Is there life beyond boardshorts and bad blond-tipped dye jobs? Not in Huntington Beach—at least, not till recently. But now strange stirrings on the fringe are starting to make us wonder what else is out there. For starters, some rad drunk dudes. We have a new favorite heckler: he was decently original ("Hey, token blond guy!"), and when he got too wasted to be original, he at least got a lot louder, which is textbook heckling technique right there. As the night lumbered on, he started yelling something about homosexuals ("Not the good kind—the bad comic-book-reading kind!") and Van Halen ("I'm a born-again Van Halen fan!"), slow dancing with some guy at stage left, and then staring down Jean Paul from the Starvations so hard during their Pogues cover we thought he was going to get socked. But by this point, he was active only between songs, so the Distraction got through their set without breaking into exasperated tears.
At first blush, those Distractions kids seemed a little familiar. Between the stripes and the Converse and that so-sexy Pistols sound—after every song, you wanted to stab a safety pin through something fleshy and growl, "Destrooooooooy!"—we were having a little local-band déjà vu. If we were a certain heckler, we might say, "Hey, guys, the Stitches called—they want their shtick back!" (The actual heckle: "Hey, you know what would be awesome? If next time you were all wearing stripes and Converse!") But they're a lot cuddlier than those scary Stitches boys: singer Ed has a cat-in-heat warble that Olga from the Toy Dolls could probably match if you booted him repeatedly in the testicles—in punk-speak, that means we liked it—and the rest of the Distractioners have a fat soft spot for hooks and a knack for peppy little songwriting twists that put them a lot closer to closet popsters the Vibrators or Generation X than comparatively edgier contemporaries. Bands like the Distraction are like M&Ms around here: we've been chowing down a lot of them lately, but fuck it—what's one more when it's got that nice candy coating? And at least they weren't wearing boardshorts.
Saturday, March 2
Que Sera is a wild kinda bar if you're driving in from the hicky hinterlands of Orange County, which of course we were. No football games on the TV, no silicone boobies and shellacked-back hair, no garish flames stitched anywhere on anyone's clothing—my God, what DO these people do for fun? We wanted to find out—too bad it wasn't as wild as we were hoping. Quiverfish at least looked like they might have something outre going on: they had two bass players—one who was fond of hauling out a big standup deal every other song or so—two guitarists and a drummer, all of whom boasted skills enough to make at least a little magic, but for some reason, it didn't seem like it was igniting like it should. A concoction like that could have turned gloriously volatile pretty quick—the superheavy low-end lineup alone promised an internal-organ rattling the likes of which we haven't experienced since we dropped our car's transmission on the 210—but Quiverfish were very, very well-behaved alterna-, um, something.
Maybe we've been spoiled by bands just bursting with personality—so much so that you have to watch out for flying chairs when you catch them live—but Quiverfish just sort of faded into the background. Let's wonder why: their singer had an admirably brassy voice, with the sort of pipes you could run a torch song or two through and be proud of the results, but even at her most commanding, we were fighting to hear her over the clinking ice cubes in the drinks. The twin bass players kind of melted into each other (what's the difference between lead bass and rhythm bass? People know the name of the lead bassist! Thank you, thank you—our roommate came up with that one), crafting one talented but indistinct ball of low-end fuzz, and the guitars had the same sort of look-at-me!-wait-no-don't! personality crisis going on. Aw, Quiverfish! You're not our type of music, which is good because to play our type of music, you have to be a big scumball who buys underwear at thrift stores and eats pills out of dumpsters—hey, from suffering comes art, fucko!—but we tried to dig it on the basis of chops and charisma and couldn't quite do it. Next time, be proud and be loud, and we'll sit up and listen.
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