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Notes From the Underground
By Arwen Curry

After-School Special:
Indie rockers play thespian at the Actors' Theatre

AS THE TOURIST COMMERCE SLOWLY BEGINS TO DWINDLE with the daily temperature, local merchants can be seen nervously tapping their feet behind cash registers, annually unaccustomed to the sudden drop in sales. Then--voila!--the autumnal commercial salvation appears via UCSC and its 10,000-odd paying customers, back from Mom's to study for the year. While the underground music scene in SC profits little from the tourist trade--it actually suffers instead a long dark winter in the heat of summer--it takes a true jump, especially in the indie-rock realm, in participation when the students return.

Last Thursday's Modest Mouse show at the Actors' Theatre was the first in a while to succeed in promoting bands with that certain college-radio appeal. Nova Scotia squeezed on the bill with Red Stars Theory and Nuzzle, who rebuked my hypothesis that they never actually made it to gigs by sending two members (better than nothing) to play while the others got their beauty rest before a morning of school. Though it has recorded and produced an album and a couple 45s, not to mention touring, the band seems mysteriously incapable of playing at an assigned time with all members present. I suppose we need some sort of mystery to keep us in suspense, or perhaps they really do have better things to do.

Obviously designed--acoustically and spatially--for intimate local drama, the Actors' Theatre snatched up Modest Mouse's music, let it resound for a second, then devoured it greedily. The effect was strange and not entirely bad--it gave the notes, especially the powerful ones, the impact of a soliloquy. The unwanted element: I kept wishing I was actually watching a play, as if the band were invading the dignity of that softly carpeted realm. Modest Mouse played prettily at times, with predictable and somewhat tiresome folk-indie saccharine, but redeemed itself at the end of the set with the members' resistance to being shut down--coinciding with a noisy build-up in the songs that became, by integers, more compelling than demanding.

Apparently this first show in a new establishment went without trauma, and hopefully will remain available for the more subdued local and touring bands in the future--though bands who inspire rowdy audience participation threaten to doom it for posterity. With the increasingly shaky status of the 320A House as an indie-rock haven, someone needs to accommodate the eager and generally pacifistic hordes of collegiate youths returning to town. Perhaps if the promoters don't burn out too soon, the Actors' Theatre can do its part.

Upcoming

On Friday, No Use For A Name plays with Lagwagon, the Ataris and Limp at Kresge Town Hall, UCSC (7:30pm, $8, all ages). Also check out a three-day festival--Friday: Karp, Young Pioneers, Peechees, Angora and Sweet Nothings (at the Vets Hall). Saturday: Locust, Jenny Piccolo, Violence Jack, Makara, the Gashers, Yoffut Coda and Turets (at the 320A house). On Sunday: the Heat, Strictly Ballroom, Nuzzle, Duradelinquent, the Lowdowns, Oliver Brown and Glaciers (at the Vets Hall, call 423-9503 for details). Monday, the Crabs and the Lookers play at Streetlight (7pm, free).

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From the Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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