Punk Provocateurs at the Doll Hut Don’t Need Headliners to Have a Good Time

Kristeen Young (Cancelled), Fea, Popsical, Tragic Radicals, Bellhaunts, Brass Knuckle Voodoo
The Doll Hut

After a much deserved Saturday of laying on my ass watching Undercover Boss reruns, I followed through with plans to put on something cute and rush over to the Doll Hut to catch some great local bands and a few touring acts. I wasn’t super familiar with Kristeen Young or Fea’s work, but the fact they’ve both shared some mainstream success and their fans really love and respect them was enough to get me to put the event in my calendar a month early, perplexed at how the Doll Hut even convinced such a bill to stop there.

Fea has worked with punk legends like Joan Jett, Laura Jane Grace, and Alice Bag, and Kristeen Young has collaborated with the likes of Dave Grohl, Pat Smear, and even David Bowie. Plus, its widely rumored that she was Morrissey’s possible on-again-off-again make out buddy who even gave him a cold that caused him to cancel a bunch of US tour dates. So getting a chance to see the woman single-handedly blamed for taking out Moz in the same crusty roadhouse I cut my teeth playing shitty punk in seemed like a rare opportunity I didn’t want to miss.

All the excitement I initially had about seeing and possibly meeting Young was ruined the minute I arrived at the Doll Hut, and was informed while being wristbanded that she had canceled on accounts of being sick. In her place was Brass Knuckle Voodoo, a band I just missed, who was added last minute to make up for Young’s cancellation. I considered washing my sorrows away by ordering nachos at the Doll Hut’s new outdoor snack stand, but chose to save my $2, praying the tamale man would show up.
Second up were one of my favorite local bands: Santa Ana’s Bellhaunts. They rarely play in town, so I was glad to not have to drive to LA or Long Beach to see OC’s dreamiest queer punx. Redd is such an amazing drummer, and every time I see her I feel like her style evolves and grows, like a local Vinnie Colaiuta or Max Roach, always pushing herself creatively and technically, always finding new ways to express herself within her medium. If you haven’t seen Redd play drums live, do yourself a favor and get to a Bellhaunts show, she’s a woman possessed behind the kit, and the band is worth seeing just to watch her put complex rudiments into pop-punk and try to figure out how exactly she conceptualizes those fills and syncopated parts.

Their levels were wonky at first because hey it’s the Doll Hut, but Bellhaunts delivered a great set full of well written emotional and energetic material. It’s a fucking tragedy that the majority of the crowd who were there were chain smoking in the back while Bellhaunts played. Maybe if Bellhaunts were from the Pacific Northwest or on Burger Records people would have cared that they were missing one of Orange County’s best acts.

As soon as The Tragic Radicals set up, their crowd trickled in from hidden smoking corners sprinkled around the patio and the parking lot. Despite being the newest band on the bill, they probably drew the biggest crowd of the night, luckily winding up in the middle of the lineup. Their set sounded familiar—rock with moments of Goth, grunge, and metal. But they did captivate the audience, moving between gritty vocals and heavy guitar driven classic rock inspired grooves, serving some Sabbath and early Hole simultaneously. Toward the end of their set, my prayers were answered and the tamale man showed up.

Popsical were great, and probably the best sounding band of the night. Maybe because the sound guy has done sound for them many times before and knew what to expect, maybe because this band practices religiously. Popsical were dressed like they may have been heading out to an opera or fancy dinner after the show. Their set of queer femme driven rock mixed with ‘90s and experimental grabbed the attention of the remaining audience members. Lead singer and bassist Josie Wreck demanded attention, not in a thirsty, commandeering way, but as one of those performers who can command an entire room with their snarl and presence. They played a mix of new and old material, including their showstopper: a cover of Divine’s “Female Trouble,” introduced with a wink by Wreck as a song that “any biological woman can relate to.”

A little after midnight, San Antonio, TX punks Fea took the stage and reminded me of fast, political punk bands I used to see in LA at the Allen Theater. They charmed the intimate crowd with their well-rehearsed ‘77-meets-2004 Chicana punk aesthetic, infectious energy and some synchronized moves. Their rhythm section was super solid, setting the foundation for chunky, Greg Hetson influenced guitar work, and aggressively delivered vocals that were often sung and screamed in Spanish. It was nice to see a band have fun on stage together, and I really enjoyed their set. Fea felt less like a touring act and more like locals amongst the crowd. They hung out and watched all the bands, I even saw them buying merch from a few of the openers as well, that’s more than I can say for a lot of Orange County show goers. Its no surprise Fea will be hitting the road to support Against Me! nationally in less than a month.

You would think that on a clear-skied Saturday night with solid local bands and a well-known touring act that more people would actually show up. For as much complaining as locals like to do about Orange County not having enough good shows, or anything going on ever, that more than a few dozen people would give a shit when a cool touring band goes out of their way to come through our town. I guess people like to complain about not having a local scene way more than they would like to actively contribute to nurturing one. Maybe everyone was at work or had tickets to Beyoncé at the Rose Bowl. Whatever the case, this show was great. 

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