Through With Bars
Photo by James Bunoan"He never turns down his punker music!" Commie Mom would say whenever my little brother Cake had her particularly frazzled. She would deliver "punker music" in a horrible, screechy witch voice, one designed to impart just how nerve-racking was the sound of the punkers on the tape.
She was right. It was horrible.
The odd thing is, though, Commie Mom never had a problem when Cake blasted gangsta rap; she liked that fine. (She missed the day in gangsta rap school when they explained that it's all about the Benjamins. She would not approve.) And aside from the obvious—Commie Mom likes to be down and show solidarity with our soul brothers and sisters, while the plight of sullen teenage Costa Mesans does not move her—I think she intuitively picked up on the weird disconnect of punk rock boys who idolized flat-out Reds like Joe Strummerand Billy Braggnow idolizing Bill O'Reilly and the other Angry Men of Cable.
Orange County is a terrible place for anyone over the age of 14 to love music. Our rock stars are rude. Just ask Mark "Wanna Smell Madonna?" McGrath of Sugar Ray. Our fans are rude, taking every night out as an excuse to throw girls in the mosh pit. Our bouncers, for the most part, are okay. Our music—Jumbo Size, Ashley Bee—is just flat-out wrong.
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Music is not for old people. We get arrested in adolescence and never move on. The sound of Jon Bon Jovi makes us fuzzy, bringing back those salad days when we wore Ugg boots and didn't pay rent. And if it's not your mom using a screechy witch voice to describe punker music, it's the fact that you agree with her.
If it's not your mom making you feel unhip, it's your kid. You'd like to smirk at his taste, but half of what he brings home—Gorillaz, Transplants—you really, really like. And the other half? Well, how well did Sean Cassidy age over time? If you are driving in your shiny subcompact listening to Human Leagueand wearing skinny ties, you are a dork and you are old. If you listen to your kids' music, you are a desperate poseur, and you are old. You are old.
And all those sexy people who were young when you were young are old, too. Once, Tawny Kitaen was doing the splits in slo-mo on the hood of a Jaguar; then she was holed up in a Newport Beach mansion with more pills than William Rehnquist in his heyday. (Betcha didn't know that about the Chief Justice of the United States, did you?) Can't really blame her—except for the pills and the husband-beating. I'd rather hole up in bed, eating takeout and watching Pride & Prejudice (the good six-hour A&E version) before it's even dark out, than just about anything in the world.
I know the exact moment I got old: the very first time the guys at the Mouse House of Blues gave me a pass to the balcony so I wouldn't have to stand with the riff-raff in steerage. And I have never gone back to the madding floor.
Who wants to go to the Weenie Roast? My God. Just walking the gantlet of frat boys through the parking lot is enough to send anyone to bed with the vapors and some Pollo Loco.
Everything is perverted here, and any day now they'll be using "Rock the Casbah" as the soundtrack for the invasion of Iran.
Sometimes, though, the magic happens. When you forget to be tired and actually leave the house, good things occur. We were fresh from Dennis Rodman's wedding party Saturday afternoon (remember, he invited everyone to come right in the pages of the Los Angeles Times?). Dennis Rodman is the biggest rock star in this two-horse town, although if you've actually seen him get up and sing with a band, you'd be hard pressed to justify it.
Unfortunately, he forgot to tell the Times that he'd canceled his party to which everyone was invited, so Dana and I showed up at his Balboa Peninsula house (which was blasting music) to find only a cleaning crew. No party, they told us, as we stood on the patio in our summer-wedding-guest sundresses. They seemed kind of weird, a little shifty. I think they were on the crack. It was a good thing we hadn't brought the fancy toaster.
We tried Cassidy's. We tried the Bluewater Grill. We even tried Rodman's restaurant, Josh Slocum's. But there was no sign of the happy couple.
I traded Dana in for Cher (Dana had to "work") and we hit the Pike in Long Beach for Pirate Night. The Pike is owned by Reece of Social Distortion, a bona fide rock star who's all growed up and serves a fine scampi (on plastic plates!) while his bar wenches serve up a fine view of their bosoms. But even better than the wenches (and they were wonderful!) were the band of old dudes playing sea chanteys, and two guys from the new Johnny Depp flick Pirates of the Caribbean sitting at the bar and singing all the words. Some were real sea chanteys, and others were, like, Harry Belafonte calypso songs. While we were there, though, they did not play Looking Glass'"Brandy," which I thought would have been an inspired choice. The guys from the movie do a lot of Ren Faire stuff, too, they said. If we hadn't had to go to Costa Mesa, we would have stayed and arghed at people all night. As we were leaving, the sexy dominatrix pirate girls arrived. They were about 22. I'm telling you: magic.
We hit Avalon on 19th Street, which had opened to a madding crowd the night before. It was very LA-cool, but I think any bar called Avalon should be not black and orange but sea-green, with mermaids and hanging beads and sea chanteys. Of course, I think every bar should be sea-green with mermaids and hanging beads, which is why I can't get any investors to fund my bar. The Blue Avalon and the Lemon Ginger Drop were fantastic (some kind of sweet-potato vodka), and the bouncer was nice, talking about how he likes his girlfriend's ex's mom because "she's a Christian, and she's down-to-earth." We had to go across the street, though, to see Smile's last show. And who can blame them for calling it quits? They're not 14. They don't stand a chance. Ten years after they started, became the next big thing, got signed, and played the party celebrating the Weekly's inaugural issue (eight years ago, if you're counting), they played one last show for a crowd that lined up out the door, while Detroit booker Chris Fahey yelled that there were spots left only for those with pre-sold tickets.
Music is for the young, for people who don't have to be reminded what it felt like when you didn't pay rent, who even now have to change into their sluttier outfits after they've left the house. Everyone else gets to open a restaurant and pay the bills.
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