By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
The Mood Swingers/The Relatives/The Lemming Rebellion/Decepticans/Xeno's Paradox
Koo's Art Cafe
Friday, Feb. 12
Why, yes, it had been a while since we had perused Koo's Art Cafe, so we figgered we had better check in and find out wassup. Not much, actually. It's still the same lovely joint, except now they have a Web cam pointing at the main room, so we can no longer scratch ourselves in our most sacred places without the whole wide world ogling at us. They also moved the mixing board farther back to that ledge we used to stand on so we could see over everybody.
But we didn't have to strain ourselves on this night. There was loads of room, which was surprising for the almost always stuffed Koo's (well, it was a holiday weekend, and no doubt the regulars were home reading Washington's Farewell Address, the one in which he admonished the nation to avoid "entangling foreign alliances"). It was most crowded during Xeno's Paradox's set; we think they are a Christian band (telling signs: lines giving props to Jesus and bored-looking parents waiting for their kids outside on the porch). They were kinda hard, with a hip-hop/metal/Rage Against the Machine churn about them, though their guitar player would occasionally go off into this disturbing, wheedle-wheedle Eddie Van Halen thing, which happily didn't last too long. Their microphone commando was a decent enough rapper, too, we think-his vox mic was ungodly muddled, so the only "lyrics" we were able to interpret sounded like, "Blorworra wah wunga wetmifmit/ Itkf ep blah bluh mahmunga." Deep.
Decepticans (not to be confused with about 600 other bands out there with extremely similar names) was a pleasantly groovy thunder trio who blasted out all sorts of delicious power chords, which made us wanna hurl ourselves against the café's windows just so we could bounce off them (we could do this: they're Plexiglas, which should stop those turdheads who kept breaking them all the time). The band did one wonderfully melancholy tune, which was very Giant Sand: a smarty-pants deconstruction of the old Simon and Garfunkel ditty "I Am a Rock." And it dabbled in heartwarming hardcore when the trio felt moved. Strange, though, were all the people we caught sitting on the outdoor plastic chairs that we've never seen in the main room. Jeez, if you people were that bored, you shoulda left. We liked Decepticans.
The Lemming Rebellion have a very cool name -almost always a warning sign that a band's music sucks. But the Lemming Rebellion bucked the odds, surprising us with an acoustic-wielding girl singer, who kinda looked like Sheryl Crow but warbled like Siouxsie Sioux or maybe Ani DiFranco if she were fronting REM. They were all about jangly pop notes thrown together inside an occasionally dark, brooding chord here and there. Nifty.
After their set, most of the crowd mysteriously emptied out, which gave us this strange, surreal feeling. Honestly, we had never seen Koo's as deserted-and on a weekend night, no less-as it was at that moment. "C'mon, people, where's the looove?" we whined. But it was all good-the lebensraum meant more space for us (and the one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight people in the-ahem!-"crowd"). The Relatives (who apparently used to be called the Refusals) were dandy if a tad redundant-lots of gooey power pop, but with a dangerous, garage-rock edge to them. After a while, we just stood back and played Spot the Influence: "Okay, there's some Social Distortion. . . . Some obvious Modern Lovers there . . . That chord screams Crazy Horse. . . . And that lick there is so very Pearl Jam." Still, we did think they were swell, and the ones who split missed out.
The Mood Swingers tried gimmicky stuff, like turning their drum kit sideways and having their drummer frequently switch instruments with their bass player. As for any actual playing, they took their time doing that, too-like, forever to get in tune. But once they finally figured what to do, they ground out a couple of punchy instrumentals and went off on some supafine, wall-of-sound, music-to-get-speeding-tickets-by riff-rock excursions. By now, though, we really couldn't tell what the bands were bellowing about: the mic mix was basically nonexistent, so all we heard was weird, foreign wailing. But we're sure there were real words-in English-in there somewhere. Note: their guitarist and drummer had black X marks on their hands. Hasn't the straight-edge thing kinda played itself out by now?
Send tapes, CDs, show dates, and comp tickets that we'll just turn around and scalp to Locals Only, OC Weekly, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627-0247.