A Week in the Nightlife

I saw and heard a lot of music lastweek—as I did the week before, and the week before that. Crazy, eh? Let me see if I can decipher any of the notes I scrawled in the dark.

We'll start with the Sept. 12 show at eVocal and the Busywork bash at Detroit Bar the same night. eVocal is a small-ish multipurpose space (clothing/arts/crafts retail) that hosts music and literary events. I arrived in time to catch three Sprawl songs, which smartly harnessed adrenalin like the Minutemen did in the '80s. Sprawl peddle punk with a Ph.D. in dynamics and memorable atonality.

Next up were The Zookeepers, four white guys dressed in the matching preppie-nerd attire of blue sweaters, ties, white shoes and shirts. In a nice touch, the keyboardist keeps an open dictionary on his instrument; the drummer sports the biggest Afro since Sly Stone circa 1971. But the Zookeepers' milquetoast garb is deceptive: They play with ferocity. Their live show's enhanced by the caliente chica shimmying to the group's frugtastic garage-surf rock, which is equal parts kitsch and grit. You (or at least I) can imagine the Zookeepers playing in an episode of The Munsters (compliment).

At Detroit Bar, LA four-piece The Binges are busy working on your tinnitus with their meat-and-potatoes (and strychnine) rock. Like Nashville Pussy, but with smaller boobs and bigger balls (especially the petite Okai sisters on guitar and bass), the Binges rock hard in a manner that's both earthy and hell-bent (for leather jocks and thongs). Shouter Dylan Squatcho looks like Kurt Cobain and sort of sings like the late Nirvana front man, too. Hearing him shred larynx on the mic, I want to drink chamomile tea with honey in sympathy for his vocal cords. Hearing the band, I want to buy stock in Harley-Davidson. Sympathy for the Record Industry is issuing the Binges' “Hear Me Out”/”Rock Show” seven-inch before it (possibly) changes owners.

On Sept. 13 at DiPiazza's in Long Beach, Leviathan Brothers did interesting things with jazz and rock idioms without once prompting the phrase “fusion bores.” Keyboardist (and OC Weekly contributor) Sean O'Connell announced, “This week marks the sixth year of the five-year anniversary of Tupac's death. To commemorate the occasion, we're going to play an original.” He and his band mate, drummer Miles Senzaki, then commenced to forge a moving soul-jazz composition that cascaded with great beauty. Recalling Medeski, Martin N Wood and the Bad Plus (minus the bass, of course), Leviathan Brothers possess excellent chops, tight song structures and zero jazz-snob stodginess. Their improvisational tangents balance observatory training with playfulness and just enough cowbell (more would be gratuitous and too obvious). Tonight's rendition of “Life on Mars?” is done with glamboyant flair, and the surging dynamics and purging dramatics of a Cold War Kids song would likely have caused its creators to blush over how great Leviathan Brothers made it sound. The Hawthorne-based duo create rhythmically kinetic and elegantly melodic compositions and inventively extrapolate on some classic pop tunes (including Lou Reed's “Perfect Day,” Harry Nilsson's “One” and the Beach Boys' “Don't Talk [Put Your Head on My Shoulder]”). Leviathan Brothers had the light but very appreciative crowd hollering for more by set's end, so the band did the honorable thing: They called it an evening.

The next night in Long Beach, throwback dance party Goodfoot celebrated its ninth anniversary at Que Sera. DJs Abel, Dennis Owensand Scott Weaver kept the large, fashionable crowd moving with a mix of familiar cuts (Carl Douglas' “Kung Fu Fighting,” Jackson 5's “The Love You Save,” Edwin Starr's “25 Miles”) and more obscure gems (Dennis Coffey's “Scorpio” [the later version], Bar-Kays' “Soul Finger,” Bobby Byrd's “I Know You Got Soul”). The latter funk bomb aired twice, but because Mr. Byrd recently passed away, I'll let this heinous gaffe pass. Kudos to Goodfoot for giving away an excellent mix CD to the first 100 folks through the door—and for enduring nine years in a business in which running a club night for nine months is considered a decent run.

Saturday, Sept. 15 at Detroit Bar brought Payback, a summer's-end soiree helmed by Busywork boss Dan Sena. Hundreds of beautiful people roamed from main room to back room to outdoor Camel-infested patio to a soundtrack of middling-to-great party tuneage (props to DJ Shh for spinning vinyl on a Serato-dominated bill; his punchy techno selections hit my sweet spot). Damager, GMO, Mashed Potatos and Them Jeans mostly manned decks with panache, as well. Unfortunately, I heard House of Pain's mook-rap chestnut “Jump Around” twice, spun by two different jocks. WTF? Isn't that a mortifying faux pas on the order of two women showing up at a party in the same outfit? Less mortifying were Sparrow Love Crew, five schlubby MCs who authoritatively command a stage like a troupe of Joe Six-Pack Beastie Boys. When they told people to jump, people asked, “How high?”

Finally, at the Prospector Sept. 16, Holy Fuck and Free Moral Agents wrecked shop as if they were at Honda Center, not a tiny Long Beach bar/bistro. I'm out of space, but you can read my show review on the Heard Mentality blog(blogs.ocweekly.com/heardmentality/). Know this: Holy Fuck are currently among the most mind- and body-blowing live acts going (and coming).


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