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In which Garrett Wheeler discovers high school kids who rock.


Kids in America It was nearly a standard punk show. Nearly. Tight black jeans, a couple mohawks, more Misfits T-shirts than a well stocked head shop—the crowd, in one sense, appeared normal. The music was loud, and sometimes downright obnoxious. But that's punk rock for ya. No, the difference here wasn't the music or the look, but the age range, which seemed to go from 10 to 18. Standing amid a herd of mini-me versions of Sid Vicious, I felt like I was at a middle school dance gone horribly, horribly wrong. Or right, depending on your musical taste.

The 418 Project calls itself "a community-run space," and by the looks of things, the community that gathered there last Friday night represented Santa Cruz's rock & roll youth. The prepubescent punks headbanged and mosh-pitted with adolescent fervor while a lineup of local bands (plus one from Alabama) provided the musical stimuli.

After Huntsville, Alabama's Cancerslug demolished the collective eardrum with their gothic-tinged hardcore, the night's headliners took the stage. I'd heard a little bit about The Lost Boys—things like "they rock" or "they kick serious ass," so when a group of three plain-clothed and surprisingly normal-looking teenagers headed to the stage, I figured another band must have slipped itself onto the bill. But after a short introduction and a nosedive into a pool of ferocious power chords, it was clear these were in fact the hometown heroes, and they really didn't give a hoot about the whole punk aesthetic thing.

But the Lost Boys aren't a couple of run-of-the-mill high-schoolers—they're one of the area's most impressive, and popular, punk bands. There are two benchmark indicators we music writers use to assess a band's popularity: how many friends they have on Myspace (seriously, it's true) and what kind of venues they're playing. In the first category, TLB is nearing the 2,000 mark, which for a local band of any age group is a darn good start. As for the types of venues the Boys are hitting, look no further than their Oct. 19 gig at Berkeley's legendary punk venue, 924 Gilman Street. The place is practically a historical landmark for the Bay Area rock scene, and the highest honor for up-and-coming rockers like the Lost Boys to receive. Congratulations, kiddos, you're on your way.

The Expended The following night I headed downtown once again, to our most major music hall, the Catalyst. Headlining were Santa Cruz's beloved rasta-rockers, The Expendables. The Eastside crew just got back from a seven-week minitour sponsored by Jagermeister, and though they played well enough, something was a little off-kilter.

Granted, I've seen the Expendables a number of times, both at the Cat and a few smaller venues (they even played in my garage once, I can proudly say). Maybe it was the tour, or the Jagermeister, or both, but they just seemed a little—tired. Look, I'm a fan, and so is the rest of Santa Cruz. These guys deserve the highest props. Even in their slightly deflated form, the Expendables still managed to rock the crap out of the hot-boxed Catalyst, bestowing their unique blend of '80s power metal and Sublime-like reggae-rock upon us all. And that, my friends, is good enough for me.

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