OC Music Awards “Best Live Band” showdown
Galaxy Concert Theatre
Wednesday, March 6
Though we weren't judges for this 10-band extravaganza to pick five nominees for the Best Live Band category at the Orange County Music Awards on March 30, we enjoyed this local band equivalent of channel-surfing: each act got no more than 15 minutes to seduce. The blurb-o-rific rundown:

Mle: Hooky, resplendent keyboard anthems with a power-pop sheen. Fun! Corday: Double-entendre winner of the night with their tune “Pie” (everyone wants a “piece,” y'see). Delicious! The Friendly Indians: Jangly, ringing rock. Though their hammy singer was a tad annoying, we immediately sympathized when the pack of pathetic teen boys near us started screaming, “FAGGOT!” in the midst of the band's “Sweet Transvestite” cover. Unfortunate! Savage City: Not the best name for a blues band (you think they'd be metal), but they played fine standards of “Mustang Sally” and “Pride and Joy,” and the leather-clad songstress at the mic was exquisite. Gnarly! Slugg-O: The worst example of pandering dude rock we saw all night, loaded with cheeseball antics such as their “fans” pelting them with panties and their players spending most of the time running around the stage in an attempt to elicit a semblance of excitement from the crowd to compensate for their talent bankruptcy. Self-important enough to overstay their allotted 15 minutes, yet somehow they landed a nomination, even though one judge later told us he was deducting points for their tired tuneage. Slugg-O were suck-o. Recount! Jay Buchanan Band: Color, craft, mystery and aura. After Slugg-O, Buchanan was our Jesus/Buddha/Allah. Hallelujah! ??: A turgid metal band we never caught the name of, with a perfectly ordinary power ballad that came off like clunkier Creed. Plus, their metaphors were all-too-obvious. Need a handy title for a number about depression? How about “Sinking Into Darkness?” Snore! Exploiting Eve: Hearty funk fronted by a girl singer who writhed like Nikka Costa on a meth twitch, the best pure singer of the eve. Salacious! Scarlet Crush: Infectious muscle pop that blew the shorts off just about everyone else. Hey, hey, we're the Monkees! Wonderlove: Their Beatles-meets-Zep approach won hearts. Crunchy! Up Syndrome: Never played, as they were booted out for advanced assholeness (their guitarist defaced the freshly painted Galaxy dressing room and sprayed olive oil everywhere). Poseurs!The five winners: Wonderlove, Jay Buchanan Band, Scarlet Crush, Slugg-O and the Friendly Indians. (Rich Kane)

The Blasters
Galaxy Concert Theatre
Thursday, March 7
The last time I saw the Blasters was in 1983 at Riverside's Raincross Square. Guitarist Dave Alvin's songs of love, longing and loneliness—ignited by brother Phil's smooth, emotive voice and solid, no-nonsense instrumental backing—sounded like forgotten rock N roll gems birthed at Sun Records in the mid-'50s, not the LA County side of the 605 in the late '70s. The battling brothers, who hadn't played together live since Dave split in '85, are now back with their original band mates (drummer Bill Bateman, bass player John Bazz and piano player Gene Taylor) for a mini-tour to support Rhino's new two-disc compilation, Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings. Missing was legendary saxman Lee Allen, who years ago went up to that great all-night jam session in the sky. But he was there in spirit: the show began with a recording of one of Allen's solo tunes playing while a spotlight shone on a chair holding a saxophone, one of his album covers and an unopened bottle of Johnnie Walker Red. In interviews, Dave has said the best Blasters shows came after he and Phil fought backstage. Well, they must have had one helluva knock-down-drag-out before darkening the Galaxy. The renewed old Blasters rendered such a strong, surprisingly tight performance you'd think they'd only been apart 17 days, not years. Phil was in especially fine form, obviously aided by having belted out the same tunes with different Blasters lineups over the years. And Dave has grown so accomplished on his beat-up Fender that he ably filled gaps spurred by the absence of Allen. As the Alvins covered the stage with sweat like human Rainbirds, Taylor meticulously beat the boogie-woogie out of his electric piano, and Bazz and Bateman sedately kept the beat. We old farts, who years ago surrendered our pompadours to Rogaine and flesh yarmulkes, responded enthusiastically, especially on “So Long Baby Goodbye,” “Flat Top Joint,” “American Music” and the final encore, “Marie Marie.” As we yearned for more, Dave bid adieu with “See you in 17 years.” We'll be there. (Matt Coker)

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