Why do we return to the annual International Pop Overthrow fest? Is it the prospect of seeing one or two of our favorite bands? The increased odds of stumbling on great new bands, as opposed to the vastly decreased odds of the same thing happening at, say, the Warped Tour? Is it the free CD comp they give away every year—the current one a three-disc, 66-track monster? Is it the chance to be among people who actually seem to enjoy making music in the face of so much aural evil loose in the world?

It's all that, baby. This year, we eschewed the IPO's traditional outdoor daytime chapter in Garden Grove's Eastgate Park for the evening portion at the Galaxy—less sunburn possibilities, y'see, but we heard hot-local-band-of-the-moment the Intelligista were terrific.

Far beneath good at the Galaxy, meanwhile, was the teenage Ten Second Rule, a pop-punk band more punk than pop, so standard, faceless and generic that we can only conclude that their name refers not to dropped food but reflects the diminished expectations of this generation: Warhol figured you had 15 minutes. On the plus side: after wanking out Metallica riffs, they were gone in 20 minutes—and no trucker caps!

Just as we started thinking, “For this, we missed Sex and the City,” out popped fresh OC transplant (via Atlanta) Kenny Howes, who beat out a barrage of fine songs on an acoustic guitar, goosed by a huge, booming voice that could slice concrete. For his final tune, he brought out Jamie and Mike from Sparklejets UK—the Yeah!, they called themselves—and they wailed happily on a number dubbed “Can't Let Go.” Howes' solo, our verdict read, was pretty good, but with a band, he's even better.

Next were the Dons, an LA power-pop outfit playing their final show ever this very evening, we were told. That's too bad, because their sugary melodies, jangly yet thick Rickenbacker riffs, bullshit-free songs, crafty lyrics and zippy, frenetic pacing left us wanting much more than the short set we got. Alas, such is the greatest problem we have about the IPO—the bands we love don't play long enough, and the bands we hate don't leave the stage soon enough. When we elect ourselves God, that'll change quick.

Then it was time for good ol' reliables Sideswipe and Sparklejets. What could we say here that you don't already know? Let's see . . . Sideswipe: power-pop perfection blah-blah-blah, “Crucify Me” would've been a huge radio hit if radio didn't suck blah-blah-blah, local guitar hero Steve Soest loves them so much he's made himself “the token guy” in an all-chick band blah-blah-blah, original tunes so kick-ass that there's really no need to fall back on Who cover songs blah-blah-blah, even the drum solo didn't bore us as it does with other bands blah-blah-blah. As for Sparklejets UK—the 52nd Greatest Band in OC History—they played a bunch of new songs that rank with all their other much-beloved-classics-in-a-better-world, new songs they're about to record for their next album. And all were superb samples of excellent power-pop, as shiny as the silver glitter that reflected off Susan West's Telecaster, as fun and giddy as you'd guess their “I Want You Back” cover was (and it was).

The Waking Hours were nearly as awesome, with a girl bassist writhing on the floor as her band went off into gargantuan Cheap Trick riffs. They played completely glorious rock N roll that left us buoyant and reassured, once more, that great music does find ways to reach our ears in often the most unexpected places. By the time the Waking Hours left, we weren't sorry we missed Bob Dylan at the OC fair, either.

Last up were Scarlet Crush, newly bruised and battered from their stint fighting the music-biz wars (like many a local band, they've run into their share of unscrupulous cretins). But they aren't dwelling on the coulda-beens, and on this night blew a wad of terrific new songs as good as anything they've ever done, always with just the right bits of sugar and grit swirling around those omnipresent three-part vocal harmonies. But goodness just flows so naturally for Scarlet Crush that if they wanted to suck, they'd have to practice it.

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