Bourbon Street West

Photo by Matt OttoA BUNCH OF BANDS

Whenever we're at a live-music impasse, we head to downtown Fullerton, where on any weekend night, we can walk the streets and indulge in 10 different bands playing from a variety of genres. You want blues? There's Stubrik's Steakhouse. Jazz? Steamers, of course. Noisy punk and pop, made all the more potent with a readily available hookah? That's the Santa Fe Caf. Cover bands? The Tuscany Club. Lounge/jazz/R&B? The Continental Room. Downtown Fullerton—like Havana before Castro, kinda!

We had actually been invited to a different downtown space this night to hear what the press release touted as "Orange County's greatest music sensation" (strike one!), a band with a "clean-cut image" (strike two) who "have been compared with the likes of Incubus and Maroon 5" (stee-riiike three!). But with hype that thick, it was easy to be distracted by the range of sonic splendors wafting from other doors. At an art gallery opening, a jazz guitarist picked out some lilting melodies. Over at Steamers, the Anthony Wilson Nonet were crafting beautiful, colorful, creative notes—we partook for only 10 minutes, but long enough to form an opinion, and half of that time was spent trying to figure out how they can cram so many people onto the modest-sized Steamers stage. Even the Tuscany Club cover band and their takes on "Evil Ways" and "Burning Love" sounded pleasant.

What's more, there looked to be about two or three other bars in the area set to open in the coming months (Harbor Boulevard, soon to be known as Bourbon Street West?), one of them being the Slide Bar Caf, the new OC-rock-themed restaurant to replace what had been known as the Hub Caf. Owner Sean Francis spotted us lurking and took us on a tour; amidst the dirt piles and plastic tubing, he enlightened us with visions of a huge, black-canopied outdoor bar where the Hub's patio used to be. The place should be finished . . . eventually. Sure, Francis works slow, but you do want quality, yes?

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Our final destination was the Santa Fe Caf—the Fullerton train depot, which after a brief hiatus is apparently back to hosting live amplified music again, possibly because the rumbling freight trains zipping past make much more noise than electric guitars do. There was a trio called Hop Frog, who, though cursed with a lousy name, were pretty good for a band well-versed in punk-infused old-timey stoner metal. Not horrible, and the trains roaring by only made their set all the more palatable.

Why, we wondered, were we so unusually happy about all we heard? Then we remembered: Old Mother Reagan, as the Violent Femmes once called him, had finally kicked. And the world just seemed a much brighter place. (Rich Kane)


It's a cardinal truth about Argentina: don't fuck with its soccer. And yet this was precisely the tragic sin that Jess "El Pelos" Olvera committed as his band Chivo Expiatorio took to the JC Fandango stage.

"I just want to thank all of you for Diego," Pelos told his audience, the majority of them sporting soccer jerseys of either the Argentine national squad or one of the country's two powerhouse clubs, Boca Juniors and River Plate. They thought he was referring to legendary striker Diego Maradona and cheered until Pelos revealed that "Diego" was, in fact, an obscure South American singer. Then the boos rained down on Chivo Expiatorio like indictments on disgraced former Argentine president Carlos Menem.

The audience wasn't in the mood for some jokester to mess with their national pride—not a Mexican, anyhow. They were perfectly satisfied with headliners Bersuit Vergarabat, Argentine political perverts who are as liable to mimic hard-ons with their mics as they are to denounce the venal politicians and rampant arrogance that chokes their land. Grizzled front man Gustavo Cordera, the Frank Sinatra of porno punk, cranked up his vocals for such nostalgia-soaked ballads as "Mi Caramelo," growled with vulnerability through the furious cumbia "Yo Tomo," and just shouted over the dervish that is the flamenco-tinged, tropical music-based, hardcore-obsessed Bersuit sound. Cordera's interaction with the crowd—leers, laughs, even an impromptu survey of masturbatory habits—now qualifies him to host next year's Oscars, damn the language barrier.

"I wish you all a night of sex!" Cordera yelled shortly before inviting eight hot lasses to boogie with the band on the square dance-sounding "Petisita Culona."

It wasn't all fun. Bersuit ended its two-hour set with diatribe after tuneful diatribe against a homeland Argentines love and scorn. Nowhere was this more apparent than on the anthemic "La Argentinidad al Palo," a barreling jam that ended with the Yeatsean insight "From ecstasy to agony/Oscillates our history/ We can be the best or the worst/With the same ease." The crowd smashed around in the pit or grooved tirelessly in place in approval—only because it was Argentines criticizing Argentines, of course. (Gustavo Arellano)

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