Until his death from a drug overdose earlier this summer, bassist Rob Graves (ne Ritter) was the Zelig of Hollywood, popping up in band after band, scene after scene. His wake at the Roxy on Sunday was kind of a historical survey of L.A. underground rock. It was a strange bill, a lot of disparate music united by what wasn't there. The new band of Kid Congo Powers--who played wall-of-sound guitar to Graves' bass in the first and best version of the seminal swamp-blues post-punk band Gun Club--opened with a short, beautiful set of distorted, one-chord dirge music. The Nymphs, alternative heavy-rock fronted by Inger Nymph, who's smart money to become '91's Axl Rose, played a tight set, imbuing even the corniest goth-rock cliches with dignity.
A reunited Thelonious Monster was great, a newly cleaned-up Bob Forrest eulogizing his late friend and slamming through the Monster's nuclear-powered takes on the genre of American radio pop. The Gun Club's Jeffrey Lee Pierce sang a couple of songs with Powers and the Monster rhythm section; the Red Hot Chili Peppers (which never had Graves as a member) played a couple of songs too.
Then came 45 Grave, the band most identified with Graves, rough and mournful in its mock devil metal. Craig Lee and Alice Bag, from the Bags, Graves' punk band, did four quick songs. Lee's cheesy guitar sound and Bag's quavering vocals still define early L.A. punk, and the audience slammed in glee.
45 Grave finished the evening with a creepy version of "I'm Waiting for the Man," the Velvet Underground's hymn to heroin, with singer Dinah Cancer droning the words "when the music's over" again and again as Paul Cutler drew fantastic windstorm noises from his guitar.
When the song finished, he pulled out a huge knife and executed his wailing instrument.