By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
It has been suggested by no less an august personage than my editor that I make a trek to the dark heart of Huntington Beach to give an ear to the much-vaunted new jukebox at the much-praised new Ten Count. This, from Thanksgiving until now, I have declined to do, distracting him instead by asking him to explain one more time the differences between the philosophies of Foucault and Jean Genet, which he is always happy to do at length.
Despite the wild, sweaty and uncharacteristic approbation of Weekly music editor Rich Kane, Ten Count is not a place I have wanted to be. The prospect of a straight-edge jukebox holds as much promise for me as a roiling case of scabies. The prospect of Huntington Beach holds even less. But it was on the way to Live Bait.
Owner Dan O'Mahony is as charming as you'd expect an Irish bar owner to be, pouring us both Bushmills-and-seven even though Bushmills, he says, is a Protestant whiskey. He hands me my ass at the tight-felted pool tables, talking about Noam Chomsky and Berkeley and the bizarro spectacle of OC's punk rock Republicans, which neither of us can reconcile with punk's supposed disdain for the stodgy and rigid. O'Mahony's plethora of neck tattoos is made less threatening by his casually dressed-up outfit of soft-looking, brushed-cotton button-up shirt (sleeves rolled up, as befits a Friday night) and charcoal slacks. It's nice to see punk rockers in slacks.
Ten Count is surprisingly pleasant and low-key. The jukebox is played at chat-without-strain level. The people at the bar—a mix of car-club greasers, cute little alternagirls (no strippers in sight) and a few genial holdovers from the last establishment—sit quietly, all gettin' along.
O'Mahony is telling me about the bar's previous incarnation. "It was a real redneck bar," he says, a brightly lit, garishly fluorescent place full of aging, hard-drinking, honest-to-Jesus racists (in Huntington Beach? Shet yo' mouth!) and a country jukebox. "I like country," I complain. "When there's 20 bigots singing along," he says, gesturing with his tattooed and oft-broken hands, "it loses its sexy real quick."
Long Beach's Live Bait will do just about anything to get its sexy back. But it's a tough sell. They've got to decide: Do they want neon paint on the walls and Cal State Long Beach co-ed honeys grinding on one another while bitter old jocks gone to seed relive their Glory Days by sinking into their beers? Or do they want to pick up the slack in the LBC music scene left by the City Council-sponsored demise of several of its better venues? You can't have it both ways! I deny!
Friday's quadruple bill employed two superb bands, with the Latin rhiddims of Mirainga (who apparently are once again Mr. Mirainga) and the hippie jams of Delta Nove. But the little girls didn't know quite what to make of the live-band phenomenon. Should they dance? Should they wiggle? Should they stand still and jaded, hands in pockets, and nod to the music like Silver Lake hipsters? The between-sets host made the decision for them, announcing he would be giving out a pair of tickets to the winner of the Sexy Dance Contest. Soon pretty 20-year-olds started swinging their asses east and west, with a shocking lack of grace and rhythm. (Luckily, there were a couple of teenage hippie chicks in the house, most likely to see Delta Nove. Hippie chicks are excellent dancers, with innate fluidity and an understanding of how one's hips are supposed to move. And, um, a unity with the music. And stuff.) Of course, it was only a matter of time before the host would announce, "I see three girls dancing pretty close!I think they might be the winners!" In a clinch, ladies, always go bisexual.
But even more fun than the Sexy Dance Contest was seeing real live Navy personnel in their real official whites, including the straight-legged trousers and the saucy li'l hats. Two of the sailors were boy sailors, and two of the sailors were girl sailors, one of whom was Latina and one of whom was a pleasant-looking blonde with thin lips. I'm pretty sure she was from Missouri. Well, soon enough, there was a bizarre young man gettin' on the blond Navy lady while the speakers piped in Mary J. Blige obligingly singing "No More Drama." He looked like Jay Mohr but greasier, with a middle part to his dirty-blond hair and curving bangs like Alfalfa. He wore a gold cross that would have been more at home on Run or DMC and completed his look with a black-pleather ensemble. Was he content that such a nice young woman had actually agreed to dance? No. He needed contact, dancing threateningly close so that she had to keep backing up. And yet she smiled and did not break out her sailor kung fu. Some people have amazing self-control.
Meanwhile at the bar, there were at least two separate couples consisting of bored-looking, pert-girl students and 40-year-old bald men whose arms encircled them. The men didn't look like they were particularly wealthy, although they may have been general contractors or such, with healthy livings and, you know, houseboats. But I think the girls answered ads for "sugar daddies." Perhaps there are some in this very paper, and you could place or answer just such an ad your very ownself!