By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Sense Field/The Pressure/ Bulletpark/ Element 17
Friday, Oct. 6
Portland, Oregon, is a wonderful little burg, populated with merely good and even brilliant bands, plenty of rooms for them to play in, and rapt, worshipful audiences. There's a sense of musical community in Portland, where friends always—always—turn out for other friends' shows, lesser-known bands on the bill are paid the same respect as the main draw, and nobody cuts out early when the band they came to see is finished. It's stay-till-last-call-or-don't-come-at-all. Even sweeter, nobody appears to have any pretensions about "making it," whatever that means anymore; in Portland, that great singer/songwriter you catch in a bar one night may actually be quite content at his record-store-clerking day job, thank you, and wouldn't dream of leaving it. Okay, okay, okay—so people really don't want to leave the clubs because it's usually pissing down rain outside, and the local scene is so strong because, well . . . there just ain't a whole lot else to do up there besides drink coffee and shoot smack. If you're not in a band, you might as well go watch one.
Which brings us to Friday night in OC and, eventually, to our point: See that lineup at the top of this column? If Sense Field and the Pressure were Portland-based and we were witnessing this bill in the Rose City instead of OC, the room would've been stuffed beyond every limit imposed by the contractor, fire marshal and city zoning department. Your entire family has been hacked apart by vengeful Cossacks? Oh, well —you've got a Sense Field gig to attend!
So . . . where was everybody Friday? This should've been a sold-out bill—it sure was the last time Sense Field came through a year ago—yet the Chain was only about three-quarters full. Now we're forced to put on our pursed-lip, schoolmarm face and chastise all of you who knew about this show, who thought about going but didn't. We know there are oodles of distractions where we live, this being glamorous (overdeveloped, sprawling) SoCal and all, but really. . . . All we could do was heave a big, sad, disheartened sigh. So while you were staying at home in front of the TV, gorging yourself on idiot fare like Nash Bridges and the season premiere of Police Videos, you could've instead been seeing Element 17, who were full of great, crunchy, solid, never-let-up rock & roll peppered with bending, warbling, prickly pop hooks. We make it a point to see them at least once a year, and they keep getting better at doing what they do—very ear-friendly tunes, and we'd say that even if (full disclosure) the lead singer wasn't dating a Weekly photog.
"I could see them getting signed!" went one quickie review we overheard, which makes sense these days since bands with numbers in their names are hot, hot, hot! But unlike Eve 6, Third Eye Blind, Matchbox 20, Three Doors Down and the rest of their annoying brethren, Element 17 shatters type by being a number-named band that's actually worth hearing.
And . . . you! While you were spiking your hair in a vain attempt to look like last year's definition of "cool," you could've instead been privy to Bulletpark. Made up of members of Reel Big Fish and the Aquabats, plus an ex-Killington, Bulletpark are a sort-of supergroup. They were nice, moody, colorful and swirly—kinda like an "emo" band but kinda not, too, and sounding very much like the Killingtons, actually. We've sorta been hankering for a live Killingtons fix for a while now, but Bulletpark served as an adequate sub. This was only the band's third show, so we'll give 'em enough time to find their truer, less-Killingtons-esque selves. Still, pretty durn good for a new group, "super" or not.
And . . . you! While you were running around Yorba Linda Boulevard defacing those BUCHANAN FOR PRESIDENT signs (that could've waited another night), you should instead have been enjoying the Pressure, who were playing a gig in their home county for the first time since Allah only knows. This was a glorious return-to-form performance after a year spent locked in a slew of various band turmoils, so it was heartening to hear this fine band hit the boards again with solid renderings of tunes like "Outer Space" and "I Wanna Call Someone," among a tasty batch of others. A great set—we hope they get back to playing out more often.
And . . . you! While you spent Friday night at home with tweezers in each hand, busily adding to your bellybutton-lint collection, Sense Field were sweating their heinies off. Lanky front man John Bunch was a commanding presence, bouncing around onstage as if the finger of God were prodding him along. A really deep, intense, passionate, histrionics-free performance, with meaningful lyrics buoyed along on resplendent melodies that burn in your head for days afterward. Even their Smiths cover was sublime, and—even rarer for club shows of this kind—they earned a couple of encores, which meant that although the crowd was tinier than expected, the noise levels came damn close to approximating that of a packed house.