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Notes From the Underground
By Arwen Curry

Independent music fest intoxicates SC youth

MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, from the barren desert of a long, hot summer came not a drizzle but a veritable storm of exuberant music, perfectly coinciding this past weekend with the return of the students. The story goes like this: Three part-time promoters, some of whom, I might add, have not always put their money where their mouths are, redeemed themselves with a stunning last-minute lineup of bands.

Former 320A resident Robert Freeman "owed shows" to a couple of knockout bands like Young Pioneers from his days putting on shows in the living room. Their tour with Karp and the Peechees happily coincided with the plans of other bands setting up shows with Josh Alpert and Hugh Holden.

For once, the promoters actually talked before they set up three different shows in the same weekend (a state of affairs that usually leaves the kids torn with indecision). Instead, they pooled their resources and in a few sparse weeks set up a festival that started on Thursday with at least five touring bands and two local bands per night. "We didn't know what was actually going to happen," said a humble Alpert, "but a lot of people are involved in a good thing."

Indeed. My one fear, echoed by others who have survived the summer in SC, is that the lineup of bands might have misled the wave of incoming freshmen who filled out the ranks, creating the illusion of a teeming, vibrant scene. Then again, as local promoter and musician Mag put it on the eve of leaving SC permanently in the dust, "This year looks like it could be really cool," adding, with a shrug of her shoulders, "until the summer comes."

Cool it was. While the hip-gyrating Bowie-boy antics of the Peechees aren't really my thing, they pulled it off by dropping self-consciousness and, um, enveloping the act, much like the singer enveloped the mike-stand between his thighs. Karp was deliciously metal but managed not to imitate anyone too closely with a set of a few long songs that morphed from the semi-quick shrieky to heavy and repetitive, somehow managing to be infused with '80s glam in an entirely inoffensive way. Winger, my friends, never sounded so good. Trust me.

Night number two at the 320A House was also a blast, with bands ranging from the defiantly wimpy to the fiercely unintelligible, and a few surprises filling in the cracks. Makara paved the road for the evening's hardcore sensibilities with a loud screamy set. Barrettes and glasses went flying when the lost member of Jenny Piccolo appeared and that band embarked on a speed-of-light adventure.

The third day, back at the hall, was the final exhausted completion, ending with Duradelinquent, of a successful festival. Eleanor Harwood, who filmed the whole deal, expects to put out a video someday, and the promoters may attempt to repeat the frenzy. Even if they don't, "People have enjoyed it," says Alpert, "and that's what's cool."

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From the Oct. 2-8, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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