South of LA, shows are amazing but not spectacular—it’s unusual to see movie stars or celebrity special guests who are de rigueur at the Hollywood Bowl or even the Troubadour. But Orange County still gets freaks and geeks to come out to its concerts. It’s just a little stranger when the weirdness comes from the bands themselves, as this week’s special batch of performances showed us.
DRUNK OR HIGH?
Giant Drag’s Annie Hardy put on one of the worst live shows ever by a signed band. At Detroit Bar on Dec. 4, the waifish vocalist with the childlike voice spoke in a slow, spacey slur and rambled excessively about fibromyalgia, foot injuries and other such nonsense between songs and sips of Red Bull. The only thing worse than this inter-song drivel was her atrocious guitar playing. It seemed she was under the influence of some potent pharmaceuticals. Something about the whole performance felt scripted—but to fake drug intoxication for an audience who paid the price of admission would suggest Hardy wasn’t really firing on all cylinders. From a Dec. 6 Heard Mentality post by Brandon Ferguson.
REAL-LIFE SCOTT PILGRIM
At the Fox Theater Pomona on Dec. 4, as the crowd waited for Passion Pit’s opener, screams could be heard for “Michael!” “Canada!” and “Mister Heavenly!” The recently signed Sub Pop band should be receiving most of their press from their all-star lineup of Honus Honus from Man Man, Joe Plummer from Modest Mouse and Nick Thorburn from Islands. But the news that actor Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Juno) joined the band on bass really put extra spotlight on the so-called supergroup. Utilizing a Vox Phantom bass, Cera was fully focused on his role: looking at the notes he was playing and tapping his foot in time with the beat. Mister Heavenly put on a fine performance given it was just their fourth show together. From a Dec. 6 post by Andrew Youssef.
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SPEAKING OF HOLLYWOOD BOWL PERFORMERS . . .
David Liebe Hart performed for a curious crowd at a special Acrobatics Everyday show at UC Irvine’s Cross Cultural Center. Hart is the man with the dog puppet who sets up outside Hollywood Bowl concerts (and sometimes other big-deal LA events) and sings for donations. A stint on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! brought him a modicum of fame, but how funny was it, really, to see a man we’ve seen countless times in destitute conditions?
On his own, he might have been a tragic figure. But Hart seemed bolstered by his newfound fame and was aided by Adam Papagan, who arranged all his music and talked to him in gentle tones. For the past two years, 22-year-old Papagan has helped him record several albums; Hart then sells them in addition to self-portraits and sings for donations. He channeled pure passion as he sang about topics dear to him, such as trains, alien conspiracies and women who have left him. It was more inspiring than funny. From a Dec. 3 post by Rebecca Aranda.
This column appeared in print as "Strange OC Shows."