Over the Sneezeglass!

Nuckle Brothers/Phantom Planet/Save Ferris
May 26
House of Blues Anaheim

Lest you ever feel compelled to hurtle from the Anaheim House of Blues' upstairs VIP balcony—perhaps to commit one mother of a stage dive or maybe just to dazzle the crowd beneath you with your saucy underwear—know that you will be thwarted. The House of Blues has affixed strategically located squares of plastic to the balcony's otherwise delightfully low railings. Musically inclined suicide jumpers and very clumsy people, beware! They're on to you!

And so, on this sold-out night, watching the Nuckle Brothers, Phantom Planet and Save Ferris from up there felt a bit like watching croutons from behind a salad bar's sneezeglass, but only if the croutons were really energetic, zany and ska-influenced—except for Phantom Planet, who aren't ska-influenced at all, and come to think of it, aren't really energetic or zany either. They're cute, though! Damn cute! Cute in that polished, young, Hollywood, Gap-commercial kind of way, which is funny because the singer was in a Gap commercial. But the problem with having other hip young actors as your friends and fans, which Phantom Planet do, is that it's really distracting to music reviewers who might be in the audience and who might stop listening to your newly glammy music—which sounds like a cross between Weezer and Spacehog—and instead just get into arguments with their sister about what movie that creepy-looking redheaded kid who sat next to them was in. I say Addams Family Values, which I haven't seen, but my sister is adamant that he wasn't in that. ("Who was he? Who do you think he played?!" she hissed, apparently fed up with my cinematic ignorance and looking like she wanted to throw me over the sneezeglass.)

It was too bad because we were really getting along earlier that evening during the Nuckle Brothers' sloppy but amazing set, wherein the eight-piece band threw out sliced cheese to the audience and said ridiculous things like, "And on the drums, ladies and gentlemen, Phyllis Diller!" The Nuckle Brothers, who broke up awhile ago and reunited for this show, were an early '90s inspiration for many of the ska-pop bands that went on to become famous, including Save Ferris. It was impossible to watch them without being transported to the Good Old Days (insert nostalgic reverie here) when third-wave ska was zany, kooky and stupid—and yet new and exciting, too (and a lot choppier than anything you'd hear on the radio)—and the county's all-ages clubs were constantly getting shut down and Nuckle Brothers vocalist/trombonist John Pantle promoted shows at sundry locations around the county like hotels and warehouses because there weren't any stable venues.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said Pantle at the end of their set. "We wanted to show you what ska music was like before cell-phone use was prevalent and before anyone heard of Dick Cheney."

The show's headliners put on an equally electrifying set, although I might be crossing enemy lines by saying so since the entire Save Ferris fan club sent hate mail to my fellow music scribe Rich Kane awhile back, and a couple of years before that, contributor Michael Alarcon offered a cash reward to anyone who could steal bassist Bill Uechi's bear hat. Uechi no longer wears the hat, and truth be told, I miss it.

The hat's not the only thing that has changed about the band, who played material spanning their six-year career and have a new album coming out in February. Now the horn players are tucked in the back on a platform by the drums instead of out front, which is fitting since the horns are less important on much of the new material (the horn players switch to keyboard and guitar on many of these songs) but is sucky because . . . well, it sucks!

But regardless of where the rest of the band is, singer Monique Powell is the one you watch because she's like a standup comedian trapped in the body of a torch singer, and her mania rivals that of Andy Dick (which I mean in only the best sense of the term "Andy Dick"). "Did you see my buttcrack? Buttcracks are funny!" she exclaimed after bending over and thinking she might have exposed hers (she didn't). She also encouraged those in the top to go topless; threw back the "two fucking socks and a dirty-ass scrunchie" tossed onstage in lieu of bras and panties; rolled around on the stage floor; stuck the mic in her pants; crawled through guitarist Brian Mashburn's legs; said, "I think we have the best fans of any band's fans" before singing a brand-new song that appeared to be about fans' slavish devotion; and managed to showcase her classical, opera-trained voice without coming off as a diva. She remained likably compelling throughout! And I'm not just saying that because I'm running for president of the Save Ferris fan club, although you should know that a vote for me is a vote for you. (Alison M. Rosen)

Get Your Goth On!
Heart of Snow/Love Life
Koo's Art Caf
Sunday, May 27

It had been a wild Santa Ana weekend: Squelch's closing reception/punkstravaganza on Friday shut down early when some generally harmless drunken carousing ended up squelching a set by The Alleged Gunmen, prematurely putting a bullet in the head of an evening that saw Thee Makeout Party keyboard virtuoso Dustin sliding his crotch up and down his poor little Casio and Squelch himself parading around with a whirring constellation of lights attached to his much-lauded genitals. "I got it at the mall," he reported. So we needed to wind down—thus to Koo's, where the only drunken carousing involves transvestite hookers in the alleys a block away.

Tonight promised to be a dark one. Once the high school emo bands cleared out, the serious musicians (in that they were dressed all in black! Often with black hair!) took the stage, and we damn well got our Goth on. Frisco's Heart of Snow fluttered solemnly down somewhere between Lydia Lunch and Siouxsie and the Banshees, most obviously because of their operatic basso singer. She sang slow, low and sad, which went from impressively tingly on the first few songs to hypnotic to droning to the point where kids were falling asleep on their feet. Turns out that gentle swaying wasn't dancing; they were just trying to keep their balance! And really, that explains so much about so many shows, doesn't it? We weren't on downers, but if we could have scored some, it would've been a hell of a night. Certain bands should just hand out pills when they perform, you know? For art's sake, at least.

In between bands, we bought coffee slurpees (as physically debilitating as hard drugs but cheaper and more fun to drink!) and staggered back in time to catch, er, Heart of Snow again? No! But talk about separated at birth. While Heart of Snow watched intently from the sidelines, their long-lost twins Love Life ran through what sounded like the set we'd just heard: same repetitive bass lines, same magic assortment of guitar tweaks that makes a power chord sound like a piano, same sunglasses-at-night fashion aesthetic—but with a singer who could really croon, all sweetness and raw edges and that sort of thing. Pretty, but it was an overdose. We left way too wound down, like the living dead only a bit more stylish. But that's pretty much what the night was about anyway, wasn't it? (Chris Ziegler)

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