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[whitespace] Destroy Rock

Hate Mail Express took rock back to the drawing board at Big Bang show

By David Espinoza

EARLIER THIS YEAR, Rolling Stone published an article about how Radiohead had to destroy rock music in order to save it--bullshit. Replacing guitars and drums with synths and samplers was done more than 10 years ago by a band named New Order. You wanna hear rock & roll destroyed for the sake of being destroyed (and perhaps to save it from further corporate commodification as well), then be sure to catch local trailer-trash debutants Hate Mail Express live.

Playing Saturday (Sept. 29) on the third date of the second-annual 11-night Big Bang Festival, Hate Mail Express, along with Sin in Space (sitting in for the Troublemakers), the Rock & Roll Adventure Kids and the Pattern, sent rock music back to the drawing board. Before going any further, it should be understood that Hate Mail Express' loose interpretation of vintage rock & roll is like sushi--it is only good fresh, i.e., in concert, up close and personal (preferably at eye level), is the only way to enjoy the group.

Offering sentiments that might fit a 1960s rockumentary, lead vocalist Aleks Prectl proselytized, "Rock & roll is the soundtrack of the revolution," before charging into a set of raw, indecipherable Jon Spencer- and Bo Diddley-styled tunes. Half of the show centered around the band's onstage panache, from Prectl's exaggerated E. Presley pelvis thrusts to bassist Jeff Manson's reading of Yoko Ono between songs (which was appropriately met with "Yoko Ono killed the Beatles!" responses from the audience). To my knowledge, Hate Mail Express is the only band in town that attempts the behind-the-back guitar solo--sure it produces very few coherent notes that way, but hey, we can't all be Jimi.

Headliners the Pattern must have sent a tremor through the hearts of the original members of the Young Rascals, as the quintet resurrected the spirit of the mid-1960s. Composed of former members of St. James Infirmary and the Peechees, the Pattern was no amateur outfit--that was clear from the get-go.

Backed by an ensemble of polished mod-styled musicians, lead vox-man Christopher (complete with a faux-Brit accent) sauntered about like an effeminate Mick Jagger, shaking his hips, grabbing his crotch and gyrating up close to his band mates. While it was nice to witness androgynous rock & roll without the big hair (no offense to Hedwig and the Angry Inch), the Pattern clearly has its limitations in sound. At its best, the band serves as a lightning rod for energizing crowds--the Stone Roses with balls, if you will. At their worst, the band is a modern-day rip-off of the Who and the Young Rascals--yes, very punk in volume, but a rip-off none the less.

By the time you read this, the Big Bang Festival will be halfway over, but there are still many shows to crash: On Thursday (Oct. 4), Depth Charge Revolt, the Keystone Eyes (inspired by the cheap alcoholic beverage so many college frosh are familiar with) and the Carnivores play the 418 Project; Federation X, Comets on Fire and Drunkhorse hit Cafe Pergolesi Friday (pick of the week); and the Lowdown, Numbers and Pink & Brown are back at the 418 Project on Saturday.

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From the October 3-10, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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