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He Bangs: Real American idols New Thrill Parade bring their special brand of DIY madness to this year's Big Bang Festival.

Book Your Own Life

The Big Bang Festival once again blows up, showcasing the best in Santa Cruz underground music

By Peter Koht

"This year was easy in terms of venues," Oliver Brown says seconds before his phone starts to vibrate. In a moment of supreme irony, the phone call brings news that the space that was planning on hosting the first night of the 2005 Big Bang is pulling its support less than two weeks before opening night. Sadly, Cabrillo Lanes will not reverberate with the sounds of Happy Meal and El Sonido on Oct. 7.

Not allowing this minor setback to derail either the interview or his enthusiasm for the Big Bang, a 10-day-long independently organized festival of experimental, indie, lo-fi and punk music, Brown gets back to detailing the intricacies of promoting underground music in Santa Cruz.

"Punk music is a dirty word in the same way that jazz music was a dirty word in the '50s." Brown says. "Back then, jazz was associated with heroin, violence and drunks. Now punk is the new scare word."

Since Brown and fellow members of the Thirty Three and a Third Music Collective first came up with the idea of showcasing the Santa Cruz Underground Music (SCUM) scene by putting on a festival, the event has weathered tumultuous economic cycles, venue shortages and police interference. Last year, the event went dark because of a lack of space to play in. "You can start a band," Brown says, "but you have to play out. What happens when there is nowhere to play?"

Eschewing the still vibrant, though under siege, house show scene due to the complexities of publicly promoting a semilegal gathering in a private residence, this year's Big Bang is mostly being held at the 418 Project. Talking with management in June, Brown blocked off almost a week-and-a-half's worth of nights, thus ensuring that this fall, the Bang will in fact be Big.

This year, various local outfits, like the folk-infused and off-kilter pop ensemble Whysp, the "art is dead, long live art" madness of the New Thrill Parade and the "sacrifice the children upon the profane altar of the rock gods" Depth Charge Revolt are all stepping up to program their own installations of the Big Bang.

While the City Council is doing its best to make it hard to play live music both downtown (through a Byzantine permitting process) and in private residences (the draconian noise ordinance), hundreds of local musicians are still cobbling together riffs, scribbling down lyrics and presenting shows for anyone who wants to listen. Now as fall returns and school starts up again, it's their time to come up from the underground and take their place in the public eye.

2005 Big Bang Schedule
Oliver Brown, Residual Echoes Oct. 8; 418 Project; 8pm.
The Lost Boys, The Gales, Vancougar Oct. 9; 418 Project; 8pm.
Monsters Are Not Myths, Kids on the Couch, Hod Hulpher Oct. 10; Caffe Pergolesi; 8pm.
Depth Charge Revolt, The Formaldebrides, Sheena Oct. 12; 418 Project; 8pm.
Chiparus Oct. 13; Ugly Mug; 8pm.
The Finches, Whysp, Still Flyin' Oct. 14; 418 Project; 8pm.
New Thrill Parade Oct. 15; 418 Project; 8pm.
Spitzer, The Dying Californian, Dead Ghost Oct. 16; 418 Project: 8pm.

All tickets are $3 to $5, sliding scale. For more information, visit www.kingturtle.com/bigbang/bigbang2005.html.

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From the October 5-12, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

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