Sublime to Ridiculous


Last year's Flatlanders show at the Anaheim House of Blues was only one-quarter full. Last week's show at the Coach House? Hordes. Perhaps it was the recent Larry King-induced hubbub about jock Don Imus' offer of $10,000 to the first big-name country radio station that adds a track from the Flatlanders' new Now Again album to their playlist, a form of payola we sorta approve of since the cash is supposed to go to charity and all?

Or maybe, in the wake of the O Brother soundtrack, people are just starting to like better, less Shania-fied forms of country music.

And who couldn't love the Flatlanders, what with Butch Hancock's charmingly earthy voice stunningly blended with Jimmie Dale Gilmore's smooth, silky Zen warble and Joe Ely's rockist howl telling tales of sad characters who thought they had died and gone to heaven but instead lived and went to hell? They were the epitome of pristine aural beauty, the perfect merging of harmony and twang that placed your mind inside a beer-soaked honky-tonk somewhere on the outskirts of Lubbock—if you let them.

Near the end, after fabulous run-throughs of "Dallas" and Townes Van Zant's "White Freight Liner Blues," one of our barfly buddies turned to us and said the Flatlanders make the idea of living in a Texas trailer park seem cool. And when Jimmie Dale rattled off a quote from Bertrand Russell—something about how the universe, for all we know, may have been created five minutes ago, complete with memories—we wanted to move back to Texas with them.

Sometimes before such sublime majesty, though, must come excruciating torture. Hence Ashley Bee, an 18-year-old strumpet who's looking to be the next LeAnn Rimes (and that's not a compliment). She was a throwback to the evil, shallow place in which country music has been encamped ever since glitzy Garth (and Shania, again) came 'round. Her pedestrian, by-the-numbers songs (with puke-awful titles like "Boy, I Need a Man") garnered much head-scratching from the assembled.

Many have wondered how O Brother could have happened, and the easy answer was right there onstage: when people are force-fed turgid, overwrought, tuneless, maudlin, ordinary dreck made worse by the back-bar buffoon who kept loudly insisting how great she was (Drunk? Had to be!)—the public's appetite for quality asserts itself. Somehow, Ashley won an OC Music Award this year for Best Female Performer. Is it too late for a recount? (Rich Kane)


We were supposed to hang out for one little band, one little drink, maybe one little game of pool, and then it was back to the Bobbyteens at Alex's Bar in Long Beach. "How does Alex set up such awesome shows?" we wondered. "And why did his bar smell vaguely of locker room?" But then everyone at Que Sera was so friendly, and the bands were so fun, and pretty soon, everyone was drunk and huggy and rolling around under a big warm blanket of poppy power-chord fuzz, and we were like, "Ah, fuck the outside world!" The Excessories were rolling out a bunch of songs that sounded just like the Ramones, but not the played-out Hollywood car-commercial Ramones—more like the classics-buried-between-the-even-bigger-classics, like "Listen to My Heart" or "Oh Oh I Love Her So." They had an endearing old-dudes-in-loud-clothes kind of charm—and energy, for that matter, pounding through those songs like only seasoned pros can do—but three chords is three chords no matter how many different ways you twist 'em. It's a thin line between Josie Cotton (good cheesy) and Josie and the Pussycats (guilty cheesy). Luckily, they played short, and it stayed sweet.

The Epoxies were the ones who really sucked us in. As one of our observers astutely pointed out, they're total drama dorks gone awry—they sound like a Devo-ed up Dickies or Rezillos but you know they're super big into They Might Be Giants and MST3K in real life. But singer Roxy Epoxy really is the new wave girl of your dreams. If they lived in LA, they'd be the Von Steins, who have been toiling in the neo-new-wave salt mines for too many unsung years. But instead, the Epoxies come down from Portland, Roxy does the robot dance, and the rest of the band wears laser hats. And you're like, "Oh, fuck, I can't help it." Roxy was in fine form tonight, fearlessly and cheerfully focusing every last shred of attention in the room right between her black-rimmed eyes and making everything, like, totally FUN! We even pointed out some blood on the dance floor to her after the show. "Don't worry!" she said with a smile after ducking offstage to inspect it. "That's FUN blood!" And you know what? It probably was. (Chris Ziegler)


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