By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
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By Alex Distefano
The Gypsy Lounge
Friday, Feb. 16
Now it's time to check back with the scene at the Gypsy Lounge, South County's best local-band-oriented rock club (that's not teeming with cheeseball cover acts doing creaky Bachman-Turner Overdrive tunes). Seems owner/operator Mike Concepción has been making changes since our last visit—the stage has been widened, the sound system has been beefed up, the bar has been expanded, newly purchased garage-sale lamps swing briskly overhead (one still had the price tag on it), and there's a swell new mixing board in the back that looks over everybody's heads. Mike is cool enough to let us hide out there so's we can avoid dealing with the sloshed cretins who come up to us with their fists hauled back and ask if we are who they think we are. We love rockcriticdom with a passion, but damn, we're gonna have to file a worker's comp claim one of these days. Or hire a Soprano for a bodyguard.
The Lounge is a nice, relaxing room, so kicked-back that people were actually sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the stage during Square's set (as were we, hoping to catch the beads of perspiration that randomly flew off the band's collective foreheads—when Square become really, really huge, we'll be there, hawking vials of Square Sweat for $20 a pop on eBay). It's a classy joint, though there is still the occasional Horny Old Man wandering in from the Captain Cream's strip joint across the parking lot, killing time until the next hard-on arrives.
Meanwhile, the grog and ale flowed freely, and the Gypsy Lounge appears well on its way to reaching its South County hot spot destiny, if it ain't there already. It's attracting Fabulous Celebrities (Ooooo! There's Paul Frank! Ooooo! There's Tony Scalzo from Fastball!) and hefty crowds. Now, if they can just do something about those tacky nekkid-lady paintings on the wall and all the consarned people who insist on yack-yack-yacking while some truly great bands are playing a scant few feet away (a trait that always annoyed us about the old Club 369—Mike was just as irked by this as we were, ranting, "How can people be talking about the movie they just saw while this is going on?").
By "this," he meant Deccatree, which is Chris Karn's new band. Karn, you might recall, was once a part of Sonichrome and Standing Hawthorne, two bands that shoulda been mega. Sonichrome put out a brilliant pop-rock album on Capitol in 1998 called Breathe the Daylight, which, tragically, went nowhere—pick it up for cheap in the used CD bins or hear it on the jukebox at Linda's Doll Hut. We really do mean brilliant—every song, even the ballads, was a stunning, ridiculously catchy, hook-rich piece of work. Three years later, it's still taking up a slot on our five-disc CD changer, and if we were ever to compile a list of Greatest Major-Label Albums by OC Bands, Breathe the Daylight would absolutely be in our Top Three, alongside Vinnie James' All American Boy (Yo, Vinnie! Whatever happened to you?) and maybe a Jackson Browne or Tim Buckley disc.
Deccatree is every bit as grand, full of Karn's brand of sinewy, Beatle-y pop and these succulent, killer riffs that much larger, less talented bands would pluck their eyeballs out for. With Deccatree, Karn seems to be interested in exploring more midtempo, less straight-ahead rock than he was with his other bands, but the stuff he's cranking out now is just as memorable—more in the vein of Breathe the Daylight tracks like "There Was 2" (the sole Sonichrome tune played this night) than such cranked-up Sonic cuts as "Over Confident" and "Honey Please." We get his reasons—artistic growth and the need to move on and all that—but a slightly varied Karn is better than no Karn at all. Hopefully, Deccatree will bring him better luck.
Also making an appearance this night: Long Beach's still-getting-better-every-time-we-see-'em Telecast, who were full of Cure-ish guitar licks and droning dreamscapes. We purchased one of their new samplers, but they oughta rethink their marketing strategy on those—five bucks for just two songs?!? We've bought full-lengths that were cheaper than that! Then there was Monde Green, a San Clemente bunch of rockers with a very Silver Lake, indie-hipster aura about them, not bad for only having been around a couple of months; and Jay Buchanan, who was, well . . . you know.