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Notes From the Underground

Down, But Not Out:
City quashes the Basement, but the bands play on

Everything good comes to an end, and the Basement recently received word from "The Man" that it can no longer host shows. But the Santa Cruz Music Collective, which puts together many of this town's underground gigs, won't be stopped that easily. A while back, two SCMC headquarters bit the dust--the Bixby House had to discontinue shows and the Medicine Cabinet was razed to build condos (quite the symbolic demise). Since there aren't any regular venues for local bands anymore, indie promoters will be forced to find new spots and stay a step ahead of the cops and a city that almost seems to have a vendetta against its otherwise thriving youth music scene. I can picture the city slogan: "If kids build it, cops will come."

Okay, I'm being cynical. Neighbors have rights, too. The trouble is, we've got some 50 bands in town with nowhere to play, let alone a small venue for regular all-ages shows. There are also tons of good touring bands young people want to see, but few can get booked at "legitimate" venues. We've got a real problem here.

Sleater-Kinney flaked on their show last Tuesday, but one scheduled Basement gig, at least, was salvaged with an impromptu in-store show at Beat City last Wednesday.

The PA must have been manufactured in 1960 and the vocals consequently sounded like someone screaming from inside a Coke bottle, but I'll be damned if all four bands didn't kick ass anyway. Torches to Rome, a San Francisco trio with a powerful sound that reminds me a bit of Fugazi, opened the show. Between songs, they talked a lot about the importance of creating true local communities and challenged the crowd to think about why they are into these bands and this music.

My friend found their preaching annoying, but I thought a lot of what they said needed saying. I think people need to go for what really truly moves them, rather than associating themselves with formulaic crap just because their friends think it's cool. And personally, I think SC definitely needs a stronger sense of community among its bands. This town is full of exclusive little musical cliques and, frankly, that shit is counterproductive.

I was really impressed with Thumbnail, a foursome on tour from Tennessee. Super tight, convoluted tunes with lots of time changes--they reminded me a lot of Tanner, one of my favorite bands. Third up was San Diego's celebrated Boilermaker, a hard-driving trio with wholesome vocals and a super-intense bass that turns your insides to jelly.

Finally, Rye Coalition, an insane emo band from New Jersey, who eclipsed the others in terms of sheer energy and had everyone in the packed room flailing. The singer is totally histrionic (translation: he goes off), tearing at his hair, screaming and thrusting his arms wildly toward the heavens--well, at least the ceiling.


On Thursday, LAB plays a rare local show with Witchhook Sky at Palookaville.
Michael Mechanic

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From the July 3-10, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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