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Blokes Don't Cry

Deep down, just about every punk singer wishes he had a British accent. And who can blame them? British punk singers like Steve Ignorant and Ian Mackaye were so fucking punk rock, they didn't even bother to pronounce half the velar consonants in the middle of words. As in, "Do they owe us a living? Of course they fuh-ing do!" Thanks to local Brit-punk trio The Levis for the phonetic spelling on that one--their jeans-of-arms banner behind them at their performance last Saturday night spells out their full moniker, the Fuh-ing Levis, in its entirety, once and for all putting the orthographic matter to rest.

I don't know where they came from, but with a guitarist and a drummer bearing striking resemblances to Exploding Crustaceans alumni Matt K. and Chris G., something tells me we haven't seen the last of these smartly dressed gentlemen. Looking downright Ivy League in wool coats, plaid sweaters and golf/pork pie hats, the Levis took complex musical opuses like "Wild Thing" and stripped them down to their raw--yet rather pleasant--cores. A musically adventurous group, the Levis find the common threads that bind songs like "Smoke on the Water" and "Fight for Your Right to Party"--namely, the same three chords--while breathing fresh life into the lyrics with bold new pronunciations: "You goh-uh fight / for your right / to pah-ay!" Charmingly British call-and-response chants like "When I say Earl, you say Grey!" kept the audience on its toes, but ultimately it was their Borgesian interpretation of "Boys Don't Cry"--retitled "Blokes Don't Cry"--that distinguishes this group as one of the most academically daring bands on the local scene.

The Party's Over

Never has Fishbone's emblem--a skeleton of a fish--been so sadly apt. The band has deteriorated down to only two of the original five members, and judging by their performance at the Catalyst last Friday night, they're flogging a dead fish. It was painfully clear that the new members hadn't performed the songs together much, and the only two who emoted any energy were Angelo Moore and the blonde pigtailed trombone player who, despite her effort and skill, served as a big, juicy reminder that this was definitely not the Fishbone of yore.

The first time I saw Moore, in about 1992, he was perched atop a balcony a block from Venice Beach, wailing on his sax and grinning his slightly crazed grin at passersby. Two days later I saw Fishbone perform for the first time, and that night still stands out as the concert by which I judge all others for sheer fucking intensity--Moore started out wearing a suit, but it wasn't long before he was running around the stage in just his boxer shorts, climbing onto speakers and jumping into a manic and sweaty pool of moshing teenagers, who--past hysteria, past exhaustion--entered an adrenalized realm of cathartic insanity known to mountain climbers and mystics, maybe ... but suburban kids? The show was better than drugs. Sadly, I wasn't on anything at this last show either. If I had been doped up, maybe I wouldn't remember this disgraceful performance.

One Man Band!

Sporting an arsenal of maybe 20 or so guitars, Keller Williams proved once and for all that when it comes to playing with oneself, he's the master. His looping skills and virtuosity on the guitar are the stuff of legend, and his music is richer and trippier than ever thanks to a whole bunch of fancy effects. And yet, and yet, and yet--it leaves me cold. Why? The funk and wit that he brings to his music is so warm and natural, and the instrumentation is largely acoustic. A few offensive effects do things like make a beautiful acoustic guitar sound like an electric piano, but that's nothing to cry about. Perhaps it's the "how did in the hell did he do that?" component that keeps music dorks whispering theories to each other rather than dancing. But in the end, it's probably just plain jealousy. Who wouldn't want to make a living playing with themselves?

Mike Connor

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From the March 24-31, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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