Detroit Bar, Costa Mesa
Sunday, July 25
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Steve Burns was on TV (Blue's Clues!), and then he took a walk; like with Elvis, a lot of slightly cool moms who loved watching him on TV resigned their cotton undies forever unthrown to a bedroom drawer, and then, like with Elvis, Steve came back, fronting a band, playing Costa Mesa to, like, 30 people, so close you could unball your cotton undies and snag 'em right on his guitar. And if, slightly cool mom, you didn't know the Rentals or the Flaming Lips, you woulda just heard a lot of major chords (the kind that sound good in folk songs or on the radio) pile up over a spacey psych backing track, bleeps and bloops sparkling like Christmas lights, and you'd think, as you kept a set of fingers on the undies in your purse, "Yeah, songs!" And you would be right: Steve Burns—gracefully wiggling away from his career as THE GUY FROM BLUES CLUES—plays, yeah, songs, which are unremarkably good enough to not be bad and which would whither without Steve's considerable charisma the same way little flowers couldn't sprout without the sun. It's a simple setup: just Steve, with a blue (is there no escape?!?) guitar and a voice a bit too clean to stick to anything; a drummer who kept flubbing his fills and grimacing; and, behind them, the vital third person in the band—a video screen across the back of the whole stage, with a giant strobe-lit Steve accompanying himself on bass, or a flock of little cartoon dealies floating through space, or winky fake commercials for the merch MILF (Steve apologized for that one, but it was pretty funny anyway), or just reflected-back live footage of the crowd itself, slightly cool moms and some smiley nice-boy skaters (coulda been kids, coulda been husbands) watching themselves on TV. A little precious and usually too the-opposite-of-subtle, maybe, but it's cute, and it's earnest, and it's not horrible unless you're a mean indie-rocker kid; Steve's last song ("Song for Dustmites") slips out of a slack intro into a cartoon-y rocket-launch finale that really did have a little Flaming Lips inside it (though the drummer couldn't help stepping all over the pretty parts), and the first thing we heard as we left the club was Syd Barrett, and that didn't seem disjointed at all—Syd, Nickelodeon Jr. would have loved you; wish you were here. Plus, people begged for an encore, and though most people don't know a lot about music (statistics: there are seven billion people in the world, and a lot of them have never even encountered clean running water, much less a Pere Ubu single), most of them can tell whether or not they feel happy or sad, and if they are a slightly cool mom and they are happy, they might do something like slosh a martini in a little whorl at the end of their wrist and yell, "I love you, Steve!" Though, you know, they might do that if they're sad, too.