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It’s a Mod, Mod World for Ford Theatre Festival

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It’s been 25 years since Carnaby Street’s glory days, and a decade since the rise of Britain’s second-generation Mon/punk band the Jam and the biracial ska movement. But the sharp-dressing, Vespa-riding Mods keep scooting along.

Today at the John Anson Ford Theatre, Goldenvoice promotions is presenting Mods May Day ‘79, celebrating 10 years of L.A. Mod-ness. The festival will feature the music of eight young bands incorporating influences by such Mod icons as the Who and Small Faces, as well as a motor-scooter rally that will make the John Anson Ford look like a scene from the movie “Quadrophenia.”

“I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen ‘Quadrophenia,’ ” says Jon Burchard, 20, singer with the Riverside-based band the Idea, which is on today’s bill.

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So what’s a 20-year-old doing as part of a scene that peaked before he was born?

“When I became a Mod it wasn’t something I decided to do,” he said with near-mystical overtones. “It was something that just happened, almost like I was born to be a Mod.”

In the early days in Britain, the Mods were the neatly dressed, soul music-loving counterparts to the scruffier Teddy Boy rockers.

In the revival of the late ‘70s, the Mods in Britain served a similar role next to the unruly punks, attaching themselves to such bands as the Who-influenced Jam and the ska-oriented likes of the English Beat, the Specials and Madness. The scene got an international boost with the release of “Quadrophenia,” the 1979 film adaptation of the Who’s story about a troubled Mod in mid-’60s Britain.

And as punk rose in Los Angeles, so did the Mod scene. Clyde Grimes, a founding member of Los Angeles’ the Untouchables, the longest surviving band of the Southland’s Mod scene, recalls that time fondly.

“It was a really neat scene,” he said by phone from Boston, where the band was on tour in support of its new “Agent 00 Soul” album.

“We all learned a lot from it--how to conduct ourselves in a city that wasn’t used to what we were doing. We had a lot of trouble. People didn’t like what they were seeing--the clean-cut kids into wild dancing, always a smile on their faces, and some didn’t like the mixing of black and white that is a part of the Mod scene. I’m really proud to have been part of its beginning.”

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And just what does it mean to be Mod today?

For Burchard, that proved a hard question to answer. After some hemming and hawing, he used a quote from the liner notes of an old Who album:

“On that, Mod was explained as ‘Clean living under difficult circumstances,’ ” he said. “It’s an attitude . . . a community. It’s like everyone in the scene is pretty close, but they’re so different from anyone else.”

Curiously, today’s Mods, at least in Los Angeles, are not holdovers from past generations, but young people who are attracted by the music, fashion and camaraderie.

“Today the Mod kids are younger even than when I first got into it five years ago,” said Rob Crowther, the 21-year-old editor of the Southern California Mod magazine Insight Out. Crowther, who is one of the concert’s organizers, acknowledges that the Mod style is merely a manifestation of the kind of communal rebellion “every adolescent goes through,” and readily accepts the fact that you don’t see a lot of older people dressing in sharp three-button suits and riding Vespas

Even young singer Burchard accepts the fact that he may be out of the Mod mainstream 10 years from now. “I probably won’t dress the part,” he said. “But in my heart I’ll always be a Mod.”

LIVE ACTION: Tickets for Dolly Parton’s two-night stand at the Universal Amphitheatre on July 12-13 and Diana Ross’ scheduled four nights at the same locale July 19-22 go on sale Sunday. Ross’ July 26 date at the Pacific Amphitheatre is also on sale Sunday. . . . Tickets for Jimmy Buffett’s June 20-21 shows at the Universal will also be available Sunday. . . . An afternoon show has been added to Tiffany’s June 25 appearance at the Universal. Tickets are on sale now. . . . Cinderella will be at the Long Beach Arena on June 4, with tickets going on sale Sunday. . . . Al B. Sure!, Bobby Brown, Guy and Take 6 are scheduled to perform at Black Radio Exclusive magazine’s music awards show May 28 at the Universal. Tickets are on sale Sunday.

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