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The Lost Cosby Kids: From left to right: Matty, Howie, Colty (note belt buckle) and Guy Huxtable

A Mighty Hux

They are the Huxtables, and you can't fuxtables with them

By Steve Palopoli

COLTY HUXTABLE is discovering that rock & roll is a hard life. You'd think he would have gotten the word by now, considering every band and their brother's band seems to have a song about it. But not Colty's band, not the Huxtables. Not yet. But something tells me they soon will.

The problems began when the Huxtables, a group that reigned for years in the late '90s as the most clever and most fun rock band in Santa Cruz, began planning for a comeback. Long hampered by the fact that three of their members were also part of the top-seeded Santa Cruz band Slow Gherkin, they suddenly found themselves out of its towering shadow when Gherkin called it quits last year. Now they are ready to rage on the stage with a show at the Gaslighter on Friday.

But then, bam! Problem No. 1: Turns out a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons has thrown into limbo one of the band's signature songs, "Dungeon Master," and its in-joke lines, "My life in the fast lane, it rolled right past her / My baby could not hang with me, dungeon master / She tried to be the one to break up faster / But my heart was protected by a low armor class, yeah!"

"Now we have to change it," says Colty, "because in the new edition, armor classes are high. So a high armor class is good, and a low armor class is bad. So it's like, do we have to change the lyrics?"

Ah, the pitfalls of geek rock. While most of us who know anything about nerd culture crack up at the very fact that they were able to get that line in there in the first place, some Huxtables fans actually care whether the reference to D&D armor classes is technically correct.

OK, but what about this one? Colty and the other Huxtables--bassist Howie, guitarist Matty and the new drummer Guy--are working up a bunch of new songs. Howie works up most of the music, and Colty writes most of the lyrics, with Matty contributing some of both. But Colty's got another problem.

"It is a challenge to not write songs about girls," he says. This from the man who wrote possibly the best rock song ever about Star Wars, "Han Solo," which features lines like "Leia's his love, and he loves her a lot / 'Cause she's cute, and she is friends with all of the ewoks." Other Huxtables songs are about falling in love with a postal person ("Mail Lady") and spending Saturday nights playing video games at the donut shop ("Loser's Night Out"), as well as a new song about kleptomania. In fact, the only relatively straight love song is about an older guy rejoicing that the cute girl he just met isn't jail bait, but is in fact "Twenty."

"'Twenty' was intentionally written to be the crappiest pop lyrics," says Howie, "but we wanted it to be clever somehow so it'd be more interesting."

"Even the motivations behind that songs were pretty cliché," adds Colty, "because I had this completely puppy dog crush where you just say all the cheesiest things. But in a weird way that song came so easy. I told [Howie], 'I want to write a song for this girl, help me out,' and I think almost all the lyrics were done that afternoon. We recorded it, and I gave it to her on a tape, and I ran away. I ran out of the store, I was so scared."

Howie's having his share of rock & roll quandaries, too, writing songs that fit into the upbeat vibe of a band whose theme song asserts, "We are the Huxtables, and you can't fuxtables with us--no way!"

"The hardest thing now is to write songs that are not too heavy," says Howie. "It needs to fit with the music, it needs to be fun, but you can only scrape the dirt for so long before it's like, 'OK, you've got to have a little something in there.' So usually what we end up doing with the lyrics is having something that comes across as real light and poppy, and then try to get a little darkness into it or little twists."

That combination of high-energy vibe and quirky smarts is why it's not unusual to see audiences throw themselves completely into a Huxtables show. Maybe it's just that even if you don't think yourself to be much like the Huxtables, you can't help rooting for them.

The Huxtables perform Friday night (June 20) at the Gaslighter Theater, 400 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell. Tickets are $8 and open to all ages. (408.866.1408)

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From the June 19-25, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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