We'll skip right over those first three, since we've spray painted quite enough niceties about 'em on the walls for a while. Let's just say they were allgreat (and has Smile ever played a bad show?).
We were more interested in the two lower-end bands on the bill, neither one of which we'd heard of. For their part, the Superstars were more into entertaining than venturing too far into their kinda-interesting, slightly funked-up alterna-rock. True, their tunes about teddy bears and picking up girls at the In-N-Out didn't have much, um . . . depth. And they yammered on too much between their songs. And the singer and guitarist cracked too many lame jokes (they'd make a good morning-radio drive-time team). But, hey, who cares about that when your guitarist jumps around on a trampoline and does running body flips! He also-thanks to the miracle of wireless technology-left the room and went wandering through the lobby, picking all the while. It seemed a tad too arena-rawk cheesy, but when you call your band the Superstars, maybe that's the whole point.
Kontrol Freaq were pretty decent, too: well-executed, weighty guitar rock, but not too heavy or indulgent. A lot of their songs had not terribly annoying power chords, like "Electromagnetic," which people apparently liked enough to demand a repeat.
Let us speak of Maesrk, a wonderfully exotic band with two acoustic strummers, a drummer, a conga spanker, a plain old bassist, and no singer around to mess things up. They were extraordinarily cool, with some of their jam-laden numbers drifting into a jazz-fusion realm crossed with a heaping portion of ethno-rhythms-not unlike what you'd find in your average coffeehouse, but theirs was music actually worth paying attention to.
Nova Soul (notLong Beach's Delta Nove, as you may have read elsewhere) had a singer whose demonic, deep-lunged vocals sounded uncannily like Eddie Vedder getting strung up by his nipples after they had been pierced with white-hot meat hooks. He may have been a little overemotive (okay, we're being too nice-he ranted and raved like a lunatic!), but his comrades churned out some lovely, bluesy riffs, which made everything all right.
Speaking of psychotic ranting, that's what we first thought of Erik Rez, who did a folkie guitar/harp thing. Depending on how much incense you had sucked into your lungs, Rez was either wonderfully entertaining (and not just because he seemed like such a spazz that we were afraid he was gonna have an epileptic seizure) or the most annoying guy you've ever seen, someone who sang about people like Davey the Hippie and Queen Victoria in that cursed, nasal, folksinger whine. Then again, other annoying, nasal folkies like Dylan, the Guthries and Jewel have all made serious cash this way, so maybe Rez is onto something. We grew to like him eventually and thought it unfortunate that most of the crowd chose to mull outside while he was onstage. Yeah, Rez was freaky, but he was also uniquely satisfying.
Just like David Fischoff. This Chicagoan just stood there-barely moving, armed with only a Stratocaster -and slowly picked out gentle notes while mumbling various incoherencies into his mic. Fischoff didn't really play "songs"; they were more like compositions. He sang like he was crying and sighing at the same time, and he came off alternately moving, eerie, ethereal, peaceful, creepy, powerful and emotional-music that felt more suited for a cathedral, really. Every now and then, he'd clang his axe noisily, but it never disturbed the Zen-like aura of the moment. The room certainly feltprayer-like, which was kinda neat. It was certainly the quietest we've ever seen Koo's; there were times when the loudest noises in the place came from the sound of our notebook pages turning. It was really beautiful stuff, unlike anything we have ever heard.
Seattle's Damien Jurado (whom we raved about last week) was a lot more rhythmic than Fischoff; he was definitely more into getting his words across. He has a gift for making even his most depressing downer songs sound sadly, strangely romantic, like on a new tune he debuted, "Has Anybody Seen Shannon Rhodes?"; it was about someone he used to know who was "murdered by the hands of her lover." Jurado was happier, though, on his less serious songs, like "Honey Baby," one of three that Matt Wignall of Long Beach's Havalina Rail Co. sat in on lap steel guitar.
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