Pumped-up Shuffledown!

Kill Holiday/The Killingtons/Fudge Gun/Acme Bomb Factory
Chain Reaction
Wednesday, May 26

SNUUURF! Ahhh, the imminent arrival of summer! When all the expensive, plot-line-challenged, explosion-heavy movies are unleashed! When strange, foreign insects scamper across the kitchen floor! When the Angels begin their annual, inevitable downward spiral into irrelevance—oh, wait, that happened back on Opening Day.

But summer is also when Chain Reaction starts booking regular weeknight shows. We'll just pay lip service this time to Acme Bomb Factory and the Killingtons, both of whom we highly (and regularly) recommend (and if you're keeping score, Acme Bomb Factory is the band whose singer, Dan Cady, is the only guy we know in the county who can scream in key; the Killingtons are the band everyone thinks is emo, even though they're not).

Which leads us to Fudge Gun, a Detroit trio that seemed to be going for a sound like such famous fellow Motown bands as the Stooges and MC5. They failed fabulously, pinching off loaves of completely forgettable aural sludge (or perhaps that was the fudge), one endlessly plodding tune after another, the stuff of really, really atrocious noise bands that use soundscapes to cover up the fact that they couldn't put a decent, memorable tune together to save their sick, sad lives. Fudge Gun were about as likable as Jar Jar Binks.

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But San Diego's Kill Holiday made us swoon over their swirly, solid dreamscapes. They make big, tense, open, moody, dramatic (but not hammy) music, the kind you wanna play at a decisive life moment, like when you're about to jump out of a plane on your first skydiving excursion. We regret that this also means they'd make ideal background music for a Dawson's Creek episode. But we don't care; hearing Kill Holiday was like getting a cold, cleansing bucket of pure holy water poured over our heads, a Revelation Records band that, for a change, made us wanna sigh with blissful contentment instead of going out looking for people to beat up.

The Go-Bots/Vigilantes of Love/Robert Deeble/Shuffledown
Chain Reaction
Thursday, May 27

Where the hell did this Shuffledown band come from? They were a great, unexpected surprise, a whump-ass alterna-country outfit from Fullerton that made a joyful, Steve-Earle-would-be-proud noise, and they were graced with a superb steel-guitar player to boot. It felt like classic honky-tonk tuneage; all that was missing was the aromatic combo of whiskey, freshly whizzed urine and heartache. Their lead singer also had this beautifully rough, throaty, seen-and-heard-it-all tinge to his pipes. The only very minor thing that irked us was that one of their songs sounded awfully similar to Uncle Tupelo's "New Madrid." But imitation Tupelo is a whole helluva lot better than what we get from a lot of other bands out there. Shuffledown were swell.

Robert Deeble freaked everybody out when he started bringing tympanis, gongs, cellos, and whatever the hell that freaky, phallic-looking thing guest Chris Hanlin (the Dibs/Bourbon Jones) was picking on. The Chain Reaction stage does notsee this stuff every day, y'know, which is why it took Deeble and his band (not to mention Toby, the sound guy) a few songs to get comfy. Deeble's quiet, introspective music seemed better suited for a concert hall than a club, though, and we were really annoyed by all the yapping in the crowd. But by the time the band went into "Earthside Down," the exquisite title tune from Deeble's new CD, everyone had come around to his wonderfully done, heart-wrenching tunes.

Goosing everything up a few degrees were the wildman clangings of Stephen Hodges, who's probably most famous for making Tom Waits sound unique. And while Hodges was banging away at one point, Deeble happened to say exactlywhat we were thinking: "We win the award for the band with the most weird shit onstage at one time!"

Vigilantes of Love, who were on the road from their Athens, Georgia, base, continued the alterna-country vibe that Shuffledown begat. But they sounded a little too Jackson Browne or Bruce Cockburn for our ears, more along the lines of old FM-radio heartland rock:music for cruising in your beat-up Chevy van down lonely Midwestern highways, where you see the curve of the Earth before you see another human being. If we wanted some of this, though, we would have dragged out some John Mellencamp or Bob Seger. Thanks anyway.

The Go-Bots were an unremarkable ska-ish trio, loaded with predictably hyper backbeats and zippy guitar swipes. Sitting through their set was like watching a desperate businessman running feverishly to catch an already-derailed train.

Send tapes, CDs, and tips on where we should go (besides hell) to Locals Only, OC Weekly, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627-0247.

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