Take Away the Pain

Seems like we hardly ever get to the Galaxy for purely business reasons. The room is arguably OC's sweetest concert hall, but their tendency to host primarily big-boffo nationally known names leaves the Locals Department SOL. With increased competition from the Sun Theatre, though, the Galaxy has been booking more local-band nights, which, at least on this eve, appeared to be a hit: the room was packed, the chairs were semicomfy, the sound was superb, and (most important!) the gooey, cheesy nachos were the shit.

Still, it often felt as if most were here not to watch the bands but to indulge in various forms of socioanthropological stimuli (read: pick-up city!)—some actual, swear-to-God bits of chatter we overheard included: “If he ever touches you again, you just let me know!” and “You still workin' out, guy?” And, like most large joints that serve alcohol, there's always a small enclave of swine who try to hold conversations by yelling to one another over the music and who always manage to make camp next to us. And people wonder why we hang in all-ages places so much.

But then we realized why there was so much chatter fluttering about the room: with maybe the exception of Gorgeous, the bands just weren't very attention-grabbing. Buzzbox were neither here nor there—some okay songs, okay hooks, okay melodies, just . . . okay, nothing you'd call memorable or long-lasting. A perfectly safe band, the aural equivalent of unassuming public sculpture —in other words, a band that could easily be molded and mass-marketed, Third Eye Blind-style, into something mega, if they'd only find the right people to take control of their career (read: if they wanna whore themselves out to Satan!).

But what was with all the junior-high-looking girls who carried on annoyingly in front of the stage, giddily jumping about and waving their arms in the air from side to side while gazing longingly at the band as if they were the Backstreet Boys? Maybe that's the market they're going for.

Next were fashion-crime perps Poprox, fronted by a blond girl singer dressed in a garish leopard-print coat and an exposed midriff like you-know-who (their guitarist, for his part, modeled an unfortunate mirror-ball shirt and impossibly tight leather trousers—how, um, rawkenroll!). They were a purist's nightmare (and we are purists), more interested in the “stage presence” aspect of their band than the “actual music” part, as their singer spent lots of time swiveling her hips, flipping her hair around, and spouting insincere patter like, “How ya doin', Galaxy!” (our silent reply: “Oh, all right, we guess, but since you asked, our dog had the runs all over our carpet, and it's gonna cost us plenty to clean. What's up with you?”) and “You guys having a good time tonight?” (reply: “Oh, all right, we guess, but since you asked, watching your band is only slightly more preferable to rubbing jagged pieces of glass into our eyeballs”). Things got more interesting when they did an overwrought ballad called “Take Away the Pain,” which, from what we could tell, was about something very, very serious. Their singer explained as much before they started it, but during her intro, their bassist cut her off and cracked a joke, which, judging by the glance she shot him, she did not care for. Cool —inner-band tensions! So this is what it must have been like during the Beatles' Let It Be sessions. Speaking of pain that needed to be taken away, they had the gumption to cover “Heartbreaker,” the Pat Benetar ditty, which pretty much confirmed our gut feelings about them. More frightening were the two goons we saw wigging out during the number, totally head-banging, totally rocking out. Ugh! Sights like that make us wish the world really had exploded back on New Year's Eve.

But we realized something. We're now totally convinced that the local-band universe is concretely divided into two camps: those inspired by underground bands they saw in clubs or cool indie records that they were turned on to by their friends, and those who were inspired strictly by bands they heard on the radio and saw on MTV. Poprox felt like the latter.

Gorgeous fared much better, a band that seemed more real, not as prefabricated—stronger, but less filling. Their hooks were tighter and vastly more hummable and alluring than those of the first two bands, and their singer actually could, via his bottomless set of pipes. But they weren't perfect. Their one tune about walking on water and not wanting to be forgotten was lovely and anthemic and all, even kinda powerful, though someone should've summoned the clich police when the singer invoked Jesus Christ while locked in a crucifixion pose. That was just so (pick one) Alice Cooper/Perry Farrell/Chris Cornell/any number of crap-band lead singers.

Like Poprox, Jaded seemed obsessed with presentation instead of putting any real muscle into their music. They took forever to set up and hauled out such gaudy indulgences as a big JADED sign, which they deposited behind the drum riser, sandwiched betwixt multicolored light panels. Ish! We so frown on bands who think they're arena-level. But Jaded do have Tina Yothers on lead vox—yup, the Family Ties child star, who's now all grown up (though we always thought Michael J. Fox was that show's real hottie). We last caught Jaded a year and a half ago and didn't think they were all that. Not much has changed—their overly conservative tunes still sound like the kind of cookie-cutter alterna-rock you hear in the background of KROQ beer commercials, so much so that we half-expected Tina to yelp, “Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri!” after each song. They had a DJ, but he wasn't put to much effective use and just sorta stood there throwing in random scratches. Tina did exude a certain Monique Powell classiness in her crooning, but the music felt more like soundtrack filler for teenage sex comedies—really. But we'll see how they are in another year and a half.

Send tapes, CDs, show dates, long, rambling diatribes, whatever —but no death threats, please, unless directed to the editor—to Locals Only, OC Weekly, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627-0247.

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