Gulping From the Horse Trough

Photo by James Bunoan The Pop Narcotic/Counterfit/Fin Fang Foom/Locale A.M./Laymen Terms
Chain Reaction, Anaheim
Sunday, Nov.

It's been awhile since we've hung out at a half-filled—or even half-empty—Chain Reaction. Back when this was Public Storage, seemed like all the shows we went to had an abundance of elbow room. But zounds, even Guns N' Roses have trouble packing an arena nowadays.

So at least we could spread out on one of those padded benches in the back during Laymen Terms, a band from the we-brake-for-right-wing-nutballs burg of Colorado Springs. And they weren't half bad: a batch of heartfelt guitar tunes as played by graduates of the College of Skinny White Kid Indie Rock—without the rancid emo aftertaste. They fedaddled with different tempos, crunchy riffages and discorded balladries; some nicer, quieter, moodier ellipses; some solid textures and ambitious coloring. Actually, now that we just read what we wrote, we don't know what any of that means, but it sure seemed fitting at the time. Let's just cop out and say they were "good."

Less nice was Locale A.M., a quartet of cretins on tour "from the Bay Area," which invariably translates to "we're too poor to live in San Francisco." Yet they had enough cash to spend on an ugly black-and-yellow banner trumpeting their name, which hung from behind the drum riser in case anyone wanted to remember them. No one ought to, as they were shooting for a dull Incubus-crossed-with-At-the-Drive-In thing, which was as ugly as you'd fear. And they got even uglier when we gawked at their Polo-shirted singer, who leapt about the stage like a drag queen who had lost her tuck string. Funnier is their website, which revealed that they're still largely playing the high school lunch-time circuit, that they've done shows with Ozma (who hasn't?), and that their favorite words include "boo-ya," "suckydux" and "get naked." What fun! What . . . blaaaaarrf! Please, Lord, tell us they're not polluting Gilman Street, too.

Even less nicer were the victors of our always-heated stupid-band-name-of-the-month competition, Fin Fang Foom, who basically went honk-honk-yamma-yamma-wank-wank-plop. Depressingly, they claimed to hail from the once-burgeoning music hotbed of Chapel Hill, but they were eons away from any of that sort of indie cred with mounds of mushy prog. rock masquerading as something new and different, which it wasn't. Yo, ELP! You still SCK! From their first song, it was like your roommate trying to talk to you amid an incessant aural barrage of TV white noise. Perhaps they were making an attempt at being "artsy," but it was just so much sonic sludge—either that, or the sound guy hated them as much as we did. They were dull and soul-sucking, like the drone of a zillion car alarms going off or the Fox News Channel. And then, just when it couldn't get any worse, they started doing nothing but their plodding instrumentals. It was a three-day-long set that people around us claim actually lasted a mere half-hour.

The hot band of the night was Counterfit—hot as in "popular," not necessarily "good." Counterfit were so not-good, actually, that they at first came off like a New Found Glory tribute band—and that's pretty not-good! We gagged as the singer did his cute little emo-boy dance and his cute little head-bob thing; we chortled as the band made cute little distortion sounds with their amps and guitars. Then we had to excuse ourselves and stepped out on the smoking patio for a bout of brooding over the sad state of modern music whilst acknowledging that at least Counterfit have an accurate name—they were as fake as bands come.

So after gulping from the horse trough of aural inanity—and after most people had skeedaddled—we were awarded with the utter fantabulousness of the Pop Narcotic. The Pop Narcs are the main reason we found it funny when all the "return of rock" hype started dropping a year ago, as all the lazy bigger-forum rock critics seemed to have only rediscovered rock when it was served to them in envelopes mailed from major record labels. The Pop Narcotic have been churning out music that has gobs more energy and vim than the Hives, Strokes or Vines, and they've been doing it locally for several years now, a deadly combo of old DC hardcore meshed with dirty garage grit. This set was no different: a hyperkinetic, balls-out performance that wound up in a tangle of flailing body parts, sweat glands and guitar cables, something the Stooges would've been proud of. Fucking brilliant, really.

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