Bang Bang!

Photo by James Bunoan The Intelligista
Kona Lanes, Costa Mesa
Saturday, May 3

The last time I was at the soon-to-be-demolished Kona Lanes, I got drunk, spilled a drink and performed a sloppy karaoke duet version of the stirring classic "Total Eclipse of the Heart" with the guy who hosts the whole karaoke night. Saturday, I revisited the scene of the sonic crime for much less socially damaging reasons: garage-mod foursome the Intelligista, who are so fucking young I want to scoop them up and put them in an incubator, were playing a going-away show for Alan Siegel of Tex Twil infamy, who's going to Italy until August.

The Intelligista—all Edison High School students—kicked things off with cool instrumental ditties featuring thick "My Generation"-style grooves; big, crashing drumbeats; leads that belong in spy themes; and just the right amount of vintage crackle and fuzz. But more than the music—which suggests that, instead of masturbating to porn like most boys their age, these nerds lock themselves in the bathroom with the CD booklet from the Nuggets box set—it's their live performance that has earned them their recent word-of-mouth buzz. They're the perfect blend of impish youth and flashy eccentricity. Drummer A.J. Polizzi is a dead ringer for Keith Moon: he has Moon's shtick down pat, from the dynamic slash-and-burn style of drumming to the facial mannerisms ("guppy starved for water" air gulps with a touch of "gassy baby") to the clothing. On this night, he donned a ruffled white Edwardian/Liberace-style tux shirt. "I'm the king of rock & roll!" he shouted at one point, sticks in the air. Keyboardist Kevin Van demurred behind thick glamour-puss sunglasses, while bassist Kyle Stephens and singer/guitarist Nick Waterhouse were a little more straight ahead but no less captivating. And none of them stood still, playing tambourine atop the bowling-ball rack, taking little laps around the "stage" area, trading instruments and standing on drum heads.

They gave the garage treatment to covers of "Respect," "Got My Mojo Workin'" and "Lord, I'm Coming Home," and they played a bunch of their own ballsy numbers as well. Alan Siegel came onstage to contribute his sax stylings to "Bang Bang!" Live, the Intelligista sound like Zen Guerilla, but photographer James Bunoan heard me say this and spit on me a little when he shouted, "No . . . they . . . don't!"

After the show, when he thought no one was listening, Waterhouse crumpled into a chair and confided to an older friend that he'd taken the SATs that morning. I just about died. I think I'm going to adopt him. (Alison M. Rosen)

* * *

The Red Onions
Que Sera, Long Beach
Saturday, May 3

The Red Onions looked a little dazed before they went on, tucked away at a table with their very polite girlfriends, melting into the dim bar background next to the fashionably loud (sartorially and otherwise) yobs from one of the opening bands, and eventually slinking over to the stage and wiggling gently into their instruments like it was early-Sunday-morning practice. And then—we should be used to bands doing this by now, shouldn't we?—they get all berzerk. "They're always like that," someone explained to us later. Singer Paul is a soft-spoken nice guy right up until someone turns the PA on and transforms him—eyes bulging, nostrils flaring, fingers curling into fists—into a loaded gun, ready to go off (he even hoisted the mic stand up against his shoulder, sighting down into the audience and taking a shot like a sniper). This is that primal release all those confused, shirtless stockbrokers seek at weekend drum circles—without the bullshit machismo. The Onions are nothing but piss and rhythm, with even their most unabashedly punk songs—such as the crowd-pleaser that goes "Your politics! Are boring as FUCK!"—bolted to a beat as relentless and heavy as a jackhammer dangling from the belly of a brontosaur. Even better: Paul's pointing the band midset toward "James Brown style" (and after a midair jump landed with a nut-rupturing leg split, he's more than qualified to discuss James Brown style) and songs such as "Livewire" and "We Got the Fire," both stomping soul/funk/punk workouts just a saxophone away from the Famous Flames or Funhouse, which got two girls dancing into each other all the way over at the Que's front door. Somewhere, somebody is bummed they missed the Stooges at Coachella—we'd bet Paul was writhing, anguished and shirtless, in a pile of Iggy bootlegs. But us? We're definitely okay now. (Chris Ziegler)

 
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