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[whitespace] Going Out With A Real Big Bang

So many bands, so many days--the Big Bang Festival definitely didn't go out with a whimper

By David Espinoza

IT'S FINALLY OVER. With a total of 39 bands performing in the span of 11 days, Santa Cruz may now be the unofficial home to the longest-running music festival in the world. Did anyone not affiliated with the Big Bang showcase go to all 11 shows? Probably not. Were there moments of pure musical bliss? You bet. Did it mark a revival in the low-fi indie fluff scene? Yes and no. It's always been there--the bands are just getting more exposure these days.

The last night of the Big Bang ended Sunday (Oct. 8) at the Rio Theater, where new local ownership is reshaping the place to house more cultural events. Thankfully no longer a tax write-off for some heartless theater corporation that couldn't give a crap about man-eating roaches and rats, the new Rio is going to be a blessing to Santa Cruz's artist community. The place still needs a lot of work, but there's an incredible amount of potential here. The new stage now extends 10 feet, and nothing beats the Rio's classic one-person box office.

Opening Sunday's show was local barbershop quartet the LaDeeDahas, who made me want to grow my mustache out an extra two inches just so I could wax the sucker into matching curls. Besides being the only four guys in the room who could pass for responsible adults, the LaDeeDahas gave a brief lecture on the history of barbershop quartet music--how it was for out-of-work barbers who would threaten pedestrians with razor blades if they didn't listen to them sing--or something like that.

Replacing Tracy and the Plastics, who couldn't make it due to their car breaking down, was trio-sometimes-foursome Bunkbed. Just as the name implies, Bunkbed can summon the sandman with droning indie-pop acoustic guitars, a single snare drum and ride cymbal, Moog and sometimes bass. Thanks to the Rio's vastness, the 50 or so people (who spread out) made the event feel more like an after-school audition, with polite applause after each song and then utter silence.

Of course, if the concert really had been a talent show, the Lowdown would have been kicked offstage for weirding out the drama teacher. The secret to understanding Santa Cruz's most sinister challenge to high art is that there is nothing to understand. Only Japanese bands like the Ruins or Melt Banana come remotely close to matching the Lowdown's unilateral noise-making. Watching gorilla-suited (with a big Valentine's Day heart on his chest) Hugh Holden put down his guitar, walk to the edge of the stage and dance like a karate student in slow motion, one has to wonder if the members of Lowdown are actually extraterrestrials trying to explain their theories on fruit, government and paper clips. One of these days, someone should pit these no-brow boys against the highest of highbrowsters, Estradasphere, and see who's left standing.

Gratuitous Self-Plug

The Jury Room will host modern rockers Penny Harlot this Friday (Oct. 13). Rumored to feature a Metro Santa Cruz writer, the local quartet finds solace in chorus-laced guitar sounds of the late '80s (think Peter Murphy or the Cult). This being the band's third gig, Penny Harlot hopes to gain a total of four and a half fans, perhaps with Colombian drug-cartel connections, because the band says it needs "Da hookups." When asked why the name Penny Harlot they answered, "Because One-Cent Whore was taken."

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From the October 11-18, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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