Is this what rock & roll has come to?!? Precocious toddlers scampering? Immobile grandparents who actually look as if they're having a good time? The mayor of Garden Grove actually looking like he's having a good time? Picnic baskets and lawn chairs spread out across a big, green lawn? Someone wandering around in a hot, sweaty Hometown Buffet bee costume? Grown men proudly sporting Underdog T-shirts? Grown men proudly sporting Beatles T-shirts? And . . . freaking drill team routines?
It was all so Midwestern, so anti-punk, so Bucolic City—it being the afternoon portion (of the Orange County portion) of the Third Annual International Pop Overthrow (IPO), held in quiet, tranquil, sleepy little Eastgate Park in Garden Grove. The turnout was great, a much bigger crowd than last year's (we guesstimated a horde of about 400 at its peak), indicating that people seem to prefer absorbing their rock in quiet, tranquil, sleepy little settings. Freaks.
But at least the music wasn't quiet, tranquil or sleepy—no, no, this was not a "smooth jazz" fest. This was a bill of Pure Pop for Now People, the sort of aural ecstasy that crammed up AM radio in the '60s and '70s—the stuff we were raised on, basically (our older brother had his 94.7 KMET, but we had 93 KHJ and loved it). Nor are we ashamed to admit that the first album we ever owned was the überpoppy Crazy Horses by the Osmonds—a goddamn classic, straight-up.
First up were the See Saw, who came all the way from Salzburg, Austria—Mozart's birthplace, just so you know—to play the IPO. Austrian pop, turns out, isn't too different from traditional American pop, only with broken-English accents—instead of shimmering sha-la-la choruses, they came out as shar-lar-lar, sounding something like the Monkees would've if Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kurt Waldheim had been members —ja! Most of their songs were rather uninspired, though, as if they were still jet-lagged, still functioning on Austrian time.
Slow and unpeppy would also describe Blue Imagination, who were down from the Bay Area (also known as "someplace close to but far less interesting than San Francisco"). Sound problems seemed to rear up most often during their set (it sure looked like a guitar solo, but it unfortunately came off as pantomime). And maybe it was the sound situation again, but their singer had the most nasally set of pipes we've ever heard—he was basically a nose with legs.
KFI talk-show dude Wayne Resnick and his band Trigger Finger (actually Mike Simmons and Jamie Knight of OC's own Sparkle*jets UK) were catchy and cool, and Wayne's tunes celebrating the simple pleasures of ordinary things (like pizza deliveries, clams and toilet seats—no kidding, the lyric went "My life is complete/With my new toilet seat") were fast and funny. Best, though, was this charming work-in-progress warm-up ditty he did that should earn him some sort of timeliness prize: "She Downloaded My Heart off Napster."
Randell Kirsch, who used to be in a band called Show of Hands, brought a six-piece pop ensemble and a double-neck guitar. He was full of wispy love songs that had lines like "The only good thing about leaving is coming home to you," which either made you wanna go, "Awww!" while getting all misty-eyed or made you wanna hurl up your breakfast. Nice, clear, Matthew Sweet-type singing voice, though.
Scarlet Crush, who we once caught at Linda's Doll Hut eons ago, followed. They were swell once again (probably even better than the Linda's gig, if we could only remember that far back), with heaps of sweet, high, sturdy harmonies and enough riled-up, buzzy guitars to keep their Squeeze-esque pop glimmer edgy. We're told they're working on an album with OC's own King of Pop, Walter Clevenger, which should be an interesting listen when it comes out in the fall. The Crush were merely the second-best band of the day, though, but certainly the best American-bred one.
Eventually came the Oranges from Tokyo, easily the coolest. Why? Their lead singer had a vintage Bay City Rollers 'do! Their drummer's name was Pee! They performed coordinated leg-kicks! They wore matching, styled jump suits in different candy colors—red, yellow, navy blue and turquoise (Pee wore the yellow one!)! They spoke in charmingly broken English ("We are Oranges! You now have fun!")! They were like the stars of their own Saturday-morning variety show, proudly relishing everything American and cheesy and treating it like religion. And their songs were pop masterpieces, with enough catchy riffs to stick dangerously in your head for months. Sure, all of them were sung in Japanese, but who needs a translation when their tunes were so sugar-riffic?
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