Radioactive Chicken Heads Comic Book Hideout 8/9/14
Last night, four local bands crowded into the small, warm performance space of Comic Book Hideout, in Fullerton. It was there, in the presence of their friends, families, and curious comic book readers, that they sweated through their respective sets. The environment was not ideal, yet no one complained because everyone was having a great time. The energy that the musicians put into their performances was raw and bombastic, and it resonated through the crowd. It seems like the only thing that could corrupt a scene like this would be financial success.
Though the venue is not generally known as a hot spot for bands (no pun intended), Comic Book Hideout, which the Weekly named Best Comic Book Store in Orange County, regularly hosts performances and events of varying types (including comedy shows, musical performances, and gaming nights). This and the single couch located in the performance area give the venue a very cozy feeling. Add to this space a bunch of musicians bent on tearing its roof off, and there's a recipe for fun.
Each of the four bands played a variation of punk rock music, and this was very fitting. The whole scene was old school punk. There was no pretension in any of the performers, and they played their hearts out. There was no uniform to be found within the audience or the bands (with the exception of the zany costumes of The Radioactive Chicken Heads). The lyrics were unintelligible throughout most of the performances, but it didn't matter because the sounds were loud and rockin'. Furthermore, the members of each of the other bands not only remained to see their fellow bands perform, but lent hands when another band's mic needed adjusting or a replacement bass drum pedal was required.
The bands, themselves, each boasted their charms. The trio of MELTED started the show with its high-energy "Skuzz Pop," featuring a vicious drummer, a focused bass player, and a highly animated singer/guitarist. Although one might observe that not every note played was in key and not every machine gun hit on the snare drum was deliberately timed, the character of the performers more than made up for it.
Next up was The Grinning Ghosts. Another threesome, The Grinning Ghosts, with their "East County Scuzz" sound, were no less animated than their stage predecessors and no less distinct, collectively or individually. The drummer attacked her skins with a focused intensity, the guitarist / singer hypnotically swayed behind his mod hairdo while laying down some solid and edgy sounds, while the singer / bassist commanded the performance area with his belting.
Only when Bellhaunts fired up did things start to change. They still had the raw, rocking energy of the previous bands; however, their sound added a serious level of psychedelia, with a special nod to their lead guitarist. At times, it almost seemed as though the lead guitarist was playing a discordant melody, but somehow it jibed with the sounds the rest of the band created (this was slightly reminiscent of the juxtaposition of Lee Ranaldo's solos with the rhythms of Sonic Youth). Again, not every note played by the band was perfect, but their music, which they call "Post Dion Satanic Revivalism," had some very catchy bits. Each of the bandmates was a solid musician, and, again, each had his / her unique presence of style and musicality, which they brought, in equal parts, to their thriving hypnotic jams.
For the grand finale, The Radioactive Chicken Heads packed their epic act into the tiny space and reminded the audience that the core element of punk music is unmitigated fun. What seemed like a cramped space for the three piece bands did not deter the costumed performers from having 9-10 performers doing their thang. For the uninitiated, their "thang" is essentially like watching The Banana Splits as a punk rock band. Their songs are silly; they clown around onstage; and antics are just as much a part of their show as their music. During one of the more serious moments of their performance, lead singer Carrot Topp (one of two band members who wear non-chicken masks [the other is guitarist Cheri Tomato]) revealed that he had recently discovered Chuck E. Cheese was, in fact, not a real mouse; he's a man in a suit! As for these suited performers, it cannot be said that they don't keep it real; for who, beyond a lobotomized Disney employee, would actually take glee in wearing a crazy costume and would preach silliness while genuinely rocking out?
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People who want to experience punk rock do not have to pay inflated ticket prices to see Green Day at a huge arena. In fact, half of the experience of punk rock is in its feeling of a community, and this cannot translate to a stadium full of people unless they are all zombies (rich ones at that). For $2 a head, Glynnes Pruett, proprietor of Comic Book Hideout, showed Fullerton that punk rock is alive and well; you just have to know where to look.