Dang You Orangutans/Sea Crane/ Syncopation
Koo's Art Cafe
Saturday, Aug. 19
Popping by Koo's Art Cafe's annual Noise Fest a little later than planned, we had already missed a couple of acts but arrived in time for Dang You Orangutans, who played a special, unannounced set. But considering that the number of people in the band (four) equaled twice the number of people watching them, maybe they should try announcing themselves more often. Their make-it-up-as-we-go-along music certainly retained Noise Fest's fuck-all ethos: a guy beat on a set of bongos and, having gotten bored with that, up and walked out halfway through the set; another lad gently plinked away on a toy piano; another guy in the "band" used a bamboo stick to pretend he was Pete Townshend, gratuitous windmills and all (and yet he was still better than the real Townshend is these days). On the mic, meanwhile, was a lass who sang quite nicely even though her lines were totally stream-of-consciousness stuff about razor blades and saving seals—or was that cutting up seals with razor blades? So: Was DYO a true performance-art experience or merely sanctimonious? Sure—whatever you want. It's not like they possibly could have taken themselves seriously or anything.
Sea Crane followed, a genuine noise duo who were ALL ABOUT SCREAMING AS FUCKING LOUDLY AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE! Really—their guitarist/vocalist yowled with such a scrunched-up look on his face that you would have thought he was on the receiving end of a razor-wire enema. The drummer banged and clanged wildly (snapping two sticks) while using his left foot to stomp on a Fender laid on the floor. Amidst this chaos, we somehow managed to find an odd, calming center amidst the decibels—purifying, in a Buddhist sorta way. After several more minutes of bombast, the pair began thrashing about, nearly knocking their mic to the floor, and the shriekadelic guitar wielder started attacking and kicking his amp across the room. Then they were done.
LA's Syncopation appeared to be trying to re-create a cheapo homemade version of Pink Floyd's The Wall show. They had strung a big white sheet between themselves and the audience and strategically placed spotlights so only their silhouettes were visible (didn't Laurie Anderson do this on PBS once?). The idea, apparently, was something along the lines of "it's not about us, man—only the music matters." So we were treated to a sound collage of violin bows being dragged across drum cymbals; assorted feedback squeals; strange voices; dreamy, spacey etherealness; and low rumblings as we watched black blobs slither across the sheet, wishing like hell we had brought some acid along to make the experience really meaningful. The performance seemed to be leading up to a big exclamation point, but instead it petered out. A well-orchestrated piece, for sure, but Syncopation were all foreplay and no climax.
We had other musical dates, and left early. Outside, people lugged in inflatable robot dolls. A purple-maned punker came dressed as a Catholic priest. Such is Noise Fest's one absolute guarantee: you're always gonna hear and see some freaky shit.
Tunnel Fishin'/Drag The Hub Saturday, Aug. 19
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Abandoning Noise Fest for something more melodic, we slinked northward to the Hub for what was ostensibly a Rock the Vote deal (you are registered, aren't you?), with a bunch of bands from the local co-op Independents Anonymous and co-sponsored by a slew of indie labels.
First, we caught Drag, a four-piece headed up by a girl who decorated herself in a big, glamorous fur—this was their first show ever, so we guess they wanted to play dress-up. Pretty good, too, for a bunch of stage virgins—lots of great, scrunchy guitars that reminded us of the Muffs and even old Babes In Toyland, splashed with sweet, high, polished harmonies. And after Noise Fest, harmony anything was heavenly.
Tunnel Fishin' were even better, all R.E.M.-esque jangly and melody-propelled, weighted down with more hooks than a train yard (but apparently lacking a kick drum, as they had to borrow Drag's). Tunes like "Nutball" delved partly into punk terrain while songs like "Good Time Jones" and "Organized Religion" wove stories—with actual plot lines!—into the lyrics (we don't remember if they actually played these songs, but they're on their CD, which we bought afterward). Plus, they blew out an intense, sweaty "Aneurysm" cover. We liked them so much we'll even plug their website: www.tunnelfishin.com.
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