FRIDAY, OCT. 3
If relatively unpublicized shows like this one keep springing up around the county, we'll have to stop branding them "underground." This address, after all, would be the unlikeliest of places you'd expect to come across live hip-hop, since it's the former home of notorious Nazi hangout the Shack. But now it has been transformed into Xalos, a happening Latin dance hall—Allah bless irony!—that occasionally books that most race-mixing of race-mixing genres. And this was a Rainbow Coalition of sonic splendor —white kids, black kids, Asian kids, Latino kids—all coming together to purge the bad juju left behind by the white-supremacist vermin.
The club's new owners have certainly done their part. Inside, the place is unrecognizable from the trapped-in-the-'70s dcor the Shack had: goodbye to the wall mirrors, the simulated-wood-grain paneling, the bile-colored carpeting and especially that caked-in-grime heat lamp that was supposed to be warming your botulism-flavored nachos; hello instead to valet parking, a faux-tropical theme, a huge bar with a big ol' fish tank behind it, a noggin-rattling sound system (it's like living inside a kick drum!), comfy places to sit and general spiffiness all around.
And hello to a new live hip-hop room, natch, though it took awhile for everyone to get used to it. From the moment we entered, a DJ spun tunes that would've sent a corpse into a mad bootyshake, but the kids—shades of junior high school dances—just milled around the lip of the floor with their hands in their pockets, waiting for someone else to get their groove on first. Meanwhile, there were T-shirt giveaways, a shaven-headed gent who rattled off some impressive beatbox stylings and another DJ who pulled off some admirable turntable techniques. This went on mostly till midnight, when Speach Impediments showed up, two OC guys who bounded giddily about the stage and threw rhymes back and forth and in sync with one another. Though half of our hearing had been blown out by the Xalos speakers by this time, we deduced that Speach Impediments were all about positivity, as opposed to the tired gangsta shtick currently playing itself out on your closest radio. We particularly liked their call-and-response number about living life the way the way they want to—with the crowd answering in spurts of "What?" and "Yeah?" as if being schooled for the first time on the DIY ethic—and at least two other tunes that seemed intriguing had we had a lyric sheet with us. Eventually, Speach Impediments stopped their set to make time for the West Coast Rockers, a breakdance crew who twisted and bended and spun on their heads to Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" like it was 1984 all over again. As we headed out, we heard Speach Impediments intoning, "We can't lose!/We won't die!" over and over, a sweet note, we thought, for OC hip-hop itself. (Rich Kane)
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CHAIN REACTION, ANAHEIM
SATURDAY, OCT. 4
Been awhile since we'd visited the Chain (we'd heard that every show had pretty much become Trucker Hat Central, definitely not our scene), but we'd been lured back this night by two buzzed-about Next Big Things, the Matches and JamisonParker. First, though, we had to endure an ear-rotting snatch of sound-alike whiny emo from some band we cared not a whit about to even get their name—why can't the bands we want to see pay us the courtesy of going on as soon as we arrive?!? We are very important people!
Even more important people than us show up for Matches shows. At their last Chain Reaction gig a few months ago, Rivers Cuomo and Rick Rubin rode up in a Bentley together—they even paid to get in! This evening proved that the Matches' following has grown wildly since—it was sold out, and girls were even showing up at the ticket window wearing hand-drawn Matches tees. So they've got a cult firmly won over—we, alas, were unimpressed. The hot trend among young bands these days seems to be all about spazzy onstage antics—to act as excited as you think your music is, even though you're really just pinching off one yawner after another (the Get Up Kids were running this ADD-rock genre into the ground a good four years ago, anyway). The songs were tuneless, the emotions were forced, the lyrics were nonsensical, and their contorted facial expressions suggested group constipation. May we have the Next Next Big Thing now, please?
That'd be swell if it was JamisonParker, an OC-by-way-of-Kentucky band who reportedly signed to Interscope after just one show. Named after the combined monikers of the two guitarists (wonder what the drummer and bassist think of that?), JamisonParker flirted with emo elements, but they smartly avoided that sonic trap, coming off more power pop than anything, with shimmering acoustic guitar nods and Beach Boys-style harmonies. Even the "Dead to the World" tune, a rather generic number about (yawn!) girls, would fit in well with something like an episode of The O.C. We like their instincts, these kids. So did their fans, who went apeshit at everything they did. (RK)