Saturday, April 7, 2012

TOTALLY DISTORTED BY THE VAULT


NOT READY FOR VEGAS ANYMORE
         Temecula, CA – Sometimes I feel like I’m two thousand years old as I watch events unfold in the scene. At the scene speed of light you see people get a second chance at destiny, bands get re-birthed, and believers made of cynics who were once outside the T-Town scene. It is magical, Sports Fans, and Friday night’s Social Distortion show had elements of all 3. Folks, there is a reason why I roll deep in the hood around this valley. It is the people and the music that they make which is like Reality TV without the TV. To see all the character arcs, cast rotation, and side drama, all done to a soundtrack of today’s freshest music is better than being Dick Clark. After the jump, the distorted view from my bandstand.
         First off, after a long ‘cold for California’ winter, Friday broke beautiful, just a dead-nuts perfect day of 79 for a high and low humidity. Little or no chem-trailing and with the winds in from two days ago, just a crystal clear vista in the valley. Into this spring evening rolled the San Diego ‘Social Distortion’ tribute band, Total Distortion. It is the headliner’s first Temecula show and as the in-house press service, aka LLWAP*, my duties include tour hospitality for the headliners. Normally this starts off with a pit stop to my favorite ‘off the grid’ watering hole, the Black Market, where the beer snobs go for growlers.
         However, as I told the band after climbing into the van, the ‘all-ages’ music scene is ‘different’. “We fought hard for our turf, and we got it. You’re on the magic side of town now.” True to my words, the band never made it to Black Market. BM now goes on the ‘gotta save something for the sequel, Rocky’ category, but I’m getting ahead of myself. As I climbed out of the band’s Mystery Wagon the lament was heard, “I hope I’m not playing to fifteen kids” before the band strolled over to Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, a familiar memory from their SD landscape. For scene magic to work, your mind must be open to the unfamiliar. Next time, Black Market.
         Waving a ‘C U L8tr’ after explicit walking directions and hearing about the opening act being badass from during the sound check with them, I headed back to the Vault fully aware of the style of the evening but not of what was coming, magic.
         Opening the show was Third Time Around, a first time band to the Vault. Made up of juniors and sophomores (high school), the band typified the synergy that is at the heart of the new music scene which has driven that vista since it began. The element is pure youthful passion, and raw but untested talent, driven only by a desire to perform, and hopefully be recognized in the process. TTA has this spark and showed the greatest depth in the song writing/arranging department, with a very close second in musicianship. This is a band at the start of a fruitful journey.
         The second band, Monomood, kept the show moving in the right direction and provided their high school fan base with the thrill to seeing a local band at a different stage of development in a setting other than a house party backyard venue. The Vault represents that first step, a giant one in any other spot beside über-burban Temecula, of playing on staging like a pro. You’re in the lights, up on the stage, watching the crowd below you, seeing their faces in the spots as they give you ‘spirit fingers’ to a ripping band lead lick. Suddenly you’re Josie and The Pussycats, or whoever your mentor band concert video is of. Monomood rocked their demo with a great live performance and very serviceable tunage.
         But seeing young bands who may one day become the ‘next big thing’ or Idol contestant from the valley is sort of a given when you see talent on the level that I do. Then at the end of the first two bands playing their sets, the ‘adult’ portion of the music show commenced, beginning with a blast from the past, sort of.
         The band, Ready For Vegas, goes all the way back to the Madlins daze, I mean days, if memory serves, under the Full Value Entertainment banner. Nor can we forget the impromptu ‘flash concert’ at the Grand Opening of Murrieta’s Guitar Center super store. Even in the off-music time in the scene, there were some RFV moments, cough, painting the Rock Bus, but the band never quite hit it musically beyond one song that had a Bye Bye Baby edge to it. Last that I saw, the band had topped out and was doing a burlesque review (no pun intended) at Aloha J’s, see Scene Chameleon.
         ‘Beulah And The Beat’ did not register when I glanced at the show roster earlier in the night. However, as I hung over in the shadows, the forms of Beulah Mae and Mikey, were undeniable, as the members of B&TB loaded in and set up. Ever respectful of ‘the [artist] wall’ which precedes a night’s performance plus having a check-in with my ‘fresh-in-town’ headline band, I wound up only catching the first two songs of Beulah And The Beat. That was long enough to see that Beulah Mae and Mikey were now part of a band that could write a song with a hook but stay fresh [the secret sauce of the scene]. And lest we forget, it is a magical night.
         Breaking back in the band entrance to catch the last few songs of Sandbox Bullies, a by-the-book rockabilly band complete with stand-up bass that puts a mosh pit spin in the room, I notice two things. The first is that of Megan, the fearless new ‘Hunger Games’ style house photojournalist. After almost climbing atop the drum riser to snap pictures of that performer in action, I watch as she descends, discards her camera behind a monitor, then promptly join the ever growing mosh pit circle. Tonight’s pit is user friendly as security has denied entrance to ‘noted’ security issues in advance, taking the edge off the dance floor. At this point, Total Distortion frontman Don ‘Ness’ jumped up onstage and jammed in on the last two SB songs and The Vault took on a decidedly urban square dance rock vibe. Fun was in the air with Megan enjoying every bit of it, along with several other females. Most pits are by nature male only. My Spidey Sense says this latest camera person has ‘spotlight’ written all over her, as did the last ‘scene’ utility camera person whose memory she invokes.
         As the band Trash Monsters set up in the lighted stage area, in the shadows sat Beulah, the bassist of Beulah And The Beat, with Mikey, lead guitar, b/up vox in the group that now features horns. Before the music starts I briefly catch up and snag a copy of the latest CD offered to me from Beulah. Simply put, Beulah recalled, “You said (once) we should ‘fill out’ our music. This is the new band. [The recording] was done in October and released in December.”
         Well, you succeeded. Divebar Prophets is a gritty gem that offers up ‘Hollywood Freeway’ as the brightest diamond, a bullet, in a bag full on the new release. A breakout CD must-have!
         The buzz on my side was always the ‘surprise artist’ of the night, which I knew of in advance but couldn’t divulge, having given my word to maintain a deep cover scene source. In keeping that confidence I will just reveal the circumstances. The artist is in the middle of putting out a CD with a band but his part in it is over. Still any solo work is frowned on in general and during a project in particular, though this solo work is more as a studio sub ‘hired gun’ on a temporary basis and in these hard times, any paying work is good work, the surprise guest artist will remain that.
         Also not a teen band, Trash Monsters, and their subsequent self-titled CD debut at the Vault, promptly made new fans with professionally structured songs that belie a mature freshness with a punk tongue-in-cheekiness. ‘Rockin in the Graveyard’, (Cuz She Likes Ugly Guys, I Said) “Let’s Dance”, and ‘Live Fast, Die Young’ reflect this glee in a very radio-friendly sort of OG way. Heading out on tour with their ‘guest artist’ sub to help support the CD, TM was generous with the crowd by offering free copies of their CD to the crowd, the night’s second premium for the crowd attending the all-ages show.
         By this time, all the TD band and band aids had been witnessing ‘The Vault in action’. Lead singer Don Ness who had swung back and forth between ’15 kids?’ to ‘Wow, look at all those kids’ was now wearing an anticipatory smile, strutting back and forth as he waited his band’s turn onstage. You see, Sports Fans, just as a Thursday night crowd is different from a Friday night crowd, a 21+ aka ‘bar scene’ alcohol-infused crowd is different from an all-ages venue crowd where passion is unsullied by alcohol.
         Taking the stage as they would in any other show performance, Total Distortion delivered their first few songs in Social D ‘tribute’ style, I would guess, since I have never seen Social D live. What I have seen live is when a group connects with an audience and the audience connects back. I’ve witnessed the moment in stadiums with The Stones and I’ve seen it in dive bars dancing to The Spoonbills. This Friday night I saw that happen with TD.
         Drawing the rapt attention of the screaming rabid front few rows of Social D band fans plus driving the wildly spinning orbit of ‘stompers’ was enough to turn an earnest tribute bar band into a music show cover band. The boys from SD that said they ‘hardly have a mosh pit crowd’ had all that and a bag of fries. Rocking through songs like, ‘Bad Luck’, ‘Don’t Drag Me Down’, ‘Sick Boys’, ‘Ball & Chain’, ripping through a robust seventeen song set list, the band tipped a hat to The Stones via ‘Under My Thumb’ and threw in an original before closing out with Social D’s signature Johnny Cash cover tribute, ‘Ring Of Fire’.
         Finishing to solid applause and a promise to return to The Vault, a tired but satisfied TD slowly loaded out, after having their entertainment experience totally distorted by a visit to The Vault. The band will never doubt these parts being ‘the fast sticks’ ever again.
         This is your in-house Lois Lane, with a penis (LLWAP*). Happy Easter to all; and to all, a good night.

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