Panda-monium!

Photo by James Bunoan NOMADIC MINDS/RATTLESNAKES/OBCD/FISH PEOPLE
YOUTH DROP IN CENTER, GARDEN GROVE
FRIDAY, AUG. 2
Nomadic Minds was two guys and, like, a CD-ROM full of beats from San Diego trying valiantly to get timid Drop In Center kids to cross that Grand Canyon between avoiding eye contact with the guy onstage and active audience participation, rapping plea after plea for something—anything!—to freestyle about. "Bill Simon," someone finally called out: "I don't know who that is, but [something something something too close to the mic] Bacardi Limon!" They also mentioned that although they weren't Canadian mounties, this was their first time in Orange County. The 12 people who weren't outside in the parking lot waiting for the PA to stop booming laughed encouragingly, and when the beats fizzled out, Nomadic finished up, "The beats are all gone, but I'm gonna keep rappin'/Even though no one in the audience is even clappin'!"

The Rattlesnakes were as reliably solid as ever, maybe even a little more so. Last time we saw them, we were on a lawn in Texas mere minutes from puking—if you're not on a lawn almost puking, you ain't in Texas!—so we might have missed some of the subtleties. But where was Old Man Arbiter of Youth Culture when we needed him? The Hives rock as hard as an Ikea end table; if we were really trying to pull together as a nation, we'd hear the Corona-California-USA!-born-and-bred Rattlesnakes rock & roll on the radio. Seriously, they're Corona-born and -bred: Haven't they suffered enough?

We don't know if OBCD is—well, "was," at this point, since this was their last show—a joke band. Or a joke hip-hop crew. But we do know that they were all Koo's volunteers at one time or another (except possibly Mix Master, um, Bate on the turntables, coolly flipping LPs out of a tasteful canvas bag while somebody was rapping about sexually transmitted diseases), they all had rap names (the tall guy is "Oktober," and everyone else is named either "Hoochie K" or "Justin") and rap outfits (warm-ups! T-shirts! Regular shirts! Sometimes hats!), and they even mostly had raps, too! MC "Justin" looked like the cover of an Exploited album—pretty much every Exploited album, actually—but that red Mohawk never got in the way of the mic. We saw OBCD back when they made their beats on a PlayStation—actually, they probably still do that—and couldn't get the PA loud enough to do more than rhythmically whisper, but "Justin" could always machine-gun through a bunch of alliterative adjectives and not embarrass himself (unless he wants to, of course). And before a guy in a panda mask—"Panda-monium," obviously—got onstage and started miming anal sex with "Justin" and "Justin," he was riffing on '20s cult-heroine Louise Brooks, robot wars in the 21st century, the imminent breakup of locals the Nightmare Syndicate, and how the Fish People gave him—and "Oktober" and "Justin" and probably poor "Hoochie K"—scabies. So: cue the Fish People!

See, tonight was also the end of the Fish People, and the end of the Fish People means the end of an era, and that means that just about everybody who ever saw them is really relieved and happy. They weaseled, wiggled or just plain waltzed their way into opening slots at the kind of shows typically clogged by the sort of immaculately coifed Romulan-rocker types that limit their appreciation for irony in music to the occasional Skid Row T-shirt. They were both oblivious to and addicted to the disdain of their uptight peers; they were, as we explained once, "not merely bad—they were dangerous!"

But they were also an accidentally deep-fried severed chicken head in the box of McNuggets that is bland OC music: on first bite, you're disgusted, but upon reflection, you can see the humor in the situation—and after all, they never actually killed anyone. And now that they're gone, shows are unfortunately a little more serious. Of course, they went out with the best joke of all, actually managing to sound better—and somehow more gleefully inept—than they ever had before. Yes, they had to stop between songs to teach one another chord changes! Yes, singer Brian Fish stripped to his undies but balked at going the final distance! Yes, they didn't even play their best song, "Cannibal Party," opting instead for a final sentimental a capella run-through of "We Are the Champions." They always used to miss us when they played, chucking guitars or drumsticks or lead singers around—now it's our turn to miss them.

 
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