Blitzkreig Pop!

The International Pop Overthrow
Galaxy Concert Theatre
Sunday, July 29

Goddamn it, we love the International Pop Overthrow (IPO). What other music fest prints up 48-page programs (on snazzy, high-quality heavy stock, no less) and gives them away for freakin' free? And at what other fest will you find companion double-CD compilations featuring many of the participating bands—and those are being given away for freakin' free, too, to real, ordinary people even, not just members of the whoremongering music media?

Better still, this year's eveningwear portion of the fourth annual IPO's Orange County Day (the sunburn segment was held earlier in the day at Garden Grove's Eastgate Park; we didn't make it on account of a towering pile of stanky laundry that needed some lovin') took place for the first time at a proper, upstanding OC venue, the Galaxy, whose operators graciously donated the use of their building for the event, seeing that all the proceeds from the door went to the Garden Grove Boys & Girls Club (and let's be honest: the Galaxy is a much spiffier hall than the dive bar that previously hosted the OC IPO—this time, parents and kids even showed up).

So we found ourselves a table, ordered up a plate of nachos—the meat- and beanless ones the Galaxy serves, with cheese that's the consistency of window caulk—and indulged in an ocean of creamy, power-pop goodness. There was OC's Scarlet Crush, who always come freshly stocked with great tunes and an abundance of electric guitars. They dished out their usual tasty combo plate of tight three-man harmonies and sweet, melody-sopped sighs, many straight off their nifty new Worth Waiting For album, like "Something to Say," an excellent pure pop anthem that felt filtered directly from the heady era of prime Squeeze or even the Bay City Rollers.

Next was Jeffrey Foskett, an OC guy who has toured with the Beach Boys (who, in this environ, are thought of as pop Allahs—well, except for Mike Love, who has always been a bit of a GOP-shtupping wanker). He's also penned tunes with the likes of Knack man Doug Fieger (you remember the Knack? Actually, we'd prefer to forget), like one called "Baby It's You," which Foskett and his band played; like a lot of his set, it didn't strike us as anything memorable. His was merely passable pop—perhaps a little more bubble gumage in his songs, and he'd be brilliant.

Much better were Walter Clevenger and his supremo Dairy Kings, packed with the right amounts of Nick Lowe-isms and Marshall Crenshaw whatzits. Walter is an OC pop deity—he even looks like Jesus, and live, his would-be-smash-hits-on-a-more-just-planet zing and tingle like a mouthful of Ben & Jerry's. Loved the new tune "Supermarket Checkout Girl," which is supposed to be on his next album (and after that, he'll do a country album, he tells us). Not only that, but the cat likes Scarlet Crush and Alejandro Escovedo. Good taste, Walter!

Chicago's Big Hello followed, destroying what had been an all-guy affair with their girl singer, who had a spiky blond 'do and flip-flopped around the stage, screeching about positivity and the like. They were vastly more rock & roll than pop, a watered-down No Doubt (no, sexist-remark-seekers, not just because their singer is female). The drummer was offensive, twiddling his sticks around like a poor man's Tommy Lee. Somehow, the crowd seemed to really like them, but—snort!—what do they know? They even got an encore, a take on Blondie's "One Way or Another," which had us thinking maybe they'd be better off as a tribute band.

LA's Teen Machine were unashamedly about the bubble gum, a six-piece band that featured two leggy girl backup singers who shimmied and shook, plus a scary, fashion-criminal bassist who did himself up in a leather fringe vest and looked like he'd rather have been scamming on birds down at the roller disco. But the Teens were fun and carefree, exactly what any band so openly reveling in all things '70s oughta be. They even rattled off a "Yummy Yummy Yummy" cover; only "Sugar Sugar" would've been more glorious.

Next were the fine, strong, equally 1970s Masticators, who'd be the perfect power-pop band to play the housewarming party at our new apartment with its fabulous orange shag carpeting and simulated wood-grain paneling—we love it! Drummer Robbie Rist (yep, the same kid who played Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch; he's all grown up now and sports a creepy serial-killer goatee) came out to introduce OC's beloved Sparkle*jets U.K., calling them "one of the finest rock bands Orange County and possibly the world has ever produced—stop laughing; it's true!" Well, we didn't laugh—because it is true. But we bailed early, assuming that Sparkle*jets would fire off yet another perfect set and not willing to risk the uncertainty of unfamiliar headliner P-Hux, in case he blew and ended our night on a downer. To paraphrase Sparkle*jetter Susan West, we had a real nice time without him. (Rich Kane)

 
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