By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
THE HUB, FULLERTON
SUNDAY, MAY 11
Mother's Day night at the Hub, with music supplied for people bent on avoiding the rituals of the made-up holiday. Who wants to hang with grouchy, bipolar Mom, after all, when they could go see some bands? Like Wellsville, a Long Beach band we've been looking forward to catching ever since their demo CD landed on our desk a year ago. But this evening, they were stripped down to just singer/songwriter Christian Velky, who spent the time strumming away on guitar (seems the rest of the band did have to honor those pesky familial obligations; hey, why couldn't they bring Mom along to the gig?).
While obviously more amped as a band, Wellsville the solo version was nonetheless as endearing as their recorded output, loaded with winsome, sometimes sad songs about such things as vanished youth and unfulfilled expectations. Take "Summer Blonde," in which Velky rattled off a list of long-gone memories of ice-cream cones and drinking water from hoses and mowing lawns and riding bikes and bubblegum and baseball cards and, ultimately, that girl he'll never see again: "Summer blonde, you've been gone for so long, ba-ba-ba-ba." Really sweet, make-you-smile stuff, but Velky/Wellsville know pain and heartbreak, too—song titles such as "Silence Is My Gun" and "Kill Myself," anyone? And how's this for a chipper Mother's Day line: "Mama, the damage has been done/Pick up the pieces of your son."
Velky practically apologized at the end of the set for his more downbeat tunes, promising that the full-band version of Wellsville was "a little more up." But whichever variation, we now know that both are pretty great. Wellsville is still swellsville, baby!
The next band, Photobooth, came off as something of a novelty, four kids employing such instruments as toy pianos, kazoos and xylophones. It was cute—for about 20 minutes, until their girl singer's hypernasal voice started getting to us, something along the lines of the Go-Go's-era Belinda Carlisle crossed with a munchkin on helium. The music was decent pop fare, and with some production help, we could see them playing the annual International Pop Overthrow fest one day. But the band on this night was frustratingly sloppy, to the point where several of their songs sounded like they were made up on the spot—perchance they're not familiar with the term "rehearsal"? (Rich Kane)
Our turn for tag-team Cleveland: the first review goes to Mr. Rich Kane, who spilled scalding coffee all over us when he slapped our hand to tag us into the match. Uncalled for, sir! Our groin hasn't been this blistered and shriveled since we spent a night in front of the PA speakers at one of Chain Reaction's Emo-Till-Your-Mom-Picks-You-Up torture nights. And the second review: Portland's Culottes, a girl-fronted lo-fi basement pop trio so understated we had to check and make sure their amps were plugged in. It's almost impossible to assemble a band too fey to play the coffeehouse circuit—your bass player would need to be, like, a periwinkle unicorn named Cuddles—but the Culottes seemed about two swoons away from a total collapse into dear-secret-diary indie-rockers-in-luv oblivion (case-in-point lyrics: "You don't need to be a mathematician/to know one plus one equals two/You don't need to be a chemistry major/to know the difference between lust and love.") Amazingly, they were touring—bands like this usually stick to playing acoustic guitar in their bedrooms.
Locals Katie the Pest—a two-piece that, we informed frequent Commie Girl walk-on James Bunoan, has been a two-piece since before two-piecing was cool—played cleanup, lying and telling everyone it was their first show ever to cover for a little unrehearsed rawness: "We're girls—cut us some slack," smirked guitarist/singer Talia Rose. Katie starts all her songs the same way, with a furious flurry of strumming too full to come from one guitar and drums that drop beat by beat until they fill up the whole song, and for certain moments tonight, it all slid into a dreamy girl-group harmony that should have had the Culottes in a forehead-smacking frenzy of epiphany. Of course, since it was, um, their first show ever, Katie had to shrug off a few scrambled chord changes and a lot of anticlimactic finales to fall back on their trademark cookies (usually, they bake them and bring them; tonight, Talia brought them from work) and unamplified personality. But charisma—even when you can't hear them sing, Talia and drummer Mary at least look like they desperately mean it—and a defanged hometown crowd still carried them to the finish line (where, so you know, you can get their Baby Likes His Music Loud CD). "Hooray! That was fantastic!" someone yelled midset. "Almost fantastic," Talia sighed. "Apologies for not being drunk—it usually makes things better." (Chris Ziegler)