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The Blasters' frontman Phil Alvin takes to the stage New Year's Eve after a scary 2012

December 15, 2012|By Craig Rosen
  • Singer Phil Alvin of the Blasters in front of his boyhood home in Downey. After a health scare earlier this year while on tour in Spain, Alvin is back performing and will appear New Year's Eve with Petunia & the Vipers at Joe's Great American in Burbank.
Singer Phil Alvin of the Blasters in front of his boyhood… (Photo by Steve Appleford )

When Phil Alvin takes the stage for a New Year's Eve solo set at Joe's Great American Bar & Grill in Burbank, he won't just be welcoming in 2013. He'll be closing the book on a year he'd rather forget.

“Starting in November 2011, 2012 has been the strangest year of my life, by far,” says the Blasters' frontman. “I will be happy — along with the Mayans — to say goodbye to 2012.”

On the positive front, Alvin and the Blasters released “Fun on Saturday Night” in July, their first album in four years on what he calls the “small but fair” indie label Rip City Records. But while touring Spain in June in advance of the album's release, tragedy struck. Alvin took ill after the band finished their set one night due to an infection from an abscessed tooth. His throat swelled shut and he was rushed to a hospital where an emergency tracheotomy was performed on him. He flat-lined twice and was brought back to life two times thanks to an intern performing CPR.

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Although he says he's completely recovered from that medical scare with his voice intact, that experience has left the veteran singer “less verbose and more introspective.” He's more humble and gracious than ever. He wants everyone to know that he's merely opening the New Year's Eve gig at Joe's and the night's headliner, the Vancouver-based Petunia and the Vipers, are “a great band.”

At Joe's, Alvin will accompany himself on acoustic guitar, playing some of the “blues, jazz and pop songs” featured on his two solo albums — 1994's “Country Fair 2000” and 1986's “Un 'Sung' Stories” — as well as some Blasters' favorites. Then on Jan. 26 at the Observatory in Santa Ana, Alvin's songwriter/guitarist brother Dave will rejoin the Blasters at a benefit for Alvin's medical expenses.

Also on the bill is the Knitters, the all-star folk combo featuring Dave Alvin and X's D.J. Bonebrake, John Doe and Exene Cervenka. (She's also featured on “Fun on Saturday Night,” singing a duet with Phil on “Jackson,” the Jerry Leiber-penned tune that was famously recorded by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood and later Johnny Cash and June Carter.) Big Sandy will serve as the night's master of ceremonies and the Hula Girls are also on the bill.

“I feel happy that so many people seem to love me,” Alvin says. “At the same time I'm embarrassed and humiliated by the situation.”

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