By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
The Sticklers/Thee Makeout Party at Koo's Art Cafe, Thursday, June 21
You've been there. You've felt the pain. Maybe you walked out—but maybe there was no escape. It's the Show From Hell, and every so often, it's your turn to be the star. And we feel for you. Don't get us wrong—we love nothing better than to tear into some overpretentious wank-jobber fashion-rock poseurs who couldn't suck their way onto an open-mic night except that they've got good drug connections and no one wants to alienate them—but sometimes the very stars align against you, and then we feel bad for you. Sometimes, you're doomed from the first chord, and it hurts. It hurts us to watch, too. But we're still gonna write about it.
The Sticklers are sweet fuckin' guys. They gave us a CD. They've been a band for years. They came from Hawaii. And coming from Hawaii is both good and bad: good because years of tropical living may have steeled their mellow psyches to the point where a shitty show or two doesn't bother them; bad because once you step off the island, you're fair game for the sharks. It's a funny thing about Hawaii, too—to hear them tell it, it takes years for the hot new thing to filter into the youth culture over there. It's the Land That Trends Forgot, still bopping along to the fossilized pop-punk, ska and tough-guy hardcore that have long since gone extinct in the real world—well, everywhere but our own equally backward OC, that is. So right off the bat, they were a little out of step.
We even had a conversation about this with them before the bad things happened. See, Hawaii has barely even gotten to the whole AC/DC unironic R-A-W-K revival bands yet. They've never known the joy of a bad Spock-rocker Locust rip-off band, or sat through interminable hours of sweater-bound teen emo, or cringed at a bunch of unkempt slackjaws preening like they're the New York Dolls but without the heroin or gender-bending to make them interesting. The Sticklers just like to play, it seems. For them, music is somehow all about something called "fun." We found that cute. We used to be like that. Now we're so much wiser, more popular and happier, so we tried to clue them in. FYI: the cutting edge right now (though it'll be over by the time you read this, probably) is new wave/no wave bands with keyboards and girl singers; after that, none can say. But the Sticklers would not be swayed; they have their style, and they're sticking to it. Even if it kills them.
Making things worse was the stellar performance delivered just previously by Thee Makeout Party. Full disclosure: yes, we know them intimately, and that's probably why we wake up nights screaming. But drummer Dan Destructo puked all over himself no less than five times during the set and didn't even drop the beat—and if that ain't the textbook definition of Hard Act to Follow, well, ship our ass back to Rock & Roll Remedial School. It's a bad sign when people are crowding around a video camera outside to watch instant replay of the pukefest instead of your real live band, but like we said, Show From Hell. And it got worse.
Their hyperfast 1995-style pop punk got the crowd, er, standing still. They broke a string, and kids started sneaking out. They covered "I Love Rock & Roll" (impressive for sheer audacity, but it's pretty hard to pull that off—it's like covering the national anthem), and they kind of messed it up. This is where things started to hurt. When they were together, they had some cute harmonies and funny little songs about girls and stuff (hey, you might be all about the Locust-posing now, but back in 1995, you woulda lapped it up). But then they weren't together. Something was off. The gods were laughing. The crowd was staring. Their hopeful Hawaiian smiles started to look strained. Finally, we couldn't take it anymore. They were so nice—they didn't deserve this. We stepped out for a moment, and then, of course, we missed the grand finale. One of their roadies bounced his head into their guitar and cracked his tooth in half (they later found it on the floor). Now that's entertainment! Even better than puking, possibly, depending if there was blood or not! It shoulda been their opening gimmick, but it was too little, too late. That's the Show From Hell for you: when the right thing finally happens, it's still the wrong damn time. And it cost $100 to get the stupid tooth fixed, too.