’m pretty sure I can’t think of any other band in history that can claim that their first two shows were two of the band members’ wedding and a national TV show,” Wynn adds. We can’t either.


What can people expect from this project of projects? Wynn simply says to take three different bands and throw ’em into a blender. There’ll be quite an extensive song list for the tour, which’ll feature two sets with an intermission in between with all three bands’ songs mixed up. And that means that Wynn will have to sit out of the spotlight for portions of the night.


“I’ve never toured before as a sideman. I’ve never toured before when I wasn’t the lead singer. So I’m excited to go on the road and be standing back and banging on the guitar while Scott sings his songs. I get the prime seat in the house!”


Is there any trepidation of embarking on something relatively new and yet untested? “I’m just going to quickly do a calculation in my head, go out on a limb and say that I think between the four of us, we’ve got about a hundred years of touring. But on the contrary, I think we’re all excited about it because we’re all good friends and it’s a chance for us to hang out and have some fun together.”


Of course, Wynn—having left SoCal for the East Coast some 15 years ago—had to be reminded that Lake Arrowhead is known for more a destination that offers rampant winter sledding, not summer strummers and shredding. “Remember, I’m a Los Angeles native, and I remember Lake Arrowhead was the place we would go once every year just to see snow,” he responds. “It was a very foreign concept. That’s what us Angelenos would do—when you grow up in L.A. and you want to see what that white stuff’s all about, there it is—that’s snow, wow! There’s Santa’s Village! OK, we’re outta here!”


An Evening with The Minus 5, The Baseball Project & Steve Wynn IV at Lake Arrowhead Village, 27984 Highway 189, Arrowhead, (909) 337-2533, Fri, 6:30PM. Free. 


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