Over the Sneezeglass!

Nuckle Brothers/Phantom Planet/Save Ferris
May 26
House of Blues Anaheim

Lest you ever feel compelled to hurtle from the Anaheim House of Blues' upstairs VIP balcony—perhaps to commit one mother of a stage dive or maybe just to dazzle the crowd beneath you with your saucy underwear—know that you will be thwarted. The House of Blues has affixed strategically located squares of plastic to the balcony's otherwise delightfully low railings. Musically inclined suicide jumpers and very clumsy people, beware! They're on to you!

And so, on this sold-out night, watching the Nuckle Brothers, Phantom Planet and Save Ferris from up there felt a bit like watching croutons from behind a salad bar's sneezeglass, but only if the croutons were really energetic, zany and ska-influenced—except for Phantom Planet, who aren't ska-influenced at all, and come to think of it, aren't really energetic or zany either. They're cute, though! Damn cute! Cute in that polished, young, Hollywood, Gap-commercial kind of way, which is funny because the singer was in a Gap commercial. But the problem with having other hip young actors as your friends and fans, which Phantom Planet do, is that it's really distracting to music reviewers who might be in the audience and who might stop listening to your newly glammy music—which sounds like a cross between Weezer and Spacehog—and instead just get into arguments with their sister about what movie that creepy-looking redheaded kid who sat next to them was in. I say Addams Family Values, which I haven't seen, but my sister is adamant that he wasn't in that. ("Who was he? Who do you think he played?!" she hissed, apparently fed up with my cinematic ignorance and looking like she wanted to throw me over the sneezeglass.)

It was too bad because we were really getting along earlier that evening during the Nuckle Brothers' sloppy but amazing set, wherein the eight-piece band threw out sliced cheese to the audience and said ridiculous things like, "And on the drums, ladies and gentlemen, Phyllis Diller!" The Nuckle Brothers, who broke up awhile ago and reunited for this show, were an early '90s inspiration for many of the ska-pop bands that went on to become famous, including Save Ferris. It was impossible to watch them without being transported to the Good Old Days (insert nostalgic reverie here) when third-wave ska was zany, kooky and stupid—and yet new and exciting, too (and a lot choppier than anything you'd hear on the radio)—and the county's all-ages clubs were constantly getting shut down and Nuckle Brothers vocalist/trombonist John Pantle promoted shows at sundry locations around the county like hotels and warehouses because there weren't any stable venues.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said Pantle at the end of their set. "We wanted to show you what ska music was like before cell-phone use was prevalent and before anyone heard of Dick Cheney."

The show's headliners put on an equally electrifying set, although I might be crossing enemy lines by saying so since the entire Save Ferris fan club sent hate mail to my fellow music scribe Rich Kane awhile back, and a couple of years before that, contributor Michael Alarcon offered a cash reward to anyone who could steal bassist Bill Uechi's bear hat. Uechi no longer wears the hat, and truth be told, I miss it.

The hat's not the only thing that has changed about the band, who played material spanning their six-year career and have a new album coming out in February. Now the horn players are tucked in the back on a platform by the drums instead of out front, which is fitting since the horns are less important on much of the new material (the horn players switch to keyboard and guitar on many of these songs) but is sucky because . . . well, it sucks!

But regardless of where the rest of the band is, singer Monique Powell is the one you watch because she's like a standup comedian trapped in the body of a torch singer, and her mania rivals that of Andy Dick (which I mean in only the best sense of the term "Andy Dick"). "Did you see my buttcrack? Buttcracks are funny!" she exclaimed after bending over and thinking she might have exposed hers (she didn't). She also encouraged those in the top to go topless; threw back the "two fucking socks and a dirty-ass scrunchie" tossed onstage in lieu of bras and panties; rolled around on the stage floor; stuck the mic in her pants; crawled through guitarist Brian Mashburn's legs; said, "I think we have the best fans of any band's fans" before singing a brand-new song that appeared to be about fans' slavish devotion; and managed to showcase her classical, opera-trained voice without coming off as a diva. She remained likably compelling throughout! And I'm not just saying that because I'm running for president of the Save Ferris fan club, although you should know that a vote for me is a vote for you. (Alison M. Rosen)

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