By Daniel Kohn
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Photo by Jeanne RiceThere's no sign of a show tonight at the Loose Moose Saloon, even though a standing-room-only crowd is gathered anxiously around the venerable club's small stage, which is stocked with guitars, drums, keyboards, turntables and a lone microphone that is drenched in a white spotlight and draped with a weirdly familiar paper streamer. But there is no sign, per se, that any band is supposed to play tonight; the marquee outside doesn't mention a thing.Listen to Pocket Clowns
Download the RealPlayer FREE! "Why ask for problems?" shrugs Dave Koontz as he tries to out-shout the raucous throng that has squashed into his roadhouse. Koontz has owned the Loose Moose Saloon for the past 13 years of the half-century it has perched on the edge of Katella Avenue in an unincorporated sliver of Orange County surrounded by Anaheim, Garden Grove and Stanton. He has learned that customers who love liquor and music require a special kind of social etiquette. "This place only holds 275 people," he says. "Advertising this show would only amount to laughing in the faces of everybody who can't get in."
Even so, word-of-mouth promotion has left about 100 people lingering edgily around the front door. Some seem unwilling to accept they won't be getting inside, pointedly questioning everything from the fire codes to the bouncers' IQs to exactly which law-enforcement agency handles disturbances in unincorporated OC. But others are simply claiming places to stand along the side of the western-style building-every window pane is already spoken for-and pressing against the wooden exterior, willing to risk splinters in their ears to extract whatever sound might worm through the walls.
Koontz is keeping a concerned eye on those milling ominously outside, but he's reluctant to turn anybody away too forcefully. For one thing, he sympathizes with them. "I'll tell ya, I'm glad I'm guaranteed to get in for this show," he confides. For another, pissing off potential customers isn't good for business over the long run. "Hey, don't think for a moment that I'm letting a few nights like this fool me," says Koontz, shaking his head with a shudder as though he has scared himself with the thought. "This situation is fabulous, but I'm not kidding myself. When I book a band that draws this kind of crowd-hell, we don't even need to charge our normal $3 cover; we're making so much off the bar-I know that band is on its way to bigger and better things. It won't be long before the Loose Moose is too small for the Pocket Clowns."
Suddenly but indisputably, the Pocket Clowns-three guys and two girls from the 3 square miles of callused suburbia known as Stanton-have been anointed the Next Big Thing to emerge from the Orange County music scene.
"That tag gets thrown around all the time, of course, but the Pocket Clowns are for real," asserts Tazy Phyllipz, host of the Saturday noon Ska Parade on KUCI-FM (88.9) and the man who helped Sublime break into stardom while he was an intern at KROQ. "I get around to lots of clubs, and about a year ago, I heard kids start mentioning that they were really digging this band. So I went and saw them, and they absolutely floored me. I've seen them lots of times by now, and I get the same kind of feeling as when I first heard Sublime-but even more so."
Stanky Edwards and Ginger L. Gladness, the Pocket Clowns' lead singers, guitarists and songwriters, are already considered the county's No. 1 alterna-couple. Their musical collaboration is prompting comparisons to such man-woman teams as Exene and John, Ike and Tina, and the Captain and Tennille, even if the exact nature of their affection remains the subject of much speculation. Are they boyfriend-girlfriend? Brother-sister? Husband-wife? Some suspect they are having an extramarital affair. Stanky and Ginger L. (she is adamant that the letter is not an initial, but rather part of her first name) ignore the curiosity and provide no clues, fueling gossip by addressing each other only as "Shakebrotha" and "Shakesista."
Onstage and off, they exude a dynamic chemistry. Stanky is compact and muscled, terse and obtuse, with a head of hair like early-1960s hi-lo carpet, a treasured collection of late-1970s Izod shirts, and a lifelong hatred of all things Garden Grove that is so intense he was court-ordered into an anger-management class. "If it wasn't for my music," he offers, "I'd probably be a little squirrelly."
Ginger L. is your basic perky utopian existentialist-a "fizzionary," as she likes to describe herself-who says she became that way as a child when the widening of Chapman Avenue took away her family's back yard. "I truly believe that one day we'll all live in perfect harmony, everybody being exactly who they want to be," she gushes, her wide eyes blinking like a DON'T WALK sign. "But that's not going to save our souls from an eternity of tortured nothingness." Ginger L. gets defensive only when anybody mentions her classic California-girl beauty, the blue eyes and blond hair. "I prefer to think of myself as a brunette," she says, "but in a good way."