Whats a Rock & Roll Nihilist to Do?

The Stitches/The Flip'n Whiteys/Shot to Hell
Linda's Doll Hut Friday, Dec. 29

As millenniums go, we'd expected more. Where are the flying cars? The underwater cities? Jesus? Instead, it's been a year that started with a whimper and looks to be ending with a nice, long nap. Blah! What's a rock & roll nihilist to do? Since the apocalypse isn't cooperating, we had to slake our thirst for adventure elsewhere: Linda's Doll Hut, a fine place for serious thirst-slaking, metaphorical or otherwise. Darling Ms. Linda dedicated her December weekends to benefit concerts for deserving charities, so we felt even more sanctimonious than usual—we had a chance to help destroy leukemia and lymphoma as well as some musical careers, if necessary! And, of course, it was damn necessary. There are good bands, and there are bad bands—and then there are evil bands that should never plunk out another note again, saving our already bleak and sunless world from a darker doom. Tonight, we saw an evil band.

But first up, Shot to Hell. They were dressed in black—coincidentally the same color as our hard little, music-critic heart. They started with a rollicking instrumental prelude, and then their singer came swaggering onstage, hair goo sluicing off his shimmering pompadour, and started snarling out something about losing streaks: ah, yes, rock and/or roll, in this case with a big ol' dollop of -abilly. "This is like if the Reverend Horton Heat and Mike Ness had a love child," observed our companion. And if this future weren't so disappointing, we'd have already cultivated that Mr. Horton Ness in a vat somewhere. Though fast cars, hot girls and cold drinks (and the infinite combinations thereof) make for tepid subject matter, Shot to Hell still blazed along nicely and noisily. The only thing tighter than their leather pants was their musicianship, and they oozed a sort of greasy charisma—or was that just pomade? Plus, they copped good riffs—Eddie Cochran and G.B.H., together at last!—and admitted as much, proving their character and taste. We even clapped.

And then we stopped clapping for a long, long time as the Flip'n Whiteys lurched into infamy. They were the evil band, the kind of band that really makes you believe in a cruel, uncaring and godless universe. How else could this kind of half-baked, subliterate, straining-for-cliché, suburban, skate-boner, bullshit music exist? Truly, we are alone, we thought, as the Flip'n Whiteys handed one of their slack-jawed groupies the mic for some monosyllabic, third-grade, hip-hop freestylin'—alone and doomed. Still, they were almost fascinating in a pick-at-your-scab kind of way, as a repulsively thorough romp through the worst human creativity (using the term in its loosest possible sense) from one-chord moron "punk" to skittering stabs at reggae, rap and anesthetic pop. Oh, and did we mention the bongo drums?

And, of course, they did an encore. "Fuck you! Get off the stage!" shrieked some punk rock angel. "What's the fucking point?" Our companion fingered her pepper spray in case they started another song.

The Stitches were on next, a band that has helped keep Orange County punk from degenerating into self-parody for many, many years. We hoped they would kill the Flip'n Whiteys—just walk quietly inside, guitars slung over their shoulders, and make the future a little brighter.

But tonight, the Stitches weren't out for blood. Judging by the rings of empty cups on the floor and the lopsided grin on singer Michael's face, they were out for beer. Maybe that's why they didn't explode like they could have, splattering bongo drums all over the walls. Instead, they methodically and enthusiastically stomped their way through a monster set of their trademark '77-style punk, like if the Buzzcocks had grown up at the beach instead of in dreary old Britain. They were exactly what we needed: crowd pleasers like "I Just Wanna Fuck" and "My Baby Hates Me" (which inspired throaty sing-alongs), old holiday chestnuts like "Throw It Away," and even their cover of La Peste's "Better Off Dead"—real music, you know? So what if certain singers were forgetting certain words ("Fuckin' amazing; my own goddamn songs," he mused)? The crowd made up for it, though, and saved them just like the Stitches saved us from the will-to-live-sapping poison of the Flip'n Whiteys.

Maybe, we thought, as we stumbled outside and looked up at the starless Anaheim night, the future isn't so boring after all.

 
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