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The Blue Whales/The Thingz
Din Din at the Bamboo Terrace
Saturday, Jan. 5
It's hard to figure out the exact moment on Saturday night when things at Costa Mesa's Din Din at the Bamboo Terrace started getting weird, but it might have been when the guy behind me took off his shoe and passed it to his friend so his friend could smell it.
"Not too bad!" declared the friend jovially, after sniffing the shoe.
"It's not too bad because I've been wearing socks," admitted the owner of said non-offensive footwear.
"Is that a New Year's resolution?" asked the friend.
Tragically, I never got to find out because some Really Annoying Guy Who Was Either On Drugs Or Just Really Annoying near me started yelling, "Really, really nice fucking jihad! You guys suck! You fucking suck! I fucking hate you!"
He was yelling it at the band from his seat at a table not too close and yet not too far from the Bamboo Terrace stage. He was seated, but you had the feeling he was sitting only because his friends wouldn't let him get up. "That guy's funny—the stuff he's yelling," said the woman in front of me. She smiled uncomfortably. You could tell that most people were amused and yet unnerved, except for my friend Carrie. She was amused until he told her he wanted to take her clothes off.
Maybe you'd expect this kind of guy at a NuMetal show, but at the Blue Whales? Muddy retro-rockers the Blue Whales? They're Vicodin rock! They're Darvocet rock! They're pill-popper rock, but—and this is important—they aren't heroin rock. You don't really want to lie down while listening to them. You don't even need to sit down. You probably want to stand but preferably with something to lean on, in case their retro-muddiness hits you like an OxyContin rush, which it very well might.
When noted Costa Mesa band Filmstar broke up a few years ago, its two main songwriters—Geoff Harrington and Piers Brown—went their separate ways. Keyboardist Harrington went on to form quirky, psychedelic Lomax Monk and Gentlemen of Leisure. Guitar player Brown formed Weasel and Shoemaker and now the Blue Whales, along with Filmstar bassist Pat Visel, guitar player Corey (formerly of the Aquabats) and drummer Mike McHugh.
Their song "Sister Ray" sounds a bit like Urge Overkill but less poppy. "Queen Anne Hill" ends with the stretched-out delivery of the line "love becomes a drag." I was worried that the "girl from Queen Anne Hill" mentioned in the song wasn't a girl at all, but a drug, and I was going to get kind of bummed-out because it's so cliché to sing a song about a drug but pretend the drug's a girl, but it was confirmed for me that this particular girl indeed exists, so I didn't have to get bummed. The Blue Whales closed with an old Filmstar number, "Rock Song."
People in Costa Mesa have little patience, though, and most everyone had scheduled Bamboo Terrace as the first stop on their list of places to hit that evening (a little nightlife strategy I refer to as "the circuit," as in "What'd you do last night?" "Oh, you know—hit the circuit." Or "What's been going on in this town? I feel so out of the loop, I haven't been hitting the circuit," or "Oh, does everyone go to Detroit Bar now on Wednesdays? Is that part of the circuit?"). By the time the Thingz took the stage, the place had cleared out, save for a few fans, some dedicated drinkers, and the Annoying Guy, who, by now, was strangely determined to stockpile chairs at the foot of the stage.
Things almost turned ugly when Thingz guitarist Mike Morris had had enough of the chairs. "Next one's going through your head," he said to the guy, gripping the leg of the chair most recently deposited by the stage. Morris' wife, bassist Kim, stepped in to try to smooth things over—which, actually, is when things threatened to turn ugly—but everything settled down on its own, and the Thingz were able to continue playing their stripped-down, catchy punk songs. Both Mike and Kim sing—in a John and Exene back and forth—but tonight, they had only one microphone, so they'd take turns singing into it and then trying to get out of the way fast enough for the other to use it.
The Annoying Guy had other things on his mind, though. While the Thingz were singing a song about a little teaching method Mike learned when he was getting his teaching credential called "Quiet Coyote" (which also contains the line "silent sand crab"), the Annoying Guy sidled up to a chair. Casually and with no small amount of grace, he hooked his foot and ankle under the chair leg and began to give the chair a gentle tug. He was thwarted by the man standing next to the chair who shook his head in a firm and yet understanding way. At this point, Annoying Guy's friend took him over to the corner and, I think, sat on him for the rest of the show.
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