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Banger Brothers: The Huxtables play the Teen Center Oct. 19 as part of the Big Bang Lo-Fi Indie Music Festival.

All Bang, No Whimper

A real-life School of Rock and shows all over town are the way of the Big Bang Festival

By Mike Connor

Sometimes the Man is such a tricky dude. Look at him go with MTV, his most elaborate and insidious corporate attempt to co-opt the very spirit of rebelliousness that would undo him. See thuggish gangsta rappers tamed by the bling bling, and sniveling "new school" punk bands getting paid for showing off their tattoos and leather bracelets.

But live music lives on, and with 10 consecutive nights of the finest in local lo-fi indie rock in store, stickin' it to the Man has never been easier. Who your particular Man is doesn't even matter, because the Big Bang is a celebration of independent music, embodying the DIY punk-rock spirit of anyone who's ever played the music they hear in their heads instead of the crap that's played on MTV.

Once again, Sir Ukulele Extraordinaire Oliver Brown and friends have put together a fine lineup of mostly local bands, which Brown attributes to a recent surge in local music.

"We've got a plethora of bands in Santa Cruz," says Brown. "This particular scene goes up and down, where some years it seems like it's almost dead and will never revive, and then new kids appear from UCSC, Cabrillo, and then--kapow--there's a bunch of new bands around."

The shows will be scattered throughout town at Cayuga Vault, the Ugly Mug, the Drop-In Center, UCSC and houses all over town. The Saturn Cafe won't be hosting any shows due to legal hassles with the long arm of the law, but the show will go on next door. Probably the most adorable partnership this year is the Big Bang's collaboration with the Teen Center, which is actually offering a class called Be in Your Own Band every Monday night.

It's not entirely different from the premise of Jack Black's new movie School of Rock, in which Black pretends to be a substitute teacher who instructs his students on the fine art of rocking out. Playing the role of Jack Black at the Teen Center is local musician/teacher Robin Maycomber, who's been teaching guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, vocals and recording techniques for the past seven years.

He himself hasn't actually seen the movie, but what does that matter when he's living it? Black teaches his students every aspect of putting together a band, from technical skills to stage presence to lighting and security, along with a healthy dose of rock & roll history. So far, Maycomber's goals are a bit more modest, focusing on simple chord progressions, counting time and moving from one progression to another, as well as practical aspects like booking and setting up shows.

With the help of two teenage TAs--Nat on the guitar and Josie on the bass--Maycomber has put together a list of over 100 songs' worth of tabs, music and lyrics, encompassing everything from Black Sabbath to AFI.

"We do quite a variety of rock," says 16-year-old Nat. "We've always done 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' by Nirvana and 'Purple Haze' by Jimi Hendrix. We do Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall,' and a lot of Black Sabbath. We do some Led Zeppelin, Sublime and Steppenwolf stuff. It's a lot of fun, I met a lot of people and made friends with a lot of them, we figure out songs and try playing them."

Students then sign up for the songs they want to do and work on them together, eventually performing them onstage for an audience at the Teen Center. And with sponsorships from stores like DJ Life, the teens get to go all-out with lights and smoke machines at their shows.

"The kids are taking it upon themselves," says Maycomber. "They dye their hair before the show and wear their most rockin' clothes."

The class is designed for teens with their own instruments and a basic understanding of tuning and technique, but beginners are more than welcome to give it a go. It costs $40 for eight weeks of two-hour classes, with scholarships readily available.

"Someday I hope to be able to have my own nonprofit facility, full time, every day of the week," says Maycomber. "The more the class expands, the more we might be able to say this is, at least in part, a production class, so we can include people who are interested in putting on shows and live costuming. I would like nothing more than to have a whole team of kids working on all aspects of showmanship. I dream about that, and as we move forward, hopefully it will just snowball."

Maycomber may well be cultivating the next glut of local bands, which means that if everything goes according to plan, the Big Bang may soon grow bigger than ever. But in the meantime, here's a partial lineup for this year's shows. For a complete schedule and more detailed information about the festival, visit www.kingturtle.com/bigbang/.

Oct. 17: Oliver Brown, Boxcar Saints and Noise Clinic at Cayuga Vault, 1100 Soquel Ave., $3, 8pm.
Oct. 18: Whysp, Entrance and Six Organs of Admittance at 418 Project, 418 Front St., $3, 8pm.
Oct. 19: The Huxtables, Depth Charge Revolt, Dan Potthost Trio at the Teen Center, 125 Laurel St., $3, 8pm.
Oct. 22: Sweat It Out, Sad Monsters, Cult of Comfort at the Ugly Mug, 4640 Soquel Dr., $3, 8pm.
Oct. 25: Loyal Sons and Daughters, Red Pony Clock at 418 Project, 418 Front St., $3, 8pm.
Oct. 25: Diamond Star Halos, Grief Counsel at Drop-In Center, 412 Front St., $3, 6pm.

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From the October 15-22, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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