Mugs Away

The Pattern
Koo's Art Cafe
Friday, May 11

The past is collapsing in on itself, you know. The kids are strip-mining the graveyard of rock & roll, and the freshest corpses yet belong to the long-haired rebel rockers of 1968—and hence, the Pattern, Oakland's answer to the question Detroit stopped asking a long time ago. The new thing now is "rock" in quotes, a stylish but very visibly self-conscious nod to the fucked-up, can't-help-it days of yesteryear (which is fine with us, since it means the Weirdos and Screamers rip-offs should be hitting about November or so, and those particular skeletons haven't quite been plundered to shreds yet). And the Pattern definitely "rock," in a workmanlike kind of way. If you're one of those "kids" who "likes" to "rock," well, you're stoked—at least, if you're that kid pogoing with a mop handle (rock & roll on you, right, man?). The Pattern has a helluva pedigree, thanks in part to drummer Jim Nastic (who killed us once in Black Fork, the East Bay's answer to the question Darby Crash couldn't quite gurgle out, and who killed us again in Talk Is Poison, the East Bay's answer to any question appropriately answered with a blistering wall of high-speed, nihilist noise) and Chris Appelgren (formerly of the Peechees), who could well be the sexiest man in punk, if you're into the constant, unconscious I-can't-keep-my-paws-off-my-package thing, which evidently a lot of people are. But unfortunately, like the Peechees, it sounded like they basically had one song—one which, not too surprisingly, sounded like the Peechees with a little of the Who/British-bad-haircut invasion and a lot of gussied-up, '60s trash rock with all the rough edges shorn off. Sure, it was fun in a kick-out-the-jams-gosh-darn-it kinda way, but here's an example of where they were coming from: they threw fake money into the crowd, and really, it's hard to make an emptier statement than that. Toss ones or coupons or keep it in your pants, okay? Still, without a lot of substance to weigh them down, they were able to dangle (gingerly) from the light rig and really crank out a lot of "rock." And if the sweat beadlets on the windows are any indication, the kids love that stuff. Mostly. After they finished, somebody yelled out, "One more!" Hopeful, the Pattern looked up from their instruments, ready for an encore. All they got was silence. "Now don't be sarcastic," said Chris, and they did one more anyway. The Vibrators
Club Mesa
Friday, May 11

So we go to the punk show, and what happens? A punk show breaks out! We're standing there, blithely nodding along with the Vibrators—who, for a bunch of guys on the cusp of becoming OAPs (Old Age Pensioners) have still got an infectiously affable energy. If it weren't for the bald spots, you'd swear original opened-for-the-Sex-Pistols guitarist Knoxie was 18 again the way his eyes light up, and he gets this lopsided grin when he screeches into a solo. But anyway, it was nothing but good times, good feelings and a little good-natured ribbing from the band about how there are no rude people in Costa Mesa ("We've all got warrants," someone muttered darkly and perhaps all too accurately), and then a beer mug goes screaming through the air like a rogue-nation ballistic missile and splits bassist Robbie's pouty British mouth wide and bloodily open! Oh, irony was never so painful! It was suddenly a very awkward no-more-heroes moment as he hurled his bass to the floor and loosed a fusillade of quaint Limey obscenities (and not just because of the guy who asked, "What's a wanker?"). It was very apparent that this wasn't 1977 anymore (and God knows the last thing the Brits need are even more fucked-up teeth). Luckily, tempers were doused with offers of more beer (an almost poetic solution), and Robbie sopped the blood off, and they picked their set right back up—with a little more energy even! Thank you, adrenal glands!—and brought a long catalog of classics to life. And then, it was good times again. "Into the Future," "The Slave," and "Automatic Lover" provided nothing but the soundtrack to shoulder-to-shoulder drunken camaraderie and the occasional scabby sneer from the stage. "Guess I won't be going down on anyone tonight," lamented Robbie. Welcome to Orange County! Drummer Eddie even tossed in a drum solo, which he's earned the right to do after 23 years on the road. No "Whips and Furs," but "Baby Baby" was as sweet as ever, bloodstains or no. Just remember, kids: punk rock ain't getting any younger. Next time, don't aim for the face. (CZ)

 
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