James Bunoan Scarlet Crush
Angel Stadium Parking Lot, Anaheim
Saturday, Feb. 14
It should've been a nice little bastion of goodness amidst the otherwise tacky, swap-meet atmosphere of this first-ever Angels FanFest (too many people in booths pushing useless products, from pricey mattresses to Register subscriptions). And between all the player appearances and endless lines for autographs (which we're so not into—just try convincing your buddies that illegible scribble on your hat really says "Vlad Guerrero"), there was the only attraction that mattered to us in the form of local kids Scarlet Crush, who were doing two half-hour sets each day of this torrid weekend-long affair. Yet 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. The whole thing just felt odd—Scarlet Crush slumming with other people's hits when their originals are good enough to stand right up against all the tunes they were covering. They did sneak a couple of their own songs in at the end, including the coulda-been-huge smash "Something to Say," so that was some solace. But as for the covers? They're above that. We hope they at least scored some game tickets out of the deal.
House Of Blues, Anaheim
Saturday, Feb. 21
Yet another exercise in self-flagellation, a mini-Warped Tour scenario (only without the blatant fan exploitation) where we once again hurl ourselves into a sea of shrieky, trucker-hat-bedecked teenage girls and the pimply faced teen boys who fuck them with their eyeballs. And why do we do this? Hey, after a couple of weeks spent seeing music in dicey locales with sketchy, insane parking arrangements, we wanted to go someplace nice—and nice is certainly the House of Blues, even though we knew going in that the music was more or less going to sound like a big, endless fart.
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Okay, at least with Simple Plan, one of the dorkiest bands to ever have the misfortune of plugging in an amp—their mega-hit "I'd Do Anything" sounds like Barry Manilow trying to do punk. Yes, we knew we'd hate them plenty, and not just because they're Canadian (even worse, they're from Montreal, so they're FRENCH Canadian!), so we didn't even bother sticking around.
Naturally, we assumed everyone else on the bill would be wretched, in a sort of crap-by-association way. But we were happily wrong, and we surprised ourselves by enjoying—just a little bit—the screamo-metal antics of Billy Talent, for whom we had prepared a slew of verbal darts in advance (here's one: "Billy Talent? Barely Talented!"). While it's certainly true we could've done without their stretching-for-street-cred Buzzcocks tees, their overall guitar assault felt refreshing, and at least the lead singer's guttural warbles possessed a semblance of melody. A goofy-good, not-whiny, highly animated (in a could-be-on-banned-substances kind of way) front man led the band through a flurry of not-half-bad songs, too, and even though Billy Talent were also from Canada, they were from Toronto, which is good Canadian—kind of like being a Texas band, but being from Austin.
We remembered we liked Sugarcult ever since they were a nothing band playing Chain Reaction. And while we found pleasure with this set—the pop, the punk, the pop punk and the punky pop—it was heavy with new tunes off their soon-to-be-released new record, and at this particular moment, we craved familiarity, which we found in "Bouncing Off the Walls," their so-far sole radio hit (well, at least on the old, dead KMXN-FM 94.3). Good band, but we just don't have a lot to say. Perhaps we ought to stop hanging around the outside bar and watching the bands play on the video screens.
Not much else either about MXPX, who've been around forever and who used to be Christian, then weren't, then were again but instead were a "band who happen to have Christian members" and not a "Christian band" (er, anybody got a scorecard so's we can keep track?). We give them props for longevity, for sure, and we liked their set quite a bit—they go much deeper musically than a lot of other bands who do the whole Buzzcocks/Green Day thing (organ flourishes!), and if we're gonna be subjected to MXPX, better to do it comfortably in a nice, clean, orderly, air-conditioned room than some sweaty, godforsaken outdoor festival.