Can Mention Blow up the LBC Scene?
Tits the size of chemically enhanced eggplants and cheap, icy, piss-flavored beer are basically the reasons why Tracy's, an unkempt, just-turned-21-frat-boy bar in east Long Beach, is hopping on this otherwise DOA Friday evening. And over there in the corner is one of those reasons right now. She's Miss Coors, trying to look as fuckable as her job description will allow, giving the bleary-eyed straight boys in the place an excuse to stick around a little longer and maybe have another brew. Or two. Or five. It seems there's hardly anybody here to see Mention, though, which sucks. One of Long Beach's best bands is in the house, and these kids would rather get blotto? The heathens. Things turn bleaker still after Mention start their set. While they're pounding out a juicy, 10-minute warm-up groove-so cool you'd have to be comatose not to notice-some dickhead's gotta run outside to answer his cell phone. Then ZZ Top's "Tush," in all its repulsiveness, suddenly begins to painfully fart out over the bar's sound system until some right-thinking soul quickly yanks the plug. And then there's that horrific neon sign the band is forced to play under. Somebody who's really tanked is gonna think Mention's name is actually BUDWEISER. But even with the distractions, people begin to catch on. While guitar player Mike Carillo and bass guy Mike Derricotte harmonize the "heya, heya, heya" chants from "Seasons"-their absolutely perfect lazy-Sunday-afternoon tune that squashes War influences together with Fives both Jackson and Ben Folds-two obviously buzzed folks are gettin' jiggy in front of the stage. This somehow makes the Tracy's crowd notice that, hey, there's a band in here. And hey, they're good. And hey yet again, their drummer's a Mike, too-Mike Murphy.Cool, man! Just like the Ramones!Mention's first set is a bit heavy on slow songs, but it's intriguing enough to get people talking and asking for all-important stickers. Friends of the band from the Bong Leach artists collective show up, which seems to give the band more energy, and they pick things up. By the second set, the crowd's a little looser-okay, a lot looser-and the couple who were up dancing before have now multiplied into a sweaty, gyrating mob, the kind you used to see at Dead shows (no moshing here, unless you want to get sliced up on the mirrored wall and look stupid). Things really get bumping now: they go into "Reveal," one of their best songs, a take that's more ass-kicking than the acoustic one on their Makeshift Town CD, which they released in February. "Avelisha" eventually comes around, their big boffo smash-hit single-if you count the number of times it's made Poorman's Anti-Thirteen list. They slide through some uncut funk workouts and end with "Caffeine," an ode to addiction and finger pointing that's tighter than a fundamentalist's fundament. The band finishes and hops down, and the crowd of new Mention converts goes appropriately apeshit. As for Miss Coors? Who's that? Okay, so Tracy's regulars may not be Mention's regulars. It's an occasional gig they probably do more for money-$300 on this night-than love. Mention's people are out there, though. Enough to buy out all 1,000 copies of their 1996 six-song EP. Enough to move close to 100 copies of the full-length Makeshift Town disc in its first six months. Enough windfall from shows and CD sales to net the band a projected $30,000 this year-not a penny of which is going to pay back any advances, either, which is what bands often have to do as a condition for getting signed to a major label. (They own their own label, Sister Norma, which has also just released Mambo Roast, a new Mention compilation they'll sell at their shows for a paltry $3 a pop.) Mention is one of the more successful indie bands in a town saturated with different sounds-whether it's the beefy funk of 00 Soul and Ruby Diver, the gnarly alterna-rock of the Killingtons, the full-bore punk of the Humpers, the electronica of Cirrus, the lounge riot of the Wink Musselman Quartet of Shame, the just-plain-freakiness of the Ziggens, the post-Snoop Dogg hip-hop happenings, or just about anybody who graces the stage at the Blue Cafe. There's so much music going on here you're tempted to utter that ugly, five-letter word that could make it all screech to a bloody, grinding halt: scene. Just ask Seattle and Minneapolis-even San Diego and Silver Lake-where media-inflated music scenes built hype, which begat exploitation, which brought death, sometimes even before any real "scene" could ever be truly defined-if they ever should have been defined in the first place. A few nights before the Tracy's gig, the s-word flows freely around the Mention mansion, also known as Carillo's garage. Maybe more than any other band, these guys-all Long Beach natives-have a right to an opinion on the Long Beach scene: whether it should blow up, whether anyone wants it to, and why they just can't land a decent gig in Orange County. "There are too many different styles of music being exposed here to narrow it into one specific category," Carillo says. "It's not gonna be Seattle or Silver Lake or even Orange County. Long Beach has its own thing. It's way too diverse to package. But I dig it. There's a big underground pride in it." Mention is part of a smaller scene within a scene, a group of Long Beach bands that includes their friends in Twelve Hour Mary, Ruby Diver and Mickey's Big Mouth. They feed off one another, Carillo says, planning shows together and sitting in on gigs and networking, and it all works out great. "You see a lot of bands mixing and matching," he says. "One singer will play with a guitarist from another band-you get a lot of that. It's a very healthy thing." Of course, there's a danger in all the musical collegiality: the bands wind up sounding like one another. Look no further than the OC ska and punk scenes, Carillo says. "Yeah," I counter, "there's a lot of sameness in the ska and punk scenes in OC, but there are still more rock bands than anything. How does the Long Beach scene differ from what's in OC?" The question alone makes all three guys laugh out loud. "The last thing I want to do is bash OC," Carillo says, "but there's definitely an uneasy vibe there. I'm biased because I'm a Long Beach native, and I know my people here. But in OC, there's less of the brotherhood that makes a scene more real. When I walk into a Long Beach club, it's like: 'What's up, man? What's happening?' In OC, there's less eye contact-from club owners to bands we've played with. There's more angst. When I go to OC, I feel like I'm being judged more quickly." "Exactly," Derricotte chimes in. "You don't have that celebratory thing going. When we play down there, it's hard to get people to move. It just doesn't happen naturally. Everybody's fronting and scoping and checking you out. They're more reserved and concerned about how they're standing and what they're wearing." Mention's queasiness with OC is matched only by everything LA. "A lot of bands up there are Recycler bands," says Derricotte. "You know: 'Seeking guitarist; must have long legs.'" Carillo agrees. "We see bands all the time up there, and they look like they've only known each other for two days," he says. "Bands like that will get signed because they play to the hype, and they get the attention." He doesn't name names. Damn. "It seems like the Long Beach bands do what they do because they make the music they want to make," says Justin Hectus, one of Mention's managers, who has been listening to the conversation. I name a few names, and everyone laughs like they know. "Yeah, they're just moving," Hectus points out, "not being guided by something internal, like they're being pulled somewhere. In some respects, it's just as well that things didn't get big in Long Beach. There's still enough of an underground feel in town to make bands comfortable, and it's terrific like that. I mean, you don't ever go to LA and hear somebody say, 'Yeah, I'm going down to Long Beach to check out this band tonight, man.'" "I really think that something's going to happen," says Carillo. "I don't know if Long Beach is going to become the next 'scene,' but I think bands are going to get signed, and because there's so much pride for Long Beach, we're going to keep it at home for a while and give back. Whether it's gonna sweep across the country, I don't know. What I do know is that there's a lot of really good music going on here." Mention plays at Que Sera, 1923 E. 7th St., Long Beach, (562) 599-6170. Sat., 9:30 p.m. $5.
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