Straight Outta Stanton

Can the Pocket Clowns Save the World?

The rest of the Pocket Clowns-Hewitt Wierwen, Y.N. Howe and the diminutive Tabitha Sanchez-are just as enigmatic. Musically, their role is to supply the foundation for the ever-shifting tangents pursued by Ginger L. and Stanky, and life seems to have prepared them perfectly for this destiny. They all grew up in Stanton, and their individual paths are just the latest testament to the variety and vitality that can be crammed into a community of 30,000 people that was named after a man from another city, Philip Stanton of Seal Beach, who in 1911 saved the place from Anaheim's plan to turn it into a sewage farm. Hewitt, the keyboardist whose technological wizardry is responsible for the band's elaborate soundscapes, was born in Germany. He ended up in Stanton as a teenager because his father, a U.S. Army captain stationed outside Saarbr├╝cken, figured it was the perfect place to get lost after going AWOL. Something of a brooder, Hewitt says he misses Bavaria and tells himself he is just on extended holiday, consequently favoring the short shorts, white knee socks and hard black shoes of tourists from his native land-although the band has put a stop to him showing up at gigs that way. "To me, music is nothing less than the posing of our most profound philosophical questions," declares Hewitt, who considers himself an artistic soul descended from the Germanic sensibilities of romantic-classical composer Felix Mendelssohn ("A Midsummer Night's Dream") and new-wave chanteuse Nena ("99 Luftballoons"). "Yes, yes, yes," he whispers, half to himself. "Does not this life all amount to the courage to pose?"

Y.N. cracks up when Hewitt gets on one of his profound-musical-questions jags. "But it works, me and him," Y.N. allows, "because I spit nothin' but answers." Y.N. gives the Pocket Clowns their mad hip-hop flava, manipulating a pair of turntables and kicking the occasional rhyme. He remains astonished that he's actually the member of a band. "You look at the kind of doinks who go out for band in high school, and, I mean, why would ya?" reasons Y.N., who admits he spent most of his time at Rancho Santiago High School smoking bud behind the True Jesus Church across the street. Y.N. was a dedicated headbanger until a few summers ago, when he found hip-hop while working at Burger King with some black guys. "When they found out I could dribble basketballs with both hands at the same time, one of them started calling me 'The DJ,'" says Y.N. "Or was it Dr. J? Anyhow, that just kinda fired up my interest."

Tabitha, the drummer, listens to all this and just rolls her eyes. She is the most inscrutable of the Pocket Clowns, her world-view shaped by growing up as a latchkey kid in a poor household where the only TV was permanently stuck on channel 5. "You can ask me anything about Hal Fishman and his endless procession of blond co-anchors," Tabitha says with a chuckle. "Otherwise, all I know is how to keep a beat."

Since the Pocket Clowns first raised eyebrows with a half-dozen dates at the Loose Moose Saloon, the buzz surrounding the band has revved into a veritable air-raid siren. Lately, they've been playing clubs all over Orange County-and they're beginning to show up at some larger venues, too.

"I've never seen anything like this," says Randy Cash, who's been booking shows at Club 369 in Fullerton for almost five years. "The Pocket Clowns played two shows here, and I can't pick up the phone anymore. It's either people wanting to know when they'e going to be playing here again or record-company reps bugging me for more information. It's like I have to get a third line or something."

"The first time I saw the Pocket Clowns, they opened for the Brian Setzer Orchestra," says Bill Fold, promoter of the annual Fourth of July weekend Hootenanny festival at the Oak Canyon Ranch at Irvine Lake. "It was a real shocker because they weren't advertised. I don't know who they knew, but there they were, and the crowd loved them." Fold would love to have the Pocket Clowns play this year's Hootenanny on July 3. "At this point, it would seem like the perfect fit, the next natural step for them," he says. "But by July, who knows? They may already be beyond us."

They may be close now. Ginger L. was invited to do a number with George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars at the Galaxy Concert Theatre on March 24. Backstage after the show, one of the band's vocalists, P-Nut, couldn't stop raving about her and what he foresees for the Pocket Clowns. "They are light years ahead of their time," P-Nut said between tokes on a monster spliff, "and Ginger L.-awwwww, she has the most funk of all."

Meanwhile, the Pocket Clowns' signature song, "The Hardest Bone," continues to send the local music industry scouring through its vocabulary and frames of reference for the words and comparisons to pay proper homage.

"Not since Nirvana, with Nevermind and 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' have I come across a band that I believe will make the impact of the Pocket Clowns," says Shane Frederickson of the OC-based power-pop band Element 17 (formerly Chlorine). "I think Orange County music needs a kick in the butt like this. It's nice to see something with a little more depth than a four-chord song. People around here have been caught up in the ska-punk era too long."

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