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A Smashing Set

Smash Mouth
Jay Blakesberg

One-Hit Wonders: Smash Mouth.

Kamp KOME headliners Smash Mouth walk on the sun at Shoreline

By Todd S. Inoue

After thanking practically everyone on the KOME staff (as well they should; KOME is largely responsible for their phenomenal success), the members of Smash Mouth took off on a headlining set at Kamp KOME Saturday (Sept. 13) at Shoreline. The show was an attempt to demonstrate that the group is not a one-hit wonder.

Being at Kamp KOME had its positives and negatives. The prestige was unrivaled, but the task of winning over a horde of sun-burnt, hearing-impaired fans still reeling from a dust-kicking performance by the Violent Femmes was daunting.

The crowd was well baked but alert by the time Smash Mouth came on at 9:45pm. The amphitheater was still respectfully full. KOME did a slam-bang job of pacing the show, limiting each act to half and hour or less, ensuring Smash Mouth would receive an attentive hearing.

To its credit, Smash Mouth did a good job. If you only thought Smash Mouth was about cheesy '60s Farfisa organ and camp, this set proved otherwise. Guitarist Greg Camp is a solid, creative tunesmith that any other jealous band would welcome in a second. All the ska punks--(Buck-O-Nine, Dance Hall Crashers, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake)--that played the stages earlier in the day foreshadowed Smash Mouth's semisweet ska-tinged repertoire.

One thing I cannot stand about Smash Mouth is singer Steve Harwell. From his fake British accent on ska-punk songs such as "Flo" and "Nervous in the Alley" to his Popeye-like mush mouth on "Let's Rock," Smash Mouth could do much better with a singer with a slighter less inflated ego. Harwell played it "waaay" too cool, mugging for photographers, asking the crowd for middle fingers and shouting profanities. At least pretend you're honored to be on stage; you're not in the Cactus anymore.

Smash Mouth left its hulking single, "Walking on the Sun," for second to last, ending with a stumble through WAR's "Why Can't We Be Friends?" Inka Inka did it first and better, but that's a personal beef.

Lately, I've hear a lot of local bands crabbing about the way Smash Mouth got paid without paying dues--without having to release a record on its own or having to tour for months in front of crowds who don't care. The band didn't want to play that game. Smash Mouth learned that in the music business, you can either dance with the industry or play the wall. It chose to dance and dance it did to the tune of $1.8 million dollars. But how much of it is recoupable?

I give Smash Mouth two years to fulfill its promise before fans move on to the next thing, and the band is stranded without a hook, passing Shoreline on 101 asking, "Remember when?" Until then, as they say, "fuck it, let's rock."

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