86. Supernova

Supernova were one of the first and best of the slew of outer-space-themed rock bands. They dressed up in ridiculous costumes, handed out tin foil to their audiences, and remained in character during interviews. Even their tour van wore a costume. Their music comprised three-minute-or-less pop songs, equal parts Ramones and Buzzcocks. Lead singer Art Mitchell sang in a jittery way that was supposed to approximate an alien fronting a band. Song topics ranged from drool to rocks to vitamins to math. Signed by big-ass corporate label Atlantic Records and put on the road for a while, Supernova were part of the wave of bands that brought the spotlight to OC for a bit there. Their ultimate long-lasting legacy, though, will undoubtedly be their song "Chewbacca," which Kevin Smith used in his breakthrough cult flick Clerks.


87 Reel Big Fish Aaron Barrett
Photo by Jeanne Rice

87. Reel Big Fish

Zany, wacky, ska-rooted (though they rock harder now) Reel Big Fish elevate self-deprecation to an art form, thanks to a malcontent lead singer in Aaron Barrett, who beats you to the punch with peppy lyrics like "I'll never be anything, anything at all." He lays down these anti-What Color is Your Parachute? salvos over bright horns and zippy uptempo rhythms, which just add to the dark humor of it all. But if Barrett's insecurities are a grease fire, then fame—or the prospect of—is the water that spreads that shit around. Chances that he'll just accept stardom and take at face value the fact that kids connect with his clever brand of defeatism, instead of second-guessing it and pointing it out as a sign that something's terribly wrong with him and the world? Slim to none.

88. El Centro

Even if Costa Mesa-based punk outfit El Centro never played a single gig again, the group can at least take credit for resurrecting the spirit of West Coast hardcore punk. Formed in 1995, El Centro provided an aggressive mixture of punk and reggae for fans—usually at the Tiki Bar or Club Mesa—who could often be spotted puffing weed in front of the stage. And, like Sublime, El Centro's concerts attracted a wide-ranging audience, from easy-going types to full-blown psychotics. Eventually they released Alto, an album that nicely captured what they were all about (check the cover of "Police & Thieves"). After seven years slogging away on the club circuit, the band went on hiatus. On October 12, 2002, lead singer Steve "Crabby" Cabler was drinking beer with buddy Steven Webster at a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, when terrorist bombs exploded and killed more than 200 people. Webster died in the blast, and Cabler returned to the U.S. three days later with a broken shoulder blade, severe burns and other injuries. A few months ago, El Centro's original lineup—Cabler, guitarists Denny McGahey and Brett Roelen, bassist Gila Mora and drummer Mondo Del Rio—re-grouped to write a batch of new songs, which they plan to record next month. "I carry on my music out of respect for my best friend," Cabler says. "Webster would kick my ass if I didn't keep going."

89. 4

Named, probably, after the tonnage measurement of A.J. Nesselrod's seismic bass, Costa Mesa's 4 stood in vivid opposition to all the happy-go-stoopid ska bands and beach-bound suntan-punkers they were misbooked with at clubs like Koo's and Club Mesa throughout the '90s. The guitars Matt Michael slung were cut from limestone (or at least sounded like it), while his vocals lacked any of the counterfeit machismo of his peers, but still had an intensity and desperation that made him seem to mean every word he said—even the normally vapid between-song banter. If you caught the fantastic 4 anytime during the peak of the very productive Costa Mesa scene, consider yourself among the fortunate few who can talk about how much better things were back then.

Continued

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