Photo by James BunoanThe Sharp Ease/Squeak Toy
Que Sera, Long Beach
Saturday, May 4
The Sharp Ease have been playing all our favorite rock & roll shit holes forever now—the Smell, the Ruptured Intestine, the Illegal Teenage Firetrap—but our paths never crossed until we hit Que Sera's new club, C*U*R*V*E. ("Support women in music; support women; support," says their motto—so hop to it, people!). We came in on the tail end of a downer song, one of those meandering Sleater-Kinney slow jams that'll punch a happening party right in the stomach, but by the time we'd made a wary circle around the bar, the Sharp Ease perked right back up. Why had we missed them before, we asked? Because we are stupid: the Sharp Ease are the pinch in the ass pop has been begging for around here. Girls formerly among the Grown-Ups (who did "Nick and Nick" on a Sympathy for the Record Industry compilation) and the Chubbies (the real All-Girl Summer Fun Band, despite what K Records will tell you) make it all make sense: between the supersweet backing vocals peeking over the big-fuzz guitar choruses and singer Paloma's front-stage car-wreck charisma, you're in love—or at least plotting mix tapes for somebody. Sure, we could see some people—cold, unfeeling, boring people—getting a little shy about the Sharp Ease, since they take the craziness bands like the Pixies worked so hard to submerge and slop it out all over the front row, a little of it in the sharp guitar lines, and a lot of it in Paloma's, um, stage presence. Over the top? Fuck, she hasn't touched back down yet: rolling across the stage, spinning her eyes around, making finger-pistols at the crowd, emoting like she was gonna take a high school performance of Lady Macbeth all the way to the Oscars or die trying ("Anything worth waiting for will never, ever come!"), and working that room so fiercely the back of her boa-constrictor-tight pants split right open, flashing bright yellow-leopard print at everybody. Embarrassing? Fuck, no! Embarrassment is for people who don't have the guts to get onstage. This is what we call fun. "They're trying to get me to play keyboards," she told us later, letting her energy ebb, "but I don't wanna do it." Exactly: stay mobile, we said. It suits you.
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We got a little worried when the slavering kitsch orgy that is Long Beach's Squeak Toy marched on next. If they took themselves seriously, they'd be hard not to hate: they're the kind of band that has to interrupt practice every five minutes to go, "No, no—let's put the polka part AFTER the lounge part! And then play like two seconds of the Hawaii Five-0 theme song! And then you can put on your yarmulke and have a breakdown!" Geeks, man, total geeks—and not the self-possessed Poindexter-come-lately kind, not the secretly cool dude-in-dork's-clothing kind, but the full-on bad-movie-worshiping, Halloween-costumes-all-year-round, four-years-of-high-school-band-and-three-years-of-sci-fi-book-club, John-Waters-shoulda-been-my-gay-dad GEEKS (even though we don't like John Waters—he doesn't know how to party anymore!). They're either really fun at parties or they make everyone clench up, back-alley-proctological-exam-style, but tonight, they were as charming as they were disarming. "He played his bass like he played his penis!" winked delightful keyboardist/singer Linda (we think), and aw, you gotta smile at that. She had a great hapless how-do-these-things-happen-to-me? way of making sure all of us were in on the jokes she'd be singing about: "This is a true story," she'd trill, "as all of them are, and this one happened to me, as stories tend to do!" The Gilda Radner shtick worked great for Gilda Radner, and Squeak Toy Linda keeps it going—and tag-teamed with a sax-keys-drums-bass-and-dancing-yarmulke-girl backline, it's definitely, um, unique! It's hard to tell what part of our brain we should have been using—once they got out the fake pistol, we felt like we were at a typically avant-trashy Hunger Artists play (kids, get in touch with one another—we found your new house band!) instead of a rock & roll show, which is probably what Squeak Toy likes to hear. And then when they all fake-died at the end of one song, wilting to the stage as the lights faded out (and prompting wandering Paloma to shout, "Rebirth! Rebirth!"), we didn't know where we were anymore. But it was dark, and we were laughing. That's good, right? (Chris Ziegler)