The great thing about seeing local bands perform at a local venue (apart from the likelihood that the concert will be free) is that you really get to weigh the band by its musical and performance merits instead of by its popularity or any major buzz that it may have developed. Even in the case of The Radioactive Chicken Heads and Skapeche Mode, which already have developed enough of a following to pack the back room at The Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen, in Fullerton, the bands must truly shine in order to cultivate, maintain, and expand their fan bases. On Friday night, Slidebar hosted the aforementioned bands as well as Tiktaalik and MELTED, and each band subsequently showed what they could do given around 30 minutes of stage time.
The first up was Tiktaalik. This high-concept, "post-core," three-piece outfit sounded like the soundtrack of someone who was being chased through a junkyard by wind-up robots. The lyrics were not that clearly discernible, but the guitarist / lead singer's Cobainesque shouting at one point seemed to reveal something about voluntary exile into disenfranchisement. The bassist laid down the solid tracks of this roller coaster ride while the drummer's vicious percussive attacks cleared the roller coaster's path with the relentlessness of a wrecking ball.
Next up was the Skuzz Pop trio MELTED--the personification of modern punk. Their songs average two to three minutes in length, and their energy belies whatever environmental limitations in which they find themselves performing; whether it is a large hall or the cramped space of a comic book store, they simply emanate a powerful presence which defies decorum and occasionally musicality, but coupled with their sense of humor on stage, their wild jams forge a formidable little outfit. Plus the fact that they conceded that they're too poor to afford merch to sell at their gig reveals that they are either shamefully mismanaged or divinely inspired by love for the game. Chances are the answer is a bit of both.
The remaining space in the back room at Slidebar became filled when The Radioactive Chicken Heads hit the stage. Most of OC's scenesters are very aware of these costumed performers. Perhaps not everyone takes them seriously, and apart from the obvious fact that they are not meant to be taken too seriously, it is not clear exactly how successful this band can become beyond the local venues which their punk fans routinely pack.
Their music is rocking and silly, and their appearance and antics on stage are the stuff of a demented late-night children's TV show. Ironically, the number of performers along with their oversized prop costumes are frequently too many and too cumbersome for some of the small stages that they have been seen on. Now, if some filmmaker were to feature them in a club scene, that might give them the 15 minutes that would grant them a slot in the nation's pop culture psyche. However, whether they're even in it for the big time or just to have fun remains to be seen. As it is, both they and their audiences sure have a good time at their shows.
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The final band of the evening was the only non-punk band of the line-up. The ska-styled Depeche Mode (and other eighties groups) cover band Skapeche Mode's Facebook page reveals that they are "Committed to ruining both the eighties and ska, one show at a time." Their vocalist [it's difficult to name some of the band members from this show as their band sites frequently only list first names without identifying who does what] projected plenty of happy / bouncy energy. This along with the rocking group's four horn players, guitarist, bass player, and drummer provided a stomping jolly time for the band's fans. While the grooves and jams were lively, the band seemed more interested in having fun than demonstrating a tight, well-honed performance.
There were at least three times, amidst general stage banter and proclamations like: "It's Friday and we're doing awesome!" when the singer revealed that he and the boys didn't know what to play next; however, this did contribute to some impromptu moments like one of the trumpet players' performance of the Jeopardy! theme and possibly impromptu performances of random songs and parts of songs such as "Uptown Girl." Goofing / grooving around was central to what these fellas were all about, and despite the fact that none of theme wore oversized chicken or carrot costumes, they did produce a "Ska"nold Trump piñata (filled with silver bits of streamer paper), which they allowed the crowd to tear apart.
Once again, regardless of how serious Skapeche Mode is about forging a reputation as a serious musical act, their anthem -- a ska rendition of Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough" -- is damned catchy, and everyone who crowded into Slidebar had a rocking good time.