The '60s have come a long way, baby -- from the most progressive and vibrant era in pop history to a tired parade of bogus acts regurgitating the hits of groups they only faintly resemble. At least that's the general impression created by five '60s acts at Wolf Trap Tuesday night in a show generously titled the "Classic Superfest."
Opening was Rob Grill, ex-lead singer of the Grass Roots, who offered perfunctory covers of the group's mostly forgettable hits, like "Temptation Eyes." A Herman-less bunch of Hermits cranked out the British band's treacly pop hits and Mark Lindsay managed to smooth all the punky edge off the Paul Revere and the Raiders classics he originally sang. These generally cheery, lounge-worthy performances destroyed all participants' chances of ever entering rock 'n' roll heaven, earning them instead an eternal gig on the Las Vegas strip.
Though original member Gene Clark should have been embarrassed to let the group he led carry the Byrds' name, this aggregation of veteran Los Angeles country-rock musicians at least sounded like a real, guitar-heavy rock band doing Byrds songs. Their renditions of material like "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Eight Miles High" were properly ragged and possessed a genuine energy at odds with the soulless polish offered by the other groups.
Closing the show in a cloud of smoke and flashing lights were two ex-Turtles, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, who gave the show a badly needed dose of satire. As well as spoofing all kinds of '60s cliche's, they offered lighthearted renditions of the Turtles' lightweight hits like "Elenore." Their performance acknowledges not only the silliness of much of the '60s, but also the special inanity of trying to relive it all as mere entertainment in a show like this.