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Camp for Punk

[whitespace] The Huxtables show the way for NorCal pop-punk scene at 'summer camp'

By David Espinoza

AFTER ALL the '80s New Wave tunes have been ska-ed out and the Green Day offshoots have gotten ill from playing the same three chords, what will become of the NorCal pop-punk scene? If last Thursday's all-acoustic punk-rock "summer camp" show at the Santa Cruz Actors' Theatre is any hint of what's to come, we might be in for a pleasant surprise. Featuring both SC and San Ho bands as well as a few surprise guests thrown in for good measure, the "summer camp" was in many ways a sign that the pop-punk scene is maturing.

Headlining the show were Santa Cruz favorites the Huxtables, a side project of Slow Gherkin with a lead singer as swanky as John Travolta and animated as Pee-wee Herman. Dressed in plain dark shirts and performing in front of a black curtain, the Hux's show seemed fit for an MTV unplugged special, though much more Bohemian, thanks to lead singer Colt Hangen's facial expressions. Considering that the words "punk" and "acoustic" usually don't go together, the Hux pulled the "unplugged" theme off really well. Their success had a lot to do with the quintet's ability to harmonize, offsetting any power-chord ugliness. The highlight of the night came when drummer James, playing a mini "cocktail" kit set, led the group in a catchy Violent Femmes-style song that had folks bobbing their heads in approval.

Between sets, Michael Park, a.k.a. ex-Skankin' Pickle singer Bruce Lee and founder of Asian Man Records, got onstage and played an inspiring set of tunes that included old material like "I'm in Love With a Girl Named Spike." Though not the most proficient guitar player, Park has always been a great performer, and Thursday was no exception. As Park strummed away, belting out songs about Degrassi Junior High School and the more serious matter of racism toward Asians, you just knew the man has plenty of fuel for many more years of music.

Speaking of Asian Man Records, the San Jose-based label recently started a nonprofit organization called the Plea for Peace Foundation, which aims to end racism. The foundation will work to set up youth programs in conjunction with the Anti-Racist Action (ARA) group as well as host benefit shows from time to time. "The foundation has the potential to do a lot of things," Miya Osaki of Asian Man Records says. After last year's Ska Against Racism tour, the folks at Asian Man Records really wanted to get active again, Osaki explains. "People need to be really conscious of racism in our society," Osaki adds. "Unless you're forced to look at it, you won't." Asian Man Records is also working on putting out material by a Japanese pop-punk band called Softball and Chicago's Lawrence Arms.

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From the July 15-21, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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