Friday, Dec. 10
There was a regular Long Beach love feast Friday eve, according to a well-placed source who attended Melissa Etheridge's homecoming gig at the city's Terrace Theatre. Apparently, the girl couldn't stop waxing about her old '80s bar-busking days, when she was performing in such LBC clubs as the Que Sera and the Executive Suite.
We, however—being too cheap to buy tickets and too lazy to call for comps—were unable to partake in the flashback-fest. So we tried making some Long Beach memories of our own at the Foothill (we know, it's technically in Signal Hill; don't be anal! Workwith us!), chiefly for local kids Wus, whose American Style CD is one of the strangest, coolest things we've heard all year, full of space-jazz oddities, reckless caterwauling, infernal bubble-gum psychedelia, paranoid tape loops and trippy guitar screeching.
In other words, stuff that couldn't possibly be re-created onstage without lugging along a mess of gear. They kinda tried, though, since their guitar guy worked an acoustic filtered through about a jillion effects pedals. But aside from their fashionably loud orange jump suits, nothing really leaped out and grabbed us. They seemed stiff, and they weren't in the sort of jovial mood that songs with titles like "I Swallow," "Superfly" and "Sweet Balls" (and subject matter like Dungeons & Dragons and butt freckles) damn well demand. Even their "We Got the Beat" cover seemed forced and flaccid. We like this esoteric trio—really, we do—but maybe this was just a bad night.
Better were Superfuzz, a big yellow smiley face of a band, whose giddy, Saturday-morning-cartoon (or at least International Pop Overthrow) appeal was just too cute. They sounded just like their name, were heavily into Redd Kross flavors, and did tunes about rocket ships and falling in love, as well as one called "Skippy Wants to be a Superhero"—sweet!They even brought their own prerecorded crowd roars with them, making their set pretty much heckle-proof.
Worse were Friendship 7, who seemed more adept at making enemies than friends (the pool tables filled up within minutes after they began). They were a big, rhythmically challenged slab-o-sludge who tried to do the heavy-rock thing la Fu Manchu or Nebula, but it never clicked, and—well, let's just say that they rather insightfully reviewed themselves when one of them stepped to the mic after a particularly taxing tune and asked, "Sorry, are we putting you guys to sleep?" Why, thanks for doing our job for us!
I Am Spoonbender/Hot Hot Heat/Radio Berlin
Koo's Art Cafe
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Sunday, Dec. 12
From Canada—the country that brought us Loverboy, Rush and Bryan Fucking Adams—came this decidedly more interesting triple-header. Well, except maybe for Radio Berlin, who tried pulling off something of a cross between Low or Heroes Bowie and Rob Zombie. Their spaz-boy lead howler, who possessed the physique of a strand of fiber-optic cable, gallivanted about, hooting, hollering and carrying on like someone just poured ice water down the front of his trousers—a weak attempt to make up for his drab little band's turgid fart-rock. A five-man noise combo, then—five if you count the guy standing in back, whose job it apparently was to turn the strobe light on and off, snap photos, and stonily bob his head up and down. How punk!
Hot Hot Heat were somewhat better, opening with an engrossing, bass-laden instrumental. They at least seemed to know where they were headed, even though it was off in a generally unmoving, pseudo-Goth direction. Actually, now that we think about it, a lot of their set just felt like recycled new wave, like one day they came upon their older brothers' worn-out Depeche Mode albums and thought they had stumbled across something new. Sorry!
I Am Spoonbender at first seemed interested in creating something new, employing four keyboards and assorted electrical whatnots to do their grunt work—fast-break drum machines, mics hooked up to old rotary telephones, and so many cords and plugged-in thingies strewn about over the floor it looked as if someone's large intestine had exploded. We suppose you could brand them a more electronic-music-obsessed Pink Floyd as interpreted by Steve Albini, with their loops of children playing and disembodied whispering attached to hardcore beats—tricks that were mildly entertaining but ultimately tedious. Call us hapless art-rock snobs, but there came a point late in their set where we knowingly sneered, "Yeah, but anyonecan do that!" Apparently, we weren't the only ones who thought so—by then, they had driven half the room off to the outside patio, and it was coldout there.