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Top Secret: John Brandow, frontman for the Salinas punk band the Achievement.

The Underrated

By Garrett Wheeler

OK, I did it. I found the greatest rock band you've never heard of, and I didn't even have to look that far. It played right on Ocean Street, at the Jury Room. Might as well have been CBGB's, though, the way these guys were rocking. Ladies and gentlemen, meet The Achievement. The Achievement, meet Santa Cruz (and beyond).

Here are the important facts: they're a punk band, they're from Salinas and they sound better than most everything on the radio or on that god-forsaken pseudo-music TV channel, what's it called—oh yeah, MTV. Hey, MTV, if you're reading this, do me a favor. Shoot an Achievement music video, hook these guys up with some air time and score them a record deal. Then maybe you'll win back a little respect and reputation.

So Friday night I go see a show at the Jury Room. For those of you who've never had the opportunity to mingle in this miniscule parlor of a bar, the place is small. Like, smaller-than-your-deadbeat-cousin's-apartment small. And cover charges? Zippo. Nada. Save your dollar for a Pabst.

So I watch, beer in hand, as some band called the Achievement takes the front of the room, which we'll call the stage. Now I've seen enough punk shows at small venues to know better than to expect anything too mind-blowing. But as the Achievement proceeds to rip the place apart with a rowdy brand of melodic, but not too melodic, punk rock, I know I'm in for a treat. The singer can actually sing—and play guitar! The bassist—unreal! Drums—incredible! It's rock & roll at its finest: edgy, witty, tireless and fully charismatic. After they introduce themselves to the crowd, someone yells, "There's no punk rock in Salinas!" Frontman John Brandow grins and replies, "That's why we're in Santa Cruz!" The band is later cheered back onstage to perform encores. Twice. Guess Brandow is right.

Here's Chapter Two. The next night, Saturday, I'm in San Francisco, making my way through a crowd of 45,000 gathered in the parking lot of AT&T Park. I'm at Rock the Bells to see Rage Against the Machine, along with a long roster of hip hop gurus including Wu-Tang Clan and Public Enemy. Only problem is, I can't see a damned thing. I'm as close as I can get and I still need a pair of binoculars, or maybe a telescope fit for picking out craters on the moon. Rapper after rapper, I listen and watch, waiting for the mighty Rage Against the Machine to unleash its indelible fury upon us all. Finally, almost eight hours after the show began, the four revolutionaries of '90s rock appear on the Jumbotrons above. The crowd, for its size, doesn't exactly go wild. Maybe we're a little tired from standing up all day.

Rage played for a little over an hour. The show was good, not great, but good, considering I had to watch from three football fields away. It wasn't as loud as I would have liked, and the ticket set me back $75. Not exactly a no-cover, up-close-and-personal, eardrum-shattering night at the Jury Room. But I'd pay $100 to see the Achievement rock out at Warped Tour 2013. It'd be worth every nickel.

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