More Cheap Less Trick

Photo by James Bunoan CHEAP TRICK
VERIZON WIRELESS AMPHITHEATER, IRVINE
SATURDAY, JULY 13
We hadn't been to an arena rock show since we saw Jackyl chain saw the genre's already-flaccid dignity to pieces back when we were about 12, but you can't skip Cheap Trick. For some unholy reason, these Mesozoic-era rockers got their claws around more hipster credibility than most of these pudgy rock-revivalists are ever gonna snuggle up against, and they didn't even have to give up their backstage deli trays to do it. They've got a cozy little cultural cul-de-sac carved out for them and them alone, somewhere less puberty-stalled than Kiss but still not quite as revered as the Ramones. (And man, would that have been a bill! Maybe that's the show you get to see when you die—unless you've been bad, in which case it's the lake of fire in the morning and the Warped Tour all afternoon and night.). Anyway, Cheap Trick has something for everybody: snobby bohos, paunchy middle managers, minivan moms from the Midwest, even totally dysfunctional out-of-the-woodwork weirdos. Guess who we sat next to?

The blonde who got her boobs signed by persons purporting to be Midnight Oil? Maybe the guy with the BEER NUTS shirt giggling as he snatched up discarded cardboard Heineken fans from the bleachers (for home use? Dude, just buy an air conditioner)? Maybe just the FEDERAL BOOTY INSPECTOR? All these and more, of course—it was an anthropological acid trip and we loved every second of it. We even had to be forcibly restrained from shaking people until the dim glaze fell from their eyes, shouting, "Where do you come from? How did you get a job? Meet your girlfriend? WHO ARE YOU?" But if we did that, you know what they'd say, possibly just prior to heaving us into the kettle-corn concession? "We're Cheap Trick fans, man," they'd say. "Aren't you?"

Unfortunately, not as much as we thought we were. We coulda used more cheap ($10 Tecate? We'll just huff gas, thanks) and less trick (a feeble one-song encore? What, did you have to get the limos back to the rental place by 11 p.m.?). The set was pretty clipped, too, a shoulda-seen-it-coming checklist of all the hits with "Dream Police" tacked on just before the house lights came up. But they played "Surrender"—and they even threw Kiss records out!—and "I Want You to Want Me," which is pretty much all you need to get the guys air-drumming and the girls thinking really hard about pulling their tube tops off (which we bet would have happened more if beer wasn't 10 FUCKING DOLLARS!). No "He's a Whore," which we were dying for; no "Auf Weidersehen"; no Budokan-style "Goodnight now, ladies and gentleman!" And poor Bun E. Carlos—his understated bow-tie style used to play crucial counterpoint to Robin Zander and buds' Colorblind-Pimp Casual motif, but tonight he looked like he'd just been interrupted buying wieners and nachos at 7-Eleven, sporting a baseball hat and faded T-shirt. Was that really you, Bun E.? Good thing Rick Neilsen dragged out the hydra-head guitar, or we would have felt, well—we would have felt cheap. And, for that matter, tricked.

THE ORPHANS
QUE SERA, LONG BEACH
SUNDAY, JULY 14
All we want for our birthday is for someone to hold our hair out of our face when we puke—it's the gift that keeps on giving, and it's the gift someone maybe should have been giving Jenny, the singer of the Orphans, at her sloppy-awesome party at Que Sera this weekend. The Orphans attacked with probably the Decline-iest set we've seen in months, with bassist Wade slipping around so much onstage he finally, quietly barfed little ropy strands of beer all over his sleeveless shirt (was it his birthday, too? Or was that sympathy puke?). Jenny is a danger to herself and others in all the best ways, shredding her "Cocaine High" T-shirt and shrieking at the crowd to get her fucking cranberry-juice-and-vodkas. She even climbed up on our table after the set and started thrusting it to Kiss songs; we drank her beer and said, "Happy birthday!"

The set would have qualified as a mess if someone had managed to keep Wade's bass working; as it was, it staggered around somewhere between Total Disaster and Best Band in the Entire World, depending on how many Orphans were actually playing their instruments at the same time. Guitarist Dan peeled his tinny-but-tough guitar sound right out of the Germs' G.I., the songs crash-landed somewhere in LA punk, circa 1980, and they even beat some life into Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown" (which Pennywise can't pull off even with Keith Morris singing). Good thing you only get one birthday a year—anything more would be fatal.

 
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