There's a pendulum in rock music that swings between the sacred and the profane, between earnest, political rock almost crushed beneath its own seriousness and mindless party anthems that could float away on a frat boy's burps. And for a long time, I believed one was a response to the other, that when music reflects politics and world causes so directly that it no longer provides an escape for the listener, a band will come along to remind everyone that rock music is supposed to be about release and sexuality; that conversely, when rock becomes so focused on fun, escape and the self that it no longer feels relevant, a band will come along to remind everyone that there's a world outside.
But now, I'm beginning to think that both poles are ever-present. Even though we've got bawdy Blink-182, who seem more in love with their bodily functions than anything else, we've also got Radiohead, who channel Kafka in their alienation. And even though we've got Jackass on MTV, we've also got Farside and Gameface, legendary staples of Orange County's angsty, early '90s, indie rock scene, playing at Chain Reaction.
On "Better Than Crying," from Farside's 1999 release The Monroe Doctrine, vocalist/guitarist Michael "Popeye" Vogelsang sings, "And now my hands are cold while my gray hairs multiply./And my teeth feel like a pile of jagged stones. . . . / Things don't seem all that bad if I don't stay awake too long," which, when I hear it—and I think I speak for all of us here—makes me want to rip off my clothes and get crazy.
But more than just the lyrics—the whole of which actually attempts to communicate something real—it's the sound of Farside (churning guitars; frustrated, weathered vocals; crashing drums) that evokes something.
(Which is all a fancy way, I suppose, of trying to describe "emo," which some people might say Farside are, in that they're melodic, emotional and an offshoot of hardcore—but I digress.)
The band, whose members grew up in Irvine and have played in a host of hardcore, punk and straight-edge bands, got their start in 1989 and quickly became one of Revelation Records' most popular and notable bands, releasing Rochambeau in 1992 and Rigged in 1994. They quietly released a self-titled EP in 1995, but since then—although they released the aforementioned Monroe Doctrine in 1999 and toured that summer —they seem to have disappeared.
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"We've never broken up, never even come close," says Popeye. "It's just that from time to time, you have to focus on other things—like paying bills."
Maybe it's this breathing room that allows the band—currently working on new material in the hopes of changing labels—such longevity. That and distance. Though drummer Bob Beshear and new bassist Sean Rosenthal (original bassist Brian Chu moved to San Francisco, where he's a kindergarten teacher) maintain their OC addresses, guitarist Kevin Murphy lives in San Diego, and Popeye moved to West Hollywood two years ago.
But they practice in Santa Ana, so I think we can still claim them.
Farside perform with Gameface, Align and Driving by Braile at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com. Sun., 7 p.m. $8. All ages.