Diary of a Loud County

The Year In Live Reviews

Photo by Amy Thelig "Lo, has this year been a trial for you," said God, "but I have heard your pleas, both silent and not, and with this new year, I promise succor for you and yours on this Earth. Bouncers will recognize thy out-of-state Ids, and cocktails will top out at $3.50, and from the ground itself will spring forth convenient, clean, reliable public transportation--specifically, light rail--so no one will drink and drive again. And your bad bands will become mediocre and your mediocre bands good, and your good bands will get their songs in TV shows and movie soundtracks and pay off their credit-card debts and not be sad if they never got their college degrees, and the best among them will become truly great, not famous, perhaps, but secure and happy and satisfied within their own boundless talent, and the sabotages they inflicted on themselves out of fear and confusion will sink and disappear inside them, and My gift to you is that you will be there to watch and listen and know that it can happen, and happen again and again without limit. And in turn, for Me, you must recognize that the truest things by their nature conceal themselves, that they have been hidden for their own protection, and that it is tasked to you to find them and bring them to the light--to you to feed uncommon passion, to temper ambition into action, to slip past those who sing loudest and easiest for those who have no one else to listen to them. Your Camus said music is the most perfect art, and he was correct, though, lo, was he pissed-off when he had to hear it from Me personally, and you know yours is a solemn duty: you must be as the monks, you must work for history; you must make echoes to send back to me so I might listen and know you all still live, anon and on, amen."

"No SHIT!" we said. "God! How the fuck are you gonna get public transportation in Orange County?"

"Oh, um, Orange County?" said God. "Lo, did I intend this missive to go to LA Weekly. But, um, how was your year?"

REVO

DIPIAZZA'S, LONG BEACH

SUNDAY, JAN. 4

So it was announced from the stage that there would be NO MOSHING during Revo's set ("But you can still have a good time!" pleaded the lead singer). They confessed it was going to be odd playing in front of a non-moshing throng (which we took to mean, "We happily cater to the lowest common denominator!"), and with their all-black outfits, we guessed we were in for an endless feast of pedestrian swill. Our instincts were dead-on. Totally safe, totally ordinary, their brand of hardcore was like some kind of candy bar—dark on the outside, soft on the inside. Here it is the start of a new year, and people are still starting bands because they want to copy what everyone else is doing, while having zero ambition to even attempt something original. Yeah, I'm talking to you. You—not just greedy record companies and illegal downloading—you're helping to kill music. (Rich Kane)

LIMBECK

CHAIN REACTION, ANAHEIM

SATURDAY, JAN. 24

We've had many satisfying moments on this six-year-long gig of ours—pissy songs written about us, people forging our name to get free stuff—but nothing's more satisfying than to witness a merely good band evolve into something approaching total fucking godhead, which is where Limbeck is right now. So they come out and prove themselves with just about every song off their fantastic new album, Hi, Everything's Great, and all of it sounded amazing, especially "Brand New Orange" and "Tan + Blue" and "Silver Things," and then they went and did Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now," and it was completely honest and sincere, maybe the first and last unironic Dylan tune the Chain Reaction walls had or will ever hear. Limbeck were incredible—loud, pure and blazing, and Patrick Carrie didn't even have to rip his guitar apart like he looked to be doing to get their point across. This all happened 48 hours ago as we write this, and we're still grinning like idiots at the memories. So the old Limbeck is dead—forever live the new Limbeck! (RK)

DEATHDAY PARTY

JC FANDANGO, ANAHEIM

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 28

Only two songs into their set, the band's lead caterwauler pouted, "The drummer wants some water—can someone please give him a dollar?" The derisive howls with which the crowd greeted the comment visibly troubled the diva, who then pointed to his skins pounder and warned, "Don't fuck with him—he's from Texas." So many shouts of "¡Culeros!" filled JC Fandango that owner Javier Castellanos is lucky he wasn't cited for obscenity. (Gustavo Arellano)

SCARLET CRUSH

ANGEL STADIUM PARKING LOT, ANAHEIM

SATURDAY, FEB. 14

But this wasn't Scarlet Crush, certainly not the one we've written slobberingly about for nigh on four years now. No, weirdly, this was some watered-down cover band that looked an awful lot like Scarlet Crush, but wasn't, farting off one overplayed classic rock tune after another, from the Beatles to ZZ Top to Johnny Cougar Mellencamp. "Who are you people, and what have you done with one of our favorite bands?" we screamed silently. Surely this was done to placate the masses in attendance, who couldn't give a whit about anything musically that's not being fed to them through the evil filter of corporate radio. It was aural comfort food, which we guess was all right, and if we're gonna sit still for a half-hour of songs we've heard far too often in one lifetime, then we'd rather have Scarlet Crush be the band playing them more than almost any other. (RK)

THE BLANK TAPES

THE GYPSY DEN, COSTA MESA

SATURDAY, FEB. 28

We entered the Gypsy Den as Matt Adams was in the midst of banging out a sweet Ray Davies-esque number on his Hendrix/Clash/Misfits-stickered acoustic, with a couple of kazoo players and a bassist in tow. The place was mobbed—people standing at the end of the ordering line kept bumping into Adams' mic stand. This was what a front-porch hootenanny in the 1920s would have felt like, we guess, with harmonicas and banjo solos and finger snaps keeping the beat and hard-luck lines about having no money in your pocket and hopping trains to get around because somebody made off with your bike. (RK)

TOM MORELLO

ACROSS THE STREET FROM TACO BELL WORLD HEADQUARTERS, IRVINE

FRIDAY, MARCH 5

Woody Guthrie made his most prominent séance via ex-Rage Against the Machine/current Audioslaver Tom Morello. Billing himself as the Night Watchman, Morello proved that Audioslave is really just a bad anomaly—his subsequent 12-bar, acoustic guitar-and-harmonica odes to Ohio steelworkers, West Virginia miners and Guatemalan sweatshop workers "who got your job" could've been played for the Wobblies. Morello dedicated his final song to the uniformed security forces eyeballing him, "with hope that one day they realize that they have more in common with the people [in the crowd] than the corporate leeches who pay them to protect them." (GA)

THE HELMUT STEIN EXPERIENCE

THE GYPSY LOUNGE, LAKE FOREST

SATURDAY, MARCH 13

The classy R&B/soul/blues outfit Helmut Stein Experience is headed up by the big, throbbing organ of R. Scott and the sultry, smoky pipes of blond, braless singer April Sweeney, who wore a slinky black dress she kept pulling up to avoid a Janet. "Bet you something's gonna pop out," we swear we told the sound guy in back. Then, after she stroked her microphone, after she dropped to her knees, after she wailed and wailed with the awesome power of someone who could easily front a Janis Joplin tribute band, there it was, right at the end of their set: boobage! And don't even try telling us that wasn't planned! We were so startled—hey, it ain't like we get to see a pair of mammaries in person that often—we almost forgot they didn't do our favorite tune, "On Return." But as far as lasting impressions go, they sure left two. (RK)

GOFORTH

THE GYPSY LOUNGE, LAKE FOREST

SATURDAY, APRIL 10

This was a wake for a band that deserved better things—a set of GoForth's terrifically hooky rock & roll that blazed brighter as their hour-plus wore on, their excellence manifested in the physical presence of the orgasmically gyrating girl in the middle of the room who wiggled along to every note as if GoForth were the greatest band ever (we don't think it was the alcohol dictating to her, either) and our own notepad, which a mere three songs in developed a huge dent where we had banged it ferociously in time against the stool we were perched on. Every song thrilled, each from a hit record that could've been. (RK)

THE PIXIES

GLASS HOUSE, POMONA

FRIDAY, APRIL 30

The Pixies finished with a few loopy waves goodbye and left, except . . . then the techs came out, tuned up Kim Deal's fat red Fender, snapped off a couple of beats on the drums and darted purposefully into the backstage dark. You coulda cut the sense of entitlement with a knife: either big-music execs used to getting what they want or the truest of fans (a formidably impoverished portion of whom hadn't figured they'd be able to see the Pixies for months, if at all) who well-deserved anything they could get. And we'd all been promised encores (and that Neil Young cover!) by setlists on the Internet, and they had still skipped a giant chunk of catalog—"Monkey Gone to Heaven," "Here Comes Your Man," most if not all of Trompe le Monde—and now we were at the special-person secret show with all the equipment fluffed up and ready to go? Rich people must feel this certain of good things every goddamn moment of their lives. And then the techs came out again and hit every off switch onstage. Hmm. Everyone's smiles went stiff. A few people chanted, "PIX-IES, PIX-IES" and clapped, but 3,000 cubic feet of uncomfortable silence snuffed that out before the house lights came on. "People don't know how to put up much of a fight anymore," I said; that's what happens when your fan base is all people who never got up the guts to ask someone to prom. (Chris Ziegler)

MANIC HISPANIC

GALAXY CONCERT THEATRE, SANTA ANA

WEDNESDAY, CINCO DE MAYO

Two fights broke out only half an hour into the performance, and the pit's brutish swirl would've classified as a race riot anywhere else in Orange County. Nevertheless, la naranja's boiling ethnic tension disappeared for an evening, thanks to the power of parody. "Today, I'm going to catch myself a skinhead!" Mike "Gabby" Gaborno sneered during an overrefried make of "American Society" before throwing a piñata into the crowd. The worst residents of Huntington Beach and Santa Ana united in tearing it to pieces—better than one another, you know? (GA)

NU-MARK

DETROIT BAR, COSTA MESA

SATURDAY, MAY 15

This Detroit gig was the last of Nu-Mark's string of shows supporting his solo mix CD, and this turned out to be one of the loosest, highest-energy dates of the tour, said fellow Jurassic 5 DJ Cut Chemist, who had the nerve to tease the crowd by hanging out on the side of the stage yet never venturing toward the turntables. Nu-Mark broke from the script by mixing Cannabis' bluster over some ethereal Marvin Gaye soul, and then turned on the Brazilian standard "Berimbau." He quickly returned to the program when Jurassic MC Chali 2na hopped onstage to rap during the third quarter of the show, dovetailing with his appearance in the last third of the album. Everybody went nuts for it, as 2na proved once again that his baritone is one of the most distinctive voices in hip-hop. Toward the end of the gig, just as with the album, MC J-Live took his turn flowing to Nu-Mark's beats, and then J-Live took over the turntables. Suddenly freed from responsibilities, Nu-Mark's epoxied look of determined focus dropped from his face for something truly unexpected: a smile--the beaming, gleeful, satisfied look of a man who had just completed a mission. (Andrew Asch)

THE AVENGERS

FITZGERALD'S, HUNTINGTON BEACH

THURSDAY, JUNE 17

Singer Penelope Houston looked good—not lecher-good but wholesome-good, a Glenda in a bubble beaming beatifically off the front-row fistfighters, one of whom was a girl with a cane. It was such cuddly shit: lots of sing-alongs, to-a-person smile-alongs, girls all in denim and eyeliner clapping hands on their hips in time with the snare drum, and afterward, everyone lining up for photos with Penelope like a class field trip to see Sleeping Beauty at Disneyland. And around the periphery: the old punks, the best, the loner guys with bad ties and bad posture, hiding under their droopy eyes and comb-overs and meekly handing Penelope a Dangerhouse seven-inch and a Sharpie. Do you ever feel like your dad is sad sometimes, and you can't do anything about it? That's because he had a life before you, and he misses it, and some nights, he wants to think about girls he knew before your mom. (CZ)

BIG BUSINESS

KOO'S, LONG BEACH

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24

All Big Business is is low end, low end buried under low end until it blooms into a black hole and collapses in on itself; Jared Warren and Coady Willis' thrust-and-response Melvins metal is that woozy back-and-forth head bob you get when your brain starts to float after a long, hard, heavy, brutal . . . well, whatever. Big Business: music for nights that, no matter where they go on the way, are determined to end curled around a nice cold toilet. The last song had such a minutely intricate drum pattern—Willis' jaw tight like he was chawing a ball of beef jerky—it instantly sounded like they'd fucked it up: the bass started peeling off the drums, and Warren's face flattened, red and angry, into his neck as he tried to cock an eye down at his effects pedals; his stubble piled into the trenches in his double chin. "Fuck," he said. "Fuck shit!" The microphone was digging around in his mouth like a flashlight after cavities. "Piss fuck shit!" he said. "Fuck it!" He knocked the pedals from side to side with his toe, and everyone pivoted slowly away from Willis—hey, cussin'!—to see what he was gonna do now that the song had popped a tire, and he went, "Shit shit shit shit shit!" And that was it. (CZ)

Keep on Wockin'
Bay City Rollers, Alex's Bar,
Long Beach, July 9

BAY CITY ROLLERS

ALEX'S BAR, LONG BEACH

FRIDAY, JULY 9

No one would get closer than 15 feet to the band except one guy so drunk he was floor-punching and one whitehair in flannel who was yelling, "They're all fags! They all got married and dropped the soap!" when the Rollers asked if anyone out there was in love. Every time someone laughed or pointed, the temperature dropped, and they kept laughing and pointing until the room was iced over with a bitter Freon chill I could feel in my teeth, and my fingerprints fogged through the frost on my drink, and the Rollers played "Bad Case of Lovin' You." And then they played "Shang-a-Lang" and tried to get people to talk to them, and then they thanked us all for rockin'—"Wockin'!" he says, a Scot accent tangling around his ankles—and then they told us to keep on wockin', to keep on WOCKIN' IN THE DA FREE WOILD! (CZ)

SONIC YOUTH

THE GLASS HOUSE, POMONA

SUNDAY, JULY 19

The critics are starting to get surly that Sonic Youth aren't quite as Youthful as the advertising could suggest—whatever, Black Flag weren't black, either—and they're floating this idea that somewhere there's a mandatory yearly standard of innovation the band's got to hit by virtue of, you know, oldness. But like a wise guy said, the Beach Boys washed up at 27, the Velvet Underground collapsed at 28, and Kurt Cobain was dead on the ground at 27, too, but Sonic Youth is uninterrupted and unmistakably alive at 23 as a band, never mind the ages of everybody in it, and maybe it's not because they're so fearlessly (or just obviously) experimental, but that they can now and then and most of the time write a song so effective and fundamental it doesn't suffer for a second with two tons of spacey foot-pedal superstructure sagging on top of it. In fact, we got proof of it, double-documented, when 50 cell-phone periscopes went clicky-click: This crowd-surfer kid, flopping about like a flounder out of water onstage? He swivels toward Kim Gordon with obvious kissy-face intentions; Thurston Moore snaps up behind him—an instantaneous nature-channel reaction—and cranks him around to face the people, Fender Mustang guitar squished between them. He peels up the kid's shirt and rubs orbits around the kid's nipples. The kid plays along with a little Justin Timberlake self-tummy-massage, though he looks a tiny bit scared, and you would be, too, because Moore really is, like, 47, plus he's very tall and pretty famous, all of which is amplified by a factor of thousands when it's rubbing your baby-boy boobies and breathing on the back of your ear, and then Moore—after a moment longer than anyone thought he'd keep this up—tips him back over the monitors. And the song sounded exactly like it was supposed to sound the whole time. Sonic Youth is on glacial time; compared to dinosaurs, they've barely even got to be alive yet. And besides, people should lighten up: the fork in the road doesn't say, INNOVATE OR DIE; it just says, MILES DAVIS OR ROLLING STONES. It's easy to tell which way to go. (CZ)

STEVE BURNS

DETROIT BAR, COSTA MESA

SUNDAY, JULY 25

If as a slightly cool mom, you didn't know the Rentals or the Flaming Lips, you woulda just heard a lot of major chords (the kind that sound good in folk songs or on the radio) pile up over a spacey psych backing track, bleeps and bloops sparkling like Christmas lights, and you'd think, as you kept a set of fingers on the unflung cotton undies in your purse, "Yeah, songs!" Steve's last song ("Song for Dustmites") slips out of a slack intro into a cartoon-y rocket-launch finale that really did have a little Flaming Lips inside it (though the drummer couldn't help stepping all over the pretty parts), and the first thing we heard as we left the club was Syd Barrett, and that didn't seem disjointed at all—Syd, Nickelodeon Jr. would have loved you; wish you were here. Though most people don't know a lot about music (statistics: there are seven billion people in the world, and a lot of them have never even encountered clean running water, much less a Pere Ubu single), most of them can tell whether or not they feel happy or sad, and if they are a slightly cool mom and they are happy, they might do something like slosh a martini in a little whorl at the end of their wrist and yell, "I love you, Steve!" Though, you know, they might do that if they're sad, too. (CZ)

EUGENE EDWARDS

FITZGERALD'S IRISH PUB, HUNTINGTON BEACH

SUNDAY, AUG. 1

Eugene Edwards, was—oh, how about completely fucking brilliant? Edwards brought loud, ornery, impossibly catchy melodies to the stage, and he played everything with the passion of a man who was combusting right before you on a night when we really needed to hear something new and fantastic and life-affirming (we had just returned from three weeks in a region where we fear "Redneck Woman" has been declared the new National Anthem). He's a killer guitar man, and we'd totally do a huge feature story on him had Joel Beers not beaten us to it ["This Is Pop," March 5]. The girl running the IPO merch stand in back seemed to agree with us, mouthing the words to all his songs and bopping her head along, with a glassy gaze in her eyes that said, "Life can't possibly get any better than watching Eugene Edwards." We can only concur. (RK)

ANDREA ECHEVERRI

JC FANDANGO, ANAHEIM

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 11

Echeverri has irrevocably changed: gone are the days of metal guitars, articulate anger and smartly placed trip-hop blips. Tonight, Echeverri debuted a sort of Latin hip-hop lounge: bass hum anchoring slow-moving acoustic ruminations about life, love and motherhood. She only set down her overstickered guitar to strike goofy poses or point toward the sky, and her voice was as gorgeous as ever—you could put her larynx on a spit, carve out slices and wrap it within a pita. But it all played like lullabies for radicals. While the audience smiled all night, there was a sense of frustrated nostalgia. After all, onstage was the Kali of rock en español singing about . . . the joys of breast-feeding? (GA)

2MEX

DETROIT BAR, COSTA MESA

THURSDAY, AUG. 12

In his checkered Vans, baggy shirt and oversized jeans, 2Mex looked like he just rolled out of bed and said, "Shit, I have to play Costa Mesa to a crowd of people who only listen to hip-hop if KIIS plays it?" But songs such as "Baby I Ain't Joking" (which he sang while staring at his girlfriend) sounded good even without Awol One, who lent his smoky vocals to the album version. "Alive-a-Cation" (with a hard electric-guitar sound) got the four guys in the front to jump around and pump their fists, though it had little effect on the blonde riding a man's crotch like he was going to start spitting out quarters. 2Mex has a stage presence that lets us know how often he does this: even with only a few fans stuffed together just feet from his dirty slip-ons, he performed like the room was packed. (Charlie Rose)

ENRIQUE BUNBURY

THE GROVE, ANAHEIM

MONDAY, AUG. 16

Bunbury didn't disappoint when he finally sauntered onstage in a glittering cowboy outfit that recalled fat-era Elvis. He immediately delved into his whatsumever repertoire: monster-rock jams so wretched even Sammy Hagar would hold his nose, sinuous Middle Eastern tracks sutured onto Dixieland jazz, rockabilly, Delta blues, and some unclassifiable things that could play as easily at a circus as at a mortuary. This Iberian Robert Goulet closed his initial set with a tortured version of Mexican ranchera legend José Alfredo Jiménez's "El Jinete," Bunbury's gravel pit of a throat rasping out the song's defeated lament. And Bunbury even took time between the chaos to ask fans to "do the world a favor" and "change presidents in November, please." No rootin'-tootin' night would be right without a fight. After Bunbury concluded his third curtain call with a gruff waltz, a rockero jumped onstage and swiped Bunbury's jacket, which hung from a mic stand. A quadruple tug of war quickly ensued between the fan, Bunbury's people, Grove security and other rockeros scratching for a piece of the jacket. Nearby, a man flipped over a table and socked someone. Onstage, film credits rolled to "Fin." (GA)

VAN HALEN

ARROWHEAD POND, ANAHEIM

MONDAY, AUG. 16

We watched as Eddie Van Halen sucked on several cigarettes, even though he had part of his tongue removed because of cancer. And we saw Sammy Hagar, Mike Anthony and Ed take gulps from whatever the audience handed them, even though Ed did time in alcohol rehab, unless it was grape juice in those cups, but we doubt it. Mike even brought out that old Jack Daniels bass--isn't that the very definition of "enabling"? It felt uncomfortably like paying to watch Courtney Love shoot up between her toes. (RK)

WIVES GLASS HOUSE, POMONA

SATURDAY, AUG. 21

They had Minutemen instrumentation, hard-wired through battle-damaged Black Flag guitar squall, and when Dean Spunt started singing (Please don't just scream, please don't just scream, I thought), they had Minutemen cadence, too—that panicked, determined bark that most bands dodge because it doesn't give a voice anything to hide behind. But they didn't have Minutemen subtlety; they pulled everything in the room toward them—they were the reverse of a bomb, momentum whipped up by turning their own nervousness inside-out on itself until it hit chain reaction. And they had a jazzy looseness that turned their music into topological maps; they'd tease a song from furious hardcore into bare, barbed strips of guitar, into fogbanks of noise, into a playful tattoo on the toms, even once (after signals to one another) into each member of the band unfocusing his eyes and stage-screaming, "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!" One stout little girl next to me was flipping out, clawing at the air in time with Jeremy's cymbals like she was gonna catch a chunk in her fist. And every time I'd look over, she'd be farther into the crowd, closer to the stage, teeth locked together like a wrestler. When she was too far away to see, more girls moved up behind me and started talking. "You know what this reminds me of?" asked one, stretching her vowels like they do in all the corridor cities. "Pit's old band—Ripping Shit?" ". . . a NOISE band?" her friend asked, grossed-out. "Well, I like that," she said back, more quietly. (CZ)

MATMOS

WINIFRED SMITH HALL, CLAIRE TREVOR SCHOOL OF THE ARTS, UC IRVINE SECT SEMINAR, IRVINE

SATURDAY, Aug. 21

It was the final performance that best captured Matmos' sense of Dada-like play. The room was almost dark for this strictly video piece that started with the looped sound of an ass slap. The image was then broken into four quadrants, each looping the ass slap. A beat emerged. And after a few minutes of beats and breaks, the image went to black and M.C. Schmitt dropped trou and bent over Drew Daniel's lap, and Daniel started slapping his partner's butt cheeks while Schmitt clapped against the floor. The video started up again with a new slaphappy beat and the stage exploded into a sort of ass-slapping drum circle. Yes, it's official: this is art! (Maxwell Yim)

IKE TURNER

BLUE CAFE, LONG BEACH

SATURDAY, AUG. 21

The backing band looked like a bunch of dentists (except for the seasoned guys on trumpet and piano), and the new Tina—c'mon, you know everyone was thinking it!—was spitting out more tacky brass than the whole horn section. Ike doesn't need that stuff. The show should really have just been Ike and his guitar, soloing in front of his Mercedes (vanity plate: IKE TURN) with occasional breaks to tune and glare at people. But he still hacked at that whammy bar until his guitar started tuning in satellite signals, cutting between the gimme songs such as "Proud Mary" (barf; save it for Radio Disney) with lightning bolts such as Lonnie Mack's '65 instrumental "Chicken Pickin'." People were loving it so unconditionally that some guy had to keep tactfully pulling some woman's woozy head back from his Dockers-safed crotch, and when the bass player would go, "Hey, do you guys like . . .THE BLUES?" they'd all tear out the kind of screams you save for a last-second field goal. (CZ)

THE SWEET AND TENDER HOOLIGANS

GALAXY CONCERT THEATRE, SANTA ANA

SATURDAY, AUG. 28

The show was ultimately unsatisfying, and it was the crowd's fault. While some fans engaged in the stage-rushing and gladiola-launching tactics that typically transform Hooligans shows from mere songfest into new wave theater, many just stood around and preened. Men sported pompadours that could poke out eyeballs; their shapely, tattooed ladies looked like extras from an all-Latino version of American Graffiti. Few danced, few sweated, not even for the torch-ender "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out." Such apathy, then, begs the question: Why even show up? Moz graced this planet to make us cry and croon and look pretty, sure, but he also wants us to dance. And when one of the few people flaying around is this charming reporter, something is terribly amiss—not with the Hooligans, but with the world. (GA)

TEGAN AND SARA

FINGERPRINTS RECORD STORE, LONG BEACH

TUESDAY, SEPT. 21

Aw, youth: it was all girl smiles, girl giggles, girl gushes and girl crushes as Fingerprints quickly filled up with every asymmetrically hair-styled 17-year-old former Ani DiFranco fan from Long Beach to Lakewood. By the time Tegan and Sara—Canada's dynamic, New Pornographers-produced, twin-sister duo—got their guitars settled on their laps, it felt like an in-store sleepover. "I got Sara's phone number!" boasted one girl before the show, doing a little jig as she waved a Canadian Air luggage tag. "I think it's, like, Canadian or something." As for the songs themselves, tracks such as "Walking With a Ghost" and "I Know I Know I Know" translated well acoustically—and the already quiet "Where Does the Good Go" fared even better—but we sensed what the twins really wanted to do was rock. Still, for the girls (and three boys) in the audience, it didn't really seem to matter much—they still lined up after the show, one by one giddily asking for autographs and, if they were feeling brave, pictures. Before we left, we spotted a different girl holding the tag in one hand and feverishly punching the digits into her phone with the other. Aw, youth. (Ellen Griley)

DRAG THE RIVER

GYPSY LOUNGE, LAKE FOREST

SATURDAY, OCT. 2

With the country harmonies, showboat rock drumming and bassist JJ Nobody's stomps punctuating the breaks, Drag the River blazed right through genre conventions. The band seeded the set with slower songs to rein in the cowboy hats in the crowd, and Price often sang with his eyes closed—maybe to concentrate, maybe out of shyness, but either way not just a pose. It verified what we've always suspected: country music is white soul. As Price sang, "She brings me happiness in a bottle/makes life easier to swallow"—in the darkness, we wanted to believe. The traffic laws screamed, "DON'T DRINK!" but Drag the River cried, "YOU MUST!" (Rex Reason)

THE DWARVES

FITZGERALD'S IRISH PUB, HUNTINGTON BEACH

FRIDAY, OCT. 8

It's certainly no secret the Dwarves' years of real and exaggerated nihilistic antics—playing naked, attacking the audience, playing one or two songs and trashing the stage and ending the show—have become almost an albatross around their necks, though that was fine and even fun when everything was ultra-fast (but always insidiously, insanely catchy) punk. But now that the band has spent the past several albums (and years) stretching into electronica, pure pop and hip-hop, cultivating such a cretinous fan base may be catching up with them—though a game of Spot the Awful Tattoos played great backup entertainment all night, and watching some blob with a Mohawk talk on his cell phone makes a nice bonus. When the band jumped into "Dominator," the floor erupted—pure, stupid, kinetic, misanthropic hatred flowing offstage. The audience slurped it up. Singer Blag Dahlia swaggered back and forth, gesturing for the faithful to let him hear it: "Yeah! Yeah! Rock legends. Big dicks swinging across Orange County!" (RR)

THE F-UPS

SANTA FE CAFÉ, FULLERTON

SATURDAY, OCT. 30

Yeah, that's what they call themselves--self-censorship is lame--but you can't get a write-up in Teen People if "fuck" is in your band's name, y'know. But then they started playing, and well, they weren't half bad, shooting off what sounded like a batch of great, obnoxious, drunken Irish-bar anthems—not nearly as grand as, say, the Dropkick Murphys, but maybe in a few years. Their other tunes were mostly punk-by-rote, though, yet the kids did pull off an "All the Young Dudes" cover, a song they really had no business touching. Still, it went down sweet and zippy—too bad there wasn't a single other person in the crowd of maybe 30 who knew it was a cover besides us and the band, which made us feel old and cranky. And that was totally F-ed-up. (RK)

TED LEO AND THE PHARMACISTS

CHAIN REACTION, ANAHEIM

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 3

When Leo finally wiggled out from his guitar after a good 50-minute set—it looked like moonlight coming through the stage door to turn him blue, but it was just an office fluorescent—he said, "Keep the pressure on. It's not over. It's never over." Which seemed so sad when the real lights came up and the floor looked so dirty. But not three minutes later, he pokes back in: "Oh, ye of little faith," he says, sliding into a grin, his palm reaching over the soft polish of the guitar, clapping the drummer on the back, asking the sound guy for two more songs with a cheerful authority that meant he'd get them. "Ballad of the Sin Eater" was just bass and drums till the last few curves, the guitar heeled onstage, Leo's skinny arms flapping great crazy shapes around his head; it hit a velocity—and ferocity—the rest of the set didn't quite get; it found a lyric that sounded like it was just born: "You didn't think they could hate you now, did you? But they hate you—they hate you 'cause you're guilty!" And then he went into one you could tell wasn't one of his; the chords were fast and simple, fluid and thick; Leo suddenly loose, bent in half, with the guitar cocked into a gunslinger's right angle on his thigh, bright in the relief from the lights. Shoulda known: "Don't believe it! Don't believe it! Don't be bitten twice! You gotta s-s-s-s-s-s-suspect device!" Lots of people knew it, and it felt good—felt like one of ours. (CZ)

LOU REED

ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES

QUEEN MARY, LONG BEACH

SATURDAY, NOV. 6

Guitar Center plays the Velvet Underground songbook. Blah. Hate to harp on equipment, but: Five-string fretless bass? Do you think, like, "Satellite of Love" has been festering in Reed's heart for a generation, keeping him from ever truly sleeping through the night because he knows that without the tinny Seinfeld-ian tones of a five-string fretless bass, it wouldn't ever live up to the perfect vision he's kept inside for so many years? The kids who weren't leaving early were the kids without enough sense or self-confidence to push through a crowd. Reed looked pretty cheerful; we went and saw an Elvis impersonator instead. (CZ)

THE FLAMING LIPS

ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES

QUEEN MARY, LONG BEACH

SUNDAY, NOV. 7

"OH! YES! OH! YES!" says the video screen; the stuffed animals are pushing out balloons, and Wayne Coyne just smiles in his suit, the punk rocker who finally took acid, the cool dad no one really had, pumping a fake fist ("B-U-S-H"; the other said, "S-T-O-P") and telling everyone, "This is your last chance to sing along all night." Or, "If you don't know the words, just sing something; let the anger out!" (for "War Pigs" with Peaches). Or asking, "Should I get the bubble?" They were the only band that really filled up the stage, blowing up balloon after balloon where Lou Reed had deflated before, everybody backstage moving aside so little kids could see the crowd out front. It was goofy, and we're all too old for that kind of thing, but maybe we aren't, and it's dumb, but it was just fun to listen and look up at the lights. Guitars everywhere, and girls were beautiful, boys were beautiful, sound guys were beautiful—it was a song from a commercial, but fuck it. You couldn't see past the top of the stage, but the confetti lit up all across the field. (CZ)

OHNO, ALOE BLACC

DETROIT BAR, COSTA MESA

SATURDAY, NOV. 20

Right toward the end of the set came actually-from-OC Aloe Blacc (who had been happily hanging out in the crowd all night) to do his part for OhNo's "The Getaway," just like he does on the album. All the laid-back smoothness that makes the studio version stretch out and relax was torn up by the Detroit PA; even DJ Romes' clipped "Get-away/get-away-get-away" came out a little heavy. But Aloe and OhNo align well together, OhNo tipping out syllables ("Explosions and bruises and contusions/And everybody else useless and so damn clueless!") like a welter of ice cubes from a bucket and Aloe leaning forward for the chorus, putting a little sing-song into his voice to keep everything from tangling up ("All we got to do/Is getaway"). People kept slinking away-- "Every hip-hop show, they leave after four songs!" griped one fan—but OhNo and Co. didn't seem to notice or care, deploying a sorta-encore—"We aren't gonna leave you like that!" he said—apparently (and commendably) just for the sake of artistic fulfillment, since there were only about 12 people left and the girls were dancing with one another. (CZ)

THE BEAT FARMERS A.D.

COACH HOUSE, SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO

SATURDAY, DEC. 4

The surprise of the night was hearing the other special guest, OC's own punk legend/nice guy Billy Zoom, singing lead—LEAD! Like, who even knew he could talk?—on three of his own, pre-X rockabilly tunes, one of which served as background music to John Holmes laying the wad to two chicks in a pool in a circa-1975 porno. The joy all these cats had playing together naturally spilled into the crowd, and the show reinforced the notion there was always much, much more to the Beat Farmers than Country Dick's goofy novelty numbers. Still, it woulda been nice to hear the Dr. Demento nugget "Happy Boy," which Mojo Nixon sang the last time the Farmers staged a reunion here. Also missing from that show was Joey Harris, who joined up in 1986 when Buddy Blue left as the band headed in a more mainstream-rock direction. After egos—and even wives—clashed at the previous reunion, A.D. forged ahead without Harris. Ironically, it was his spirit that was present, at least at the bitter end, when Blue introduced his band mates and signed off with "and me, Joey Harris." "Ooooooo," the audience cooed disapprovingly. "That was unnecessary," a woman behind me said. "He's a dick," added the guy next to her. (Matt Coker)

THE MOVING UNITS

V20 THE VENUE, LONG BEACH

FRIDAY, DEC. 9

It was the summer of 2002, and the Rapture kept stalling their major-label release and electro-clash was a word a guy could say to a girl without wondering if she were really 18, a time when driving to the club did sorta feel like a car commercial—yellow lights and fast-food fries and bleach-blond hair and the disco-drumbeat drummer Chris Hathwell probably snores in his sleep—and that was Moving Units. Fun till school started again. And now it's two years later, and they're stuck back there, and people who want to like them have to decide to stick there with them, and the reason every self-styled cool person in LA dips between a cringe and a wince when they mention the Units is—oh, yeah, besides all-consuming jealousy, since no one likes their own awful band—it seems like the Units went straight through the romance to the money when there was talent enough to have gone somewhere else. (CZ)

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