One Big Happy Mosh Pit

The Grabbers/The Skulls/The Fakes
Club Mesa
Sat., May 19

Punk rock's days may be numbered at Club Mesa. By the time you're smearing this very ink all over your grubby little paws, there could be as little as a week left for all those grizzled old warhorses with the smeary tattoos and inordinately attractive girlfriends. (What possible refuge next, ask we? Downtown Disney?) It's sad (and on stalwart booker Craig's birthday, even!) how the trademark Club Mesa flames (one of the standards of punk interior design, right up there with chains and basic black) are already gone, stripped from the walls and replaced with swatches of sound-absorbing carpet samples. Somehow, though, it adds something. Opening punkers the Fakes had a welcome buzzsaw edge we missed last time we saw them. Call it a little polish and a lot of raw, which fit the mood and the environment real nice-like. Next up were LA's old back-from-the-crypt Skulls, who fucking exploded on their first, tight little '77 tornado of a song—must've been a peek at what singer Billy Bones was like the first time around. He's got this endearing trick: he grabs the mic, leers like something that lives under a bridge and freezes like he's getting ready to pounce—it's truly hideous in all the best ways (the guy can curl a lip like Elvis), and it wilted mohawks and stopped clocks all the way at the back of the room. Meekly, the bulk of the crowd hung back, except for one bull elephant of a drunk who seized every shred of an opportunity to wave his middle finger in Bones' face and bellow. “This guy's got 'fuck you' on the brain,” reported Billy. He eventually retired stage right, where he wearily bounced his head off the PA speaker until he was ready for battle again. Poor guy—what's he gonna fuck-you at come shutdown? Maybe somebody needs a summer-school tutor. Closers the Grabbers were the band everyone was there to see. Reunited after some kind of hiatus, these bruisers are shaking some last semblance of life into that classic, homegrown, early '90s, OC punk sound—you know, when Guttermouth would play your friends' backyard keggers. The die-hards pumped their fists in all the appropriate places, but it was a bit eerie how dated the Grabbers sounded, especially when the Skulls are playing songs that are probably older than certain members of their band. But hey, we'll always have those keggers, right? (Chris Ziegler)

Joan Jett
Long Beach Gay & Lesbian Pride Festival
Sun., May 20

Well, parking sucked, and the cops thought Joan Jett was a nightclub and thus couldn't help with directions. So we showed up late and desperate, frantically trying to find a way through the chainlink fence as dirty-sweet power chords echoed out over the Pacific. “Hop the fence! No one's watching!” suggested some helpful local miscreants—let's hear it for Long Beach!—but we couldn't. Damn these unwieldy trendy shoes! We spent most of “Cherry Bomb” and “Androgynous” clumping across miles of mucky grass before wiggling into the top layer of fans and sneaking a peek at the Joan: bald, lean and stalking across that stage like a jungle cat. (We should somehow work the leather pants into that simile, just for accuracy's sake.) Everybody seemed to love her: from guys who could've been our dads (if we happened to have two dads) to little new wave nymphets, it was one, big, happy, impromptu mosh pit punctuated by perky hand claps and shouts of, “You go, Joanie! Preach it, sister!” We pretty much swooned ourselves into a puddle when she growled out the opening count of the Modern Lovers' “Roadrunner” in that inimitable throaty drawl. (So great, even if we were hoping she'd customize the song to something like, “driving down Ocean Boulevard/Looking for parking/Looking for parking/Looking for parking/Looking for parking/Looking for parking/Looking for parking/Looking for parking/Looking for parking/Unh! With the radio on!”) The people so thoughtfully commissioned by the Pride folks to translate into American Sign Language were rocking out just as much as Joan, strumming air guitar and shaking their hips whenever they weren't shimmying through the signing equivalent of “Do ya wanna touch me? Oh, yeah!” Ms. Joan fired out nothing but classics and some carefully chosen covers, including “Science Fiction Double Feature” from The Rocky Horror Show. On the Stooges' “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” she got the whole arena barking in unison, which took about two seconds. (Didn't Long Beach invent that, anyway?) It was then we realized that pretty much anything coming out of Joan Jett will sound fucking awesome—except her finale of “Everyday People.” Yeah, sweet sentiment, but really, retch, retch and retch. After “I Love Rock & Roll” and “Crimson and Clover,” it's nothing but cheese. But, you know, it sent us home feeling all love-y, so we guess she knew what she was doing. (CZ)

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