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[whitespace] The Soft Side Of Hardcore

With a Catalyst opening set, Jetlag shows off an emo stance at odds with their rock-hard sound

By David Espinoza

A FELLOW COLLEGE radio DJ (when I had a show on KZSC) once pointed out that the skater-punk bands of today are the equivalent of the glammed-out heavy metal bands of the late '80s (think Poison, Winger or the Crüe). Initially, this didn't make much sense, as hesher heads from the days of yore at least knew how to rip open a decent guitar solo now and then, if not tease their hair to gravity-defying heights. Perhaps his hypothesis was based on the perception that in the last 10 years punk music has become as mass-marketed as stars that VH1 remembers with bio shows. Either way, the idea made more sense after watching Jetlag open for Loadstar and the Lonely Kings at the Catalyst Jan. 21.

Dressed in what might be called emo garb or, in other states, Bible salesmen attire--white, short-sleeve dress shirts with black ties--the five-member Jetlag took the stage before a mainly teenage audience. Normally, when a group of guys who play loud, angst-ridden music dress up like they're going to Sunday school, it means they're: a) out of laundry or b) being ironic. For Jetlag, with the exception of a guitarist with an eyebrow ring, the formal clothing and sharp haircuts fits them better than they might have intended. Even as the players hammered out fine slabs of melodic hardcore, the outfits prevented them from being taken as a threatening band.

Then again, emo bands aren't the type to lash out at the audience or the world so much as themselves. Call it self-loathing or good old fashioned masochism, it's more of an attitude than a sound.

Jetlag wasn't so self-absorbed that they didn't work hard to put on a good show. In fact, they pulled out all the rock & roll ballet moves perfected over the last 40 years: pouncing about, jump-kicking and engaging in the classic Pete Townsend-patented giant guitar-strum windup. The reaction from the crowd was the same reaction you always get when a bunch of suburban kids living in a post-grunge era are presented with fast, heavy music--moshing.

But raising the testosterone in the room to unbearable levels didn't seem to be on the band's agenda. They dedicated a tune to all the "meatheads whose muscles are bigger than their brains." It's an age-old paradox in punk rock--bands that play extremely violent music are the ones that always have to ask their audiences not to kill each other in the pit.

Musically, Jetlag clearly has a Good Riddance streak in them, though there is something else, too. During their set, if I hadn't known any better, I'd say they sounded incredibly reminiscent of early '80s metal (just much faster), with palm-muted guitar chords and a vocalist who can sing melodies. Give it up for frontman Casey Pearman, who at his best moments sounded like Tool's Maynard James, and at his worse, like a guy doing a bad impression of James. It was a tenuous line, but Pearman hit the mark most of the set.

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From the January 26-February 2, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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