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[whitespace] Wash's Free Fun

Lowdown, County Z and Carnivores wow the masses at free shows

By David Espinoza

FOR THE THRIFTY showshopper, nothing beats a free gig better than more free gigs, and the Wired Wash (next to the Saturn Café in downtown Santa Cruz) hosted plenty this past weekend. Technically, donations were welcome, but no one was turned away from the Lowdown's packed no-brow palooza Friday night. The evening even included a slide show. Saturday's scheduled Hate Mail Express and County Z, on the other hand, underwent a last-minute change, with the dynamic duo the Carnivores replacing Hate Mail Express.

The three-piece ragtag County Z set down an erratic mess of low-fi atonal songs reminiscent of the earliest days of punk rock. Equipped with a devilishly squeaky fiddle and Wicked Witch of the West red-and-white striped stockings, the lead vocalist warbled into the mic, sounding strangely like Siouxsie Sue back in '79. Add in a bassist and a patched-up drum set that had a special hubcap piece (is trailer trash indie-rock a catch phrase yet?), and County Z shined like L.A. incarnates the Geraldine Fibbers.

After extensive public-toilet research, I have concluded that the best place to endure the brutal bass 'n' drum (not to be confused with electronica drum 'n' bass) attack of the Carnivores is in Saturn Café's androgynous "men's" room. Only on the profanity-scribbled walls of the Saturn stalls can one truly appreciate the Carnivores' Motorhead-level decibels--meditation at this site is encouraged.

Seriously though, thanks to a bass rig as bulky as three midgets glued together, the Carnivores manage to overcome the two-person "Isn't that kinda small for a hard-core band?" disadvantage. Basically a more primitive version of the Ruins, the duo fires missiles of uranium-heavy distorted bass chords and wreckage with occasional screams via bassist Andrew "The Captain" Morgan. They are like an out-of-control semi, and it is best to get out of the way when they come barreling down at you.

Roller-Coaster Rock

Farther down Pacific Avenue, at the Catalyst, Texas darlin's the Old 97's started the night off with lead singer Rhett Miller asking in a slight Southern drawl, "Ya'll want unlimited rides at the Boardwalk!?" and invited everyone to join them for a roller-coaster ride after the show. Not that the rockin' rollin' ride the Old 97's served up wasn't enough to satisfy the crowd.

The quartet's sweet, alt-county sound and clean-cut image make 'em the Slow Gherkins of their native Dallas. Even hard-core punkster Russ Rankin of Good Riddance was spotted singing along to "Roller Skate Skinny." Speaking of Good Riddance, on July 10 the foursome will be releasing Symptoms of a Leveling Spirit, its fifth full-length album on Fat Wreck Chords.

Misc Debris

Toward the end of this month, local modern rockers Sin in Space will be taking a much-needed break from playing live. In the meantime, the group's debut album, Asteroid Band, is finally available at Streetlight Records, and the band will be playing at Streetlight Records' compilation-CD-release party in San Jose--details coming soon. On a completely unrelated matter, Eden Fineday (What-Nots, Peggy Hills, Eden Fineday Experience) will be returning from France soon and sitting in with another bunch of local musicians who will not be mentioned. K Records' Old Time Relijun will be returning to Santa Cruz for a Streetlight Records-sponsored show at the 418 Project on June 26 along with the Lowdown.

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From the June 6-13, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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