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They Came in Peace

The smoke has finally cleared. After months of preliminary showdowns and the final confrontation for the Battle of the Bands at the Catalyst last Friday and Saturday, local reigning reggae kings Dub Congress walked away with the $4,000 kitty for first place, followed closely by rockabilly heroes The Chop Tops in second place and raging thrash-rap-rockers 3 Up Front in third.

Anyone who was in the Seabright area on the Fourth, though, knows where the other battle was that night. Bonfires raged all up and down the beach as throngs of people milled through the billowing smoke, in some places as thick as the SC fog. With enough combined gunpowder to launch a whale into outer space, Cruzers reveled in the block party/war zone atmosphere by the beach. I felt only a little less heroic than Russell Crowe in Gladiator to actually make my way down to the Catalyst after a full day of eating, drinking and drinking some more. And I couldn't help but wonder if anybody else would make it out to the battle that night, what with all the madness going on elsewhere in town.

Downtown was unusually dead for a Friday night, and the turnout at the Catalyst was correspondingly low, an unlucky turn of events for The Fire Sermon, 3 Up Front, Illumination, First To Fall, The Chop Tops and In Like Sin, all of whom played on Independence Day. Battle coordinator Mike Gerring learned a lesson in scheduling from the disappointing Fourth of July turnout, but was pleased that The Chop Tops and 3 Up Front were able to garner enough votes to place in the competition.

The foot traffic was back in action downtown on Saturday night and the Catalyst was jumpin' with fans, but the votes were much more evenly distributed among the bands. Despite strong performances by (and generally healthy turnouts for) Vincent's Ear, Live Wire, Epicure, Section 7 and Sane, only Dub Congress was able to score a winning slot, with a clean set of original roots reggae.

And while we hyped the battling, trash-talking side of the event in our cover story last week, a little bit of mushiness is now in order. There really is a lot of great music in Santa Cruz, with plenty of unique flavor and personality to go around. That so many of the participants were game to hang with each other and participate in our "Battle Royale" photo shoot taught me something about the meaning of sportsmanship. That they actually brought battle axes, arrows, superhero costumes and bass guitar bayonets cracked me up. And that the Fire Sermon's lead singer Loni Nelson stripped down to a tiny pair of wrestling trunks and proceeded to hold yoga poses amid the photo shoot melee taught me something about the meaning of balls. Wait--that didn't come out right, but you know what I mean. Fun times, great bands! Congratulations to all y'all who participated, and props to the fans for coming out and supporting them.

Things That Make You Go 'Huh?'

Dude, the Blood Brothers show on Friday night was so fuckin' sweet. They totally fuckin' tore it apart. After a really long sound check wherein they got all the levels right, they busted into this crazy huge explosion of thrashing noise and played this one song that totally rocked where the two lead singers were all, "BLGHHHAAAAGGHHHRRAAAGGHHHH!" like somebody was performing a vivisection on them with evil homing pigeons. Then they switched it up a bit in that one song that went, "AAAAHLLLGGRRAAHHGGHHAAAHH BLLAAAGHGHHHANNGGHAAGH!" while everyone pounded on their instruments. Which was pretty fuckin' sweet and all, but the best part was when they played that one song that went, "BLGHHHAAAAGGHHHRRAAAGGHHHH!" like somebody was performing a vivisection on them with evil rabid cats, and I was all fuck yeah!

I feel old.

Mike Connor

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From the July 9-16, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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