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Exene Cervenka 

The high priestess of L.A. punk returns to her roots.

Exene Cervenka with Dex Romweber

8 p.m. Sat., Jan. 30

The Parish at House of Blues, 229 Decatur St., 310-4999; www.hob.com

Tickets $12 in advance, $13.50 day of show

click to enlarge Exene Cervenka revealed she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year. - PHOTO BY ALI SMITH
  • Photo by Ali Smith
  • Exene Cervenka revealed she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year.

On Feb. 1, Exene Cervenka, forever the screaming female in Los Angeles proto-punks X, will turn 54 years old. Her current tour calls for her to blow out candles somewhere between Birmingham and Athens, Ga. Cervenka has other plans.

  "I'm going to celebrate my birthday in New Orleans," she says. "[Feb. 1] is a travel day, so I'll just be at a truck stop eating, like, a cupcake. I don't like that. I'm going to stay up all night and then sleep in the van the next day."

  The timing may be a happy coincidence, but New Orleans is more than a proxy party for Cervenka. She makes a point of stopping here on every circuit, and her artwork — celebrated journals and mixed-media collages — has been featured prominently in L. Steve Williams' annual 504 What Style Rock Art Circus at the Big Top Gallery. Furthermore, her first solo album in almost two decades, Somewhere Gone (Bloodshot), is an intimate folk song cycle whose title track was inspired by a friend's evacuation ordeal during Hurricane Katrina. ("Escaping another hurricane/she's on the Memphis train," Cervenka coos over an insistent strum.)

  Produced by the singer and recorded at roots-rock legend Lou Whitney's Studio, the album is a memento of her time in Springfield, Mo., where she moved from Los Angeles in 2006 "to experience living in an old house in the middle of nowhere, in rural America." In June 2009, at the end of the sessions, Cervenka issued a statement revealing she had multiple sclerosis. She moved back to the West Coast a month later. "It was very sudden," she says. "I'm very happy to be back in California."

  Other than the medications, the illness hasn't changed her routines, Cervenka says. "My feeling is that everybody's sick with something. Everybody has some sort of affliction, so it kind of puts it in perspective."

  It's a strong stance, considering what she's been through in the past year. In the days before Somewhere Gone's October release, violinist, collaborator and longtime friend Amy Farris was found dead in her L.A. home, the victim of an apparent suicide. "She was also in Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, and her death happened toward the end of that tour," Cervenka says. "Seeing them play without her was really hard."

  Perspective, as a result, comes easy. She's looking forward to seeing tour- and labelmate Dex Romweber every night ("I love him"), as well as fleshing out songs she's been mailing back and forth with former husband and X firebrand John Doe. "We're not sure what they're going to be for, if they're going to be X songs or what," she says. "But we got some stuff going on."

  On the art front, she has a summer show planned at her regular home, DCKT Contemporary on Manhattan's Lower East Side. "And I hope to show again in New Orleans in the fall," she says.

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