Straight Outta Stanton

Can the Pocket Clowns Save the World?

Phyllipz, meanwhile, is drawn to the Pocket Clowns for reasons that very nearly contradict Frederickson. "They really have that ska-lypso feel, which is probably why I like them so much," he says. "Yeah, for me it's their ska-lypso with that touch of emo."

Cash, however, hears something different. "If Korn and Save Ferris had a baby," he says, "it would be the Pocket Clowns."

Amazingly, nearly every listener seems to recognize the essence of their own favorite music in the Pocket Clowns' songs. The band's repertoire is immense and affecting. There is "The Hardest Bone," of course, an unapologetically strapping synthpunk-and-jazzrap confession/manifesto that defines the insularity of modern love. But the band also reaches from a playfully ethnopolitical take on Orange County's image, "White Hot Whole," to a choked-up tribute to-believe it or not-Billy Ray Cyrus called "Achingly, Breakingly, Again," which discovers tender artistry in the music of a man previously dismissed as a pumped-up country goofball. And then there's "Morningwood," an ode to the simple pleasure a man feels when he awakens next to a woman.

Rather than igniting derision, the Pocket Clowns' derivative style is evoking inspiration everywhere. In an era when popular music has become an archipelago of genres, everybody seems to appreciate the land bridges the Pocket Clowns are suggesting-no, providing-with their endless molten flow. Now the question is how long even Orange County can contain the Pocket Clowns' broadly arcing and intensely sparking mélange of sonics and phonics.

"Who could ever blend trash with class so perfectly?" marvels J-Flexx, a solo rapper, producer and lyricist who authored such multiplatinum hits as "Natural Born Killaz," "Keep Their Heads Ringin'" and "California Love" for Dr. Dre when he was with the Death Row Records camp. "People's minds are expanding as the new millennium approaches, and the Pocket Clowns are one of the first groups making expanded-mind music."

But for now, even as they teeter on the cusp of a fame and significance that could have internationally historic impact, the Pocket Clowns remain perfectly satisfied to play for the faithful.

Their most recent show at the Loose Moose is typical of those performances, establishing a triangular relationship among the songs, the artists and the audience that envelops them all in the perfectly ecstatic mathematical equation of sound's ultimately peaceable kingdom.

Except for the thin spotlight on the lone microphone-and a couple of jerks playing with their laser pointers -the five Pocket Clowns arrive onstage in darkness. They form a rough circle, facing one another as if to conjure forth the force that will propel their music. And then the band begins to play, sounding almost like a sound check, feedback, a broken record, a busboy dropping a tray of glasses, some sarcastic applause, the digestive rumble from the deepest part of the keyboards and the frivolous jangle of the tightest guitar strings, a drum pedal, a snippet of a melody, an absent thrash, everybody's heads bobbing to their own frantic beat like petting-zoo chickens running from a mean little boy.

Magically, the cacophony congeals into the recognizable intro to "The Hardest Bone." With a reflexive roar that melts into a helpless groan, the crowd surrenders itself to the sound. If anyone hears the guys with the laser pointers getting kicked out, it is somewhere in their subconscious.

Finally, Stanky and Ginger L. step toward the awaiting microphone, which they always share. It is still wrapped in that funny white paper streamer, which turns out to be one of those "Sanitized for Your Protection" bands-the kind maids put on motel toilet seats. With a dramatic flourish, Ginger L. snaps away the flimsy barricade, and the Pocket Clowns rip into "The Hardest Bone" with a holy ferocity that is equal parts pagan caterwaul and Catholic choir.

You shoulda stayed down there where my sex is,

Instead of coming up 'round my solar plexus.

Then you wouldn't be complaining

That you have been wronged.

You went looking inside me for something softer,

Some kind of happily ever after.

But the lesson, my love, is

The heart is the hardest bone.

It must be close to 3 a.m., and the hottest band in Orange County and a roadie they call Spooky Mike are packing themselves and their equipment into a rusty 1965 International Travel All, a creaky grandfather of today's SUVs. "These sanitized-toilet strips we wrap around our mic are sort of a joke," Ginger L. explains as she tosses a box of them into the glove compartment. "But, actually, it might be nice. Once I got a cold sore from Stanky during a show."

Moments later, with the best performance they've ever given still ringing in their ears, the Pocket Clowns are idling quietly at the back of a full left-turn lane at Katella and Beach Boulevard. "All in all, this is an okay place to be," Stanky serenely confides to the reporter who has been tagging along all day. "The left-turn lights in Stanton stay green longer than just about anywhere." Sure enough, the Travel All is easily included in the automotive herd that swoops onto southbound Beach Boulevard. Everybody inside responds by releasing a celebratory "Yesssss!"

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