When you've just returned from a trip to Ireland, during which you drove through the Catholic Falls Road and Protestant Shankill Road neighborhoods of West Belfast; past huge, brightly colored murals of black-hooded republicans and loyalists wielding automatic rifles; past freshly spray-painted, innocent-looking graffiti reading "KAI" (innocent, that is, until you find out it stands for KILL ALL IRISH); past dilapidated row houses whose inhabitants are violently pissed-off about shit that went down more than 300 years ago; past vacant lots cordoned off by rusted chainlink fences where you learn that 10 people were killed in a bomb explosion in a bar that once stood on the site; past still more graffiti like "IRA—WE'RE BACK," which, eyeballed at a time when peace negotiations are in tatters, tells you that some people would be perfectly happy to let this crap fester for all eternity . . .
Maybe that's why we didn't think much of Up for Grabs, a Chicago four-piece who sprayed rather tame, rather average hard pop—plenty of hooks, very catchy, very (ugh!) "emo," but yet sounding all too similar to other bands out there, some of them based much closer to OC. We feared that the problem may instead have been us and the serious jet lag (the show started around 9 p.m., but our not-yet-readjusted bodies were screaming, "IT'S FIVE IN THE MORNING! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING OUT SEEING BANDS AT A TIME WHEN EVEN RAVERS ARE HOME IN BED, SON!?!"). But then we ran into a local scenester celeb, who basically concurred with us, telling us that Up for Grabs were spraying rather tame, rather average hard pop—plenty of hooks, very catchy, very (ugh!) "emo," but yet sounding all too similar to other bands out there, some of them based much closer to OC. We love it when we're so dead-on!
Next up were Scrimmage Heroes. Made up of former members of Big Drill Car (a buzz band about a decade back), they were certainly more muscular and rousing than Up for Grabs, refusing to wallow in popcore banalities, churning out flavorful . . . um . . . errr . . . damn adjective-stealing, brain-sucking jet lag!Well, anyway, we liked Scrimmage Heroes. They're a really good band. Um . . . go see them, and buy lots of their CDs. Yeah. And T-shirts, too, if they have any. Oh, wait . . . this strange scratch here in our notebook looks like it says "energetic." And this one kinda looks like "malodorous"—no, no, that doesn't make sense, not for a band we like. . . . "Melodic!" Okay. Scrimmage Heroes rock! Groan . . .
We somehow got our prose mojo working again during Pollen, the Arizona band for whom most people seemed to have turned out—either that or the rain kept everyone trapped inside. We liked their singer, who had a sweet, evocative set of pipes and employed one of those old mics that you used to see during high school assemblies. Their music seemed to come straight from the Get up Kids school of quality indie rock, but peppier and happier, with some pretty, fluttery sounds that came lilting through their guitars. Their blue-collar shtick of everyone in the band wearing gas-station-worker shirts with their names stitched on patches above the pocket was cute, but their song "Robots," which was inspired by the lame alleged comedy flick Short Circuit, wasn't.
Aren't you happy you live in OC, where all you really have to concern yourself with is the quality of the bands playing our local rooms? Beats worrying about random, unsparing political and religious violence breaking out in the streets, now, hmmm?
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