Sickness and Health
The 13th Floor, Huntington Beach
Friday, Nov. 18 It's not that we're locked into the endless pursuit of hot tips, since they almost never pan out. But you never know, y'know? So we'd heard from someone who had heard from someone else who had heard from someone else who had heard from "a well-placed source" that the Offspring might show up at the 13th Floor—reportedly their favorite bar—to play a surprise warm-up set for their tour, which started the next night at the Forum, a slightly larger room than this. We found a semiquiet corner of the bar near the video trivia machine, nabbed a stool, armed ourselves with an extra-large bottle of Rolling Rock, and waited patiently.
The first act was not the Offspring but Juicy, a sort of alternative act with a shrill, platinum-blond front woman. Their music was kinda poppy sometimes, but that's about all they had going for them. The singer, apparently trying to create some sort of stage-presence deal, performed lots of hip wiggles and odd, disconnected hand gestures, which didn't come off well at all. She'd say really banal things, too, such as, "That song's about a one-night stand. Anybody ever had a one-night stand?" (What did she think half the crowd were hoping for later on?) And then, teetering between Merely Mediocre and Completely Ridiculous, the band collapsed into the latter with just their third tune, a cover of "Groove Is in the Heart," the Deee-Lite song from way back in the '90s. The band made a valiant effort to funk it up but still couldn't erase the lingering stench of blatant nostalgia and crowd placation. When they finished, their singer exclaimed, "Don't go away! We got more!" which we reasonably interpreted as a threat. And we were right: they got around to what the singer claimed was a Sex Pistols cover—Deee-Lite and the Pistols in the same set!—but they rendered it so unrecognizable that she must have been joking (and trust us, we know our Pistols catalog). But we'll play along: if it was the Pistols, it was presented in a way so plastic that if Sid Vicious weren't already dead, this surely would've sent him grasping for a fatal speedball. Overall, Juicy were a no-thinking-required, ordinary, tame rock band, something that fluttered harmlessly in the background as people shot pool, got tanked up, and scammed on the selection of spiky-haired frat boys and fuck-me-pump-wearing sorority girls who hovered in the room —conservative and not much in the way of art, but perfect for the pending Bush administration. There simply was no juice to Juicy—unless you prefer your fruit-based beverages canned, frozen, watered-down and pasteurized.
The next band, Mama, didn't fare much better, and if you closed your eyes, you would have sworn that Juicy had returned for another benighted set. Mama were slightly groovier, though the music seemed more of a vehicle for their singer to show off her vocal gymnastics than anything else. "Set me free!" she shrieked at one point—funny, that's just what we were wishing. Tragically, no one was there to emancipate us, so we bailed, figuring that Mama's tepid, unchallenging, unmoving tunes weren't going to improve much.
Whither the Offspring? Well, by then, we really didn't care if they showed—we were too hepped up on malaise to bother. We peeled out of the parking lot not feeling very well, having been poisoned by the vapors of aural mediocrity.
What, oh, what, could purge this bad-rock aftertaste?
And then we remembered that the amazing Havalina Rail Co. were playing over at the Lava Lounge, so we raced dangerously up PCH to Long Beach to cleanse our souls of all that toxic-mush elevator music we'd been exposed to. Plus, we hadn't seen 'em in a while, and damn if the Havalina Rail Co. ain't still the best durn rock/folk/blues/lounge/ jazz/country/none-of-the-above band out there. Though we caught only the last half of their set, it was enough to put us in a decidedly better, healthier, happier head space. If Havalina Rail Co. could bottle this stuff, we'd be drunks.
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