Just What I Needed
Photo by Jessica CalkinsLast Friday, with the holiday season nigh upon me—and with it, copious amounts of Chrismukkah parties that, despite almost always guaranteeing a rollicking, spiked-egg-nog good time, don't necessarily facilitate rollicking, whiskey-Coked fodder for a column about, well, clubs—it was off to Wabo'z in Huntington Beach for some reggae music and a little festive, preseason debauchery. Only there was a slight snafu, see. After phoning Wabo'z manager, Patrick, with a heads-up about my imminent arrival, I discovered that Flock of 80's—and not a reggae band—would be playing that evening.
Now, any seasoned veteran of holiday fun will attest that nothing rallies the gift-giving spirit quite like mellow reggae riffs and soft dub coos, so I was more than a bit sad about having been so painfully misinformed. But those same veterans will also agree with me that—failing mediocre covers of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh or Steel Pulse songs—mediocre covers of Gary Numan, Devo and Billy Idol songs are the ideal substitute. And so, our spirits rekindled, my pal Marie and I jetted over to the bar.
Promptly upon our arrival, we were greeted by Wabo'z impressive, cabana-like atmosphere and by Alex (stagename: D'Bon Bon), Flock of 80's cowboy-hatted, Bono-glasses-sporting lead singer. And by "greeted," I mean he wove his way through the thick crowd of the bar's two other patrons—it was only a little after 10 p.m., after all—and serenaded us, wireless mic in hand, with a smiley rendition of "Stray Cat Strut." Perhaps this should have been our first clue that we weren't dealing with a merely mediocre cover band, but it wasn't. That realization didn't come until the next song, when Alex introduced the Romantics' "Talking in Your Sleep" as the worst song the 80's ever produced (and rightly so. I mean, poor sods, did they really think they could top "What I Like About You"?) before launching into an intentionally bored, hilariously spot-on cover. However, the crowd evidently agreed with his introduction: the oblivious-to-the-outside-world, obviously-on-their-third-date couple moved to the bar for another drink. Alex followed, stumbling over to a trashcan and mock puking his lyrics into it.
"Ohmigod! Is he, like, for real?!" I shouted over to Marie while motioning for our insanely smokin', bleached-blond, Swedish milkmaid-meets-Little Red Riding Hood waitress in white lace panties and black go-go boots to bring a round of Cape Cods. Possibly overhearing me, Alex walked over to our table, taunting us for a brief moment with some candles he'd pulled off other tables, and then reclaimed his perch at the front of the stage just in time to end the song.
"I think he's, like, drunk, or something," Marie replied. Three more people had shown up at this point, but Alex wasn't satisfied. He was saving the real hits until a bigger crowd arrived—and judging by Patrick's sincere, almost too-nice-for-a-club-manager optimism, one would, and soon!—he declared, so they were going to bend the rules a bit. With that, the lead guitarist began playing the lonesome opening notes of Radiohead's "Karma Police," except that, given Alex's hoarse, husky warble, it sounded more like David Lee Roth singing punkaraoke with a band covering Radiohead's "Karma Police." In short, it was awesome.
A few minutes later, the first set ended and Alex, fresh from mimicking the keyboard riffs to the Cars' "Just What I Needed" with his voice, popped over to introduce himself. "The Europeans love us," he explained, because they understand the band's tongue-in-cheek, but spot-on, killer tongue-in-cheek mentality—the kind that every cover band should have. "We used to dress up," he continued, explaining his straw cowboy hat and remarkably un-glam attire, "but now I head to the show dressed as I was when I rolled out of bed."
He sleeps in a hat!
By the end of the band's second set—featuring covers of the Clash, the Ramones, AC/DC, the Cure, David Bowie and, yes, a most amazing Van Halen—there were 15 people—including me and Marie—on the dance floor, sweating and drinking and smiling and looking—totally!—like they were having the greatest time, like, ever. Gloriously out of breath, I waved to Alex, panted my way out of the bar and headed home, making a mental note to request Wham!'s "Last Christmas" for their next gig.
Wabo'z features live music every Friday, beautiful waitresses, incredibly cheap drinks, and fantastic french fries. Flock of 80's perform next on Saturday at the Rock Bottom Brewery in Irvine and take requests through their website (www.flockof80s.com).
Egg nog actually makes me ill! Invite me out! firstname.lastname@example.org
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