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Photo by Jeanne RiceLit's A.Jay Popoff is 100 percent pure, unapologetic rock star, shimmying up the microphone stand, climbing on monitors, crouching, pointing, shaking a tambourine, mirroring older brother Jeremy's guitar work on his air guitar, ripping his shirt off to expose a pierced nipple and a washboard stomach tattooed with the band's former name, and managing somehow—through some combination of divine intervention and fancy footwork—to strut along the top of Club 369's horseshoe-shaped bar without tripping on beer bottles, bar glasses or people's hands. It was a sight to behold, and it was the last time this particular sight could be held at the Fullerton club, when Lit, Zebrahead and Burnin' Groove played an unannounced show to celebrate its final night at this location and to raise money for City of Hope.
"So, how did you guys know we were playing tonight? That's what I want to know," a sweat-drenched A.Jay asked the crowd.
And he wasn't the only one. Club promoter Randy Cash, who opened the club in 1994 and was instrumental in launching the careers of all three bands, was probably wondering the same thing. He'd hoped (and had been instructed by Lit's label) to keep a tighter lid on the evening's festivities.
"Hope everyone's doing well. Hope everyone's happy and sad at the same time that this place is going," said opening band Burnin' Groove's Daren Carlson to the already packed—and sauced—house.
Think graduation. Think last day of summer camp. Think final night of your eighth-grade musical. Think when your child finally switches from diapers to underwear. Think when you finally switch from underwear to adult diapers. Think New Year's Eve. Think any of those end-of-an-era events that call forth that poignant, choked-up "it'll never be like this again" feeling that causes grown men to hug one another.
Ever see a security man cry? Such was this night's level of heightened emotion, swinging from the celebratory to the maudlin and back again. Lit played a boisterous set that even included five songs from their first menacing, heavy-metal-riffic album, Tripping the Light Fantastic—a rare occurance these days.
"I haven't screamed in so long, and this song's fuckin' metal," said A.Jay before heading into his higher register.
Like them or not, there's no denying that Lit are damn good musicians, probably owing to the fact that their roots aren't in the simple, bratty punk that's so fashionable these days but in metal, which demands a greater level of dexterity, flourish and complexity than you might realize.
"Dude, this is a serious moment," said Jeremy, trying to coerce the evening's absurdly giddy tone into something a little more meaningful. "This is the last song we're ever going to play here."
"The club is ending. The bands aren't," A.Jay reminded his brother.
The club isn't really ending, though—just moving on. After six years of running a 21-and-over establishment, owner Randy Cash and partner Greg (just "Greg") have decided to try their hand at something the county sorely needs: another large all-ages venue. They hope to have the new club —capacity about 900 and a bar for those over 21—running at an undisclosed Fullerton location in two to three months.
"We're trying to do everything right so once we open, we don't get snagged," said Cash, referring to the endless red tape that makes opening an all-ages venue, especially one with alcohol, an arduous process. In the meantime, the club will put on shows at Tropics in Huntington Beach.
"I'm really sad," said A.Jay after the show, amid myriad distractions in the form of drunken cohorts vying for his attention. "This club has been the coolest club to play since we started."