Photo by James BunoanBroken Bottles/Chickenhawks
Thursday, April 4
So we apparently missed the Christian grunge band playing this night—yes, the column would have written itself—because we showed up late because when you're a search-and-destroy kind of guy like we are, that's what you do. Well, that and accidentally fall asleep watching The Simpsons, but believe us: that has more to do with the keep-'em-trickling joke rationing The Simpsons has been suffering of late than any deficiency in our character. Well, any deficiency besides drinking a bottle of drug-store whiskey ("God, it should just have XXX on it," shuddered a friend) because we thought it would be funny to guzzle a bunch of varnish-colored rubbing alcohol, but instead it was—basically—industrial-strength poison, and man, we needed to recover from that eye-rending migraine before we ventured outside again. So that's why we show up late to the punk shows—you happy now, mother?
Anyway: Broken Bottles, from somewhere around here and happy about it and contributing greatly to our sense of temporospatial dislocation. They should have been dodging snot rockets at the Cuckoo's Nest circa '82 while TSOL tuned up backstage, but no, this is 2002, so they have Christian grunge bands open for them. God rocks, indeed! And so did the Bottles with a by-the-numbers take on that OC punk sound. And, yeah, lots of people make like they're doing the OC punk sound, but when they say "OC punk," they just mean they happened to buy their Rancid CD at the Block. Broken Bottles really got the actual OC punk sound—it was like Mike Ness did a walk-on for the whole Adolescents' blue album—and it was goddamn refreshing. Decent songwriting and delivery, if a little restrained—but, hey, we dig the ingredients and appreciate the time spent researching local culture, and we'll perk up if we hear them around again.
Plus their lyrics ruled: besides some non-geographically specific feel-good hits ("Texas Terri, I popped your cherry in the cemetery"—Terri, if you're out there, you should know someone in Orange County loves you) and their big finale ("All I remember was a 12-pack after school/Halloween was every day when Gothic chicks were cool"), they were the most proud-to-be-local band we've seen since Two Man Advantage played an Agent Orange cover at Koo's and made everyone who didn't know the words leave the room. Of course, Two Man Advantage was from New York, but fuck it, they weren't shy about the love. And neither were Broken Bottles: besides the song about coming from a "broken home in Orange Count-eeeee," they had a whole epic about the effects of those nuclear-nippled reactors way down south, "Radioactive San Onofre?" We felt like we should salute.
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The Chickenhawks were up next: they were from Iowa, which we shouldn't hold against them since we're just from, you know, Orange County. But at least we have Disneyland—what do they have, Muted-Rural-Desperation-Land? And we have traffic lights, too—they're so jealous. Anyway, the 'Hawks were fast and fun right out of the gate, with a guitarist who looked like a more haggard Richard Hell (yeah, we cringed, too) peeling out some Cramps-on-speed riffs over the skinniest bass player this side of Sid Vicious, who since his death 23 years ago has really shed some unwanted poundage, you know? But then we kinda got disinterested, even when their singer hoofed it onstage in shades and lingerie: maybe they're Sioux City's sexiest export (really—look up their website!) but when you're just a parking lot away from strip joint Captain Cream's (home of Lake Forest's sexiest imports), a sneer and a wink are gonna look pretty pedestrian. They were best when they teased out their songs scummy and slow; when they kicked in too hard, they flashed us back to every garage-rawker band that was grinding cigarette butts into Club Mesa's carpet a few years back. But they were also polite—perhaps too much so. After a demure "Thanks for coming!" got torpedoed by "Thanks for making me come!" (Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk, huh, dude?), they didn't even bother with a snappy comeback. Guess a lifetime spent in Iowa—now with flush toilets!—will grind the gumption out of you or something. We shoulda shared the drug-store hooch with them—they probably would have downed it just like it was champagne.