Last Call at the Tripple-A

AAA Electra 99 Art Gallery
Newport Beach Sunday, Sept. 24
If there ever was a punk-rock art gallery, then AAA Electra 99 in Newport Beach was it. In a two-room art space in an unassuming office complex in one of Newport's seedier industrial hoods, chief operator Richard Johnson displayed . . . how shall we put this? . . . some weird, freaky-ass shit. Like Brian Sanghyun Kim's Chicken Baby, a whole grocery-store chicken—possibly roasted—lacquered and spread-eagled onto a white shag carpet, with menacing cutlery pointed at its underside and with a baby doll head positioned where the bird's noggin would ordinarily be. And Neil Parker's My Cat Loves Me, a strange and disturbing yet haunting piece consisting of a couple of dead rats shellacked to a panel of what looks like root-beer-colored kitty barf (asking price: $399. Quick, where's our MasterCard?). Other works on display during our visit included poetry verse blotted onto (unused) toilet paper; a photo collage of dead babies; hand-painted goat skulls by Motorsoule's Ricky Menace, our favorite punk-rock cabby; and a wide assortment of penis/vagina/Jesus imagery—sometimes in the same piece! Not exactly the kind of stuff you'd find in the galleries of Laguna Beach. When AAA Electra dies, you get the feeling they're going straight to hell.

Turns out the gallery is dying—evicted, actually, along with all the other tenants in their building; apparently the site is desperately needed for a parking lot. But Johnson says he hopes to relocate—possibly to Orange—so AAA might make like a phoenix in the not-too-distant future. Hope so because AAA has also been a nurturer of many an eclectic local band. This was the final live performance night at AAA before they closed up shop at this locale, which was fitting—what's a wake, after all, without a little music? Thing is we weren't too sure what to expect, since we'd been told that all the real bands had played the night before as part of this three-day going-temporarily-away party. And when we arrived, we were met by Sister Midnight, whose set consisted of spoken word with some karaoke flourishes —which didn't bode well. But then our favorite folkie anarchist Erik Rez stepped up, though not violently strumming his acoustic as he usually does, on account of an injured wrist. Still, he managed to offend the easily offended with his slowly picked song about the pope jerking off as visions of little boys and bloodthirsty killing play in His Holiness' head (“Here's a song I only sing in church,” Erik announced as he introduced the tune). He also did a wickedly funny a cappella number called “How I Really Like the Cops,” one of the most gleefully sarcastic things we've heard in a while and something that would get him permanently banned from Starbucks if he ever landed a gig there and performed it. We'd quote a line or three from it here, but the damn jetliner hums that emanated from John Wayne Airport across the street kept distracting us from scrawling any down. We were exploring the galleries while a guy named Benny Chadwick did an acoustic duet thing which, from a distance, sounded quite nice and lovely—stuff we probably should've paid more attention to. His melody-rich songs tumbled around pleasantly in our heads as we pored over a book called Car Crashes N Other Sad Stories, a collection of crisp black-and-white photographs of Orange County auto wrecks taken by a shooter for the old Santa Ana Register during the '40s and '50s (see the Weekly's review, “All Over the Road,” Aug. 25). They were beautifully composed but still pretty gross—maybe Chadwick's calming tunes were the only thing that kept us from doing the Technicolor yawn all over the AAA floor.

Then came the Irish Brothers, who do rockabilly with occasional inroads into punk (Bro Keith also plays in Punk as a Doornail, a band semi-famed for using a guitar made out of a skateboard). The Irish men blew out a swell mix of covers and originals, which fit the evening's last-call mood—stuff that went from a zippy tackling of “Folsom Prison Blues” to a wild freak-out deal called “Jesus Stole My Woman” to a creation called “Psycho Pompadour” which, thanks or no thanks to a crappy mic, made singer Karl's voice sound like a shocking merge of death metal with the pipes of the Cramps' Lux Interior.

The final band was DPC, a freeform jammy-jam outfit who did sax-sprinkled dub riffs and groove-heavy instrumentals. Good dance music, and had there been more than about three people watching them, the floor would've been throbbing. But hey, it was 1 a.m. by this time, and a lot of people had cut out for home, doubtlessly with tears welling up in their eyes at the thought of AAA's impending doom. We just hope that wherever they turn up next, the music will still be regarded as important as the art that covers their walls. Even the dead-rat art.


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