Old Towne Orange might seem worlds away from the mosh pits of Los Angeles in the early 80s, but for punk rock legend Exene Cervenka, its the place she now calls home.
Singer for the band X, Exene is a songwriter, artist, poet and author whose extraordinary creativity spans many genres.
Forging the first wave of American punk beginning in 1977, the band released such classic albums as Los Angeles and Wild Gift, ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as among the greatest albums of all time. Through the years, Exene has branched out with musical side projects including The Knitters and The Original Sinners. Shes also issued a series of solo albums, penned many books (Virtual Reality, Just Another War) and creates mixedmedia collages featured in exhibitions nationwide.
Her move to Old Towne marks another chapter in her fascinating and eclectic life.
I was relocating back to Southern California but I didnt want to move back to L.A., Exene says. My friend told me about Old Towne, and I liked it. Its like Nebraska with palm trees. I can pretend I live in a small town, and it reminds me of whats good in America.
Since moving here two years ago, Exene met up with the owners of Moonlight Graham, a retro clothing store in Old Towne. Once a month, Exenes Moonlight Hootenanny attracts a loyal following for an evening of music and conversation at the store. Guest artists have included band mate John Doe from X, and Phil Alvin of the Blasters.
Although the gatherings provide an opportunity for Exene to showcase old favorites and new tunes (including songs from her latest release, The Excitement of Maybe), the iconic singer is not particularly concerned about selfpromotion.
Weve created a venue at the Moonlight Graham store where people can hear music that isnt corporate and share political views. We laugh a lot too, but its important to talk about whats going on in this country, politically. Its a very serious situation. The Protect IP Act, for example, will shut down a lot of Web information that any third party construes to be a copyright violation. The Defense Authorization Act is even more horrifying. I dont have time to sing love songs right now.
Exene says shed like to see Chapman University students become more involved in the community.
We have other plans at Moonlight Graham to expand the presence and make it more community based. We have some important events at the store that the kids should be attending.
With no signs of slowing down, Exene recently completed an international tour with X, opening for Pearl Jam in South America in November. The band also hosted its annual Xmas Rock n Roll Revival at venues throughout California.
It doesnt wear on me, the lifestyle, she says. I can do five or six projects at a time and still do other things. I can get by on four hours of sleep.
When shes not touring, working on projects, or burning the midnight oil, Exene enjoys her peaceful life in Old Towne, where she feels at home and part of the community.
Every town should find its talent and people and come together right now to decide how were going to move forward into the future and survive.
Published in the Jan/Feb 2012 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Karen Anderson, Photograph by Jeanine Hill
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