January 27, 2012
Alex's Bar, LBC's favorite punk watering hole, celebrated its 12th birthday last night with an adverse lineup of punk/surf/rock & roll performers. Everything about this show was strange, from the diversely dysfunctional crowd, to the Halloween-esque costuming of the opening bands, right down to the name of supporting band, The Strange Boys.
Orange County's own Death Hymn Number 9, complete with zombie makeup, blood, sweat--and PBR instead of tears--opened the show with their high energy metal/punk riffs. "You make us angry," and "Give us your money!" were basically the only forms of the English language that could be translated during their set.
The fact that no one really cares that the lyrics are indecipherable speaks loudly about their performance as a whole. Death Hymn's shows are great because of the crowd interaction and the in-your-face attitude of front man Paul Gonzalez. The crowd started the night off at a safe distance, but soon were coerced and jam-packed at stage front by the fast tempos and hard-hitting beats of the bloody drummer. All were soon aware of their inability to ignore this hyperactive quartet.
The outlandish antics were kept alive by supporting band, Thee Cormans. Was this an improv show, or a mother-effing rock show?! Even with a large Lee's coffee flowing through my veins, I could not have prepared for this set.
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Decked out in Halloween masks and old-school punk wear, the crude banter coming from these guys was paramount: "This next song is a love song; it's called, 'I'm not pullin' out' " and "I want to fuck your Mom in the ass" were a step up from the gibberish coming from Death Hymn, but was it enough of a gimmick for this set to be enjoyable? It's a toss up. A garage band complete with Tourrette's Syndrome: Thee Cormans. Not for the faint of heart, sensitive souls beware.
Despite the everlasting profanity, the guitarist can really shred. The Yo Gabba Gabba doppelganger stepped it up a notch by shredding with a knife. Yes, a knife with which he later stabbed himself in the head. Funny, that was a mutual feeling from the crowd as well. Thanks for the ear fucking.
These guys really do not care what anyone else thinks of them, as they made perfectly clear by stating, "This was the worst show we have ever played, seriously." The only thing missing from this performance was a "c-word" appearance, until then, not impressed with the gimmick.
The Strange Boys, oddly enough, were scheduled directly following the hot mess that was Thee Cormans. If hipsters could make it through that last set, they were worthy of the Strange Boys' bluesy blend of rock & roll. The boys next door, the dream boats that any gal straight out of a 1950s time warp would fall head over saddle shoes for, had the PBR fueled crowd on their feet and singing along with "Be Brave." Hope you bought your vinyl, because these guys sound exactly like the record.
The dance floor was packed with hipsters in their black square-framed glasses, and cuffed jeans. Die hard fans kept the energy alive with their fondness for the band, thankfully, for it was a bit of a snooze fest. The music was great, eyes-closed, one could lose themselves in the dream-like bluesy mantra of Ryan Sambol on the keys, but following such high energy acts as Death Hymn and Thee Cormans was a challenging task. The Strange Boys have to be the most innocent rockers I have ever seen. Although the crowd wanted more from them, they did not complete an encore.
Reigning Sound closed out the night with a full house of characters. Rockabillies, hippies, punks and hipsters young and old were bobbing along with the old school music that was flowing through the speakers. If any of these bands knew rock & roll, it was Reigning Sound. Even the wall flowers were dancing along to their set. The band, as a whole, were musically tight and well rehearsed. It was a team effort all the way down to the sharing of microphones.
The Chuck Berry-influenced guitar solos by Greg Cartwright, along with the fills from the organ enhanced and brought the performance to life. These guys are All American, not in the cheesy Toby Keith sense, but in the "take me back in time to the good ol' days" sense. It's as if the entire second half of the night completely changed the mood and feel of the environment. Hey, Debbie Downer, it's ok, Reigning Sound is next! Bless your hearts, you saved the night for everyone, no thanks to those crazy guys in masks and monkey suits.
Good choice, Alex's Bar. It's your birthday, and you can be strange if you want to.
Critic's Bias: According to my Spotify, I had been listening to The Strange Boys all day prior to the show
The Crowd: Anyone and everyone, including an Andy Warhol doppelganger. I almost ended up in the middle of a typical punk bar fight on the dance floor.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Dude, those guys SUCKED! Did you hear what he said about my mom?!" "Fuck SOPA?! Fuck soup?" "Who are these people? Where are all of the punks!?"
Random notebook dump: I now have a craving for a milkshake while enjoying a Quentin Tarantino movie marathon.