OC Music Awards at Slidebar Last Night

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
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The unifying theme of last night's Orange County Music Awards showcase was high-energy performance. And for the most part, every band that played demonstrated at least a minimal level of competency, which was lacking in previous showcases. There were a couple of surprises, as well, not the least of which included a performance by avant-rap band BLOK, but more on that later. Here's the breakdown.
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

Echo Echo:
 Though this band, with its adult-contemporary rock vibe, skew a little Coldplay or perhaps U2, the heavy distortion and occasional yelp of singer Steve Carson give the group some teeth--and therefore a little more bite than your average college rock band. Perhaps the tightest performance of the night, the Echo Echo front man's deep-set eyes ringed by dark circles lent his a face a brooding demeanor. Edgy.

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

: If you agree with former Weekly staffer Spencer Kornhaber in the review he wrote of Stereofix's performance last April, then you're thankful they weren't able to play last night's gig (reportedly due to laryngitis). So it was punk band Sederra to the rescue. (Personal bias: I have known bassist Eric Bootow for several years--mostly as my friendly, mild-mannered bank teller.) Singer Tom Schmidt and guitarist Mike Doherty were also founding members of 1990s punk act Longfellow, which was one of the premier Orange County bands, a group I enjoyed watching many times in my youth. They put on a hell of a show back then--and despite being at it for nearly two decades, they're as spry and lively as ever. 

Once onstage, Bootow ditches the mild-mannered schtick in favor of bass-rattling mayhem, tearing back and forth across the stage. In between impassioned howls and maniacal audience interaction, Schmidt found time to hang from the Slidebar stage's rafters. One thing's for sure: They are passionate.

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

Fiction Reform
: Here we have another punk-rock act tearing through a high-energy set. But unlike Sederra, this band skew more toward the gutter--in a good way. Diminutive singer  Brenna Red belted out the jams with a crusty-ass growl that would put Courtney Love to shame. Watching Red angrily glare, strum and raise her fist to the rafters gave me the feeling anyone bringing a gun to a knife fight with her would be woefully outclassed.

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

We Are the Arsenal: 
The last punk act of the night. Unlike the two bands before them, Arsenal rock a sugary-sweet pop-punk sound. This, of course, wasn't lost on the girls crowded around the front of the stage, singing along word for word. The reaction was positive, but these guys weren't for me. Singer Ryan Terringo's voice sounded too loud in the mix (quite a feat when accompanied by half-stacks), and his between-song banter was so exuberant as to be annoying--reminiscent of a Bally's excercise instructor or a motivational speaker. No doubt they get a warm response when they play Chain Reaction.

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

: For weeks, people in the newsroom have been talking about this trio's live performance. Who would have guessed that three white siblings from Orange County busting rhymes and mashing up Fionna Apple songs would make any sense? Don't answer that. I'm not sure this band is meant to make sense. 

Featuring computer-modulated dance beats, raps delivered at a machine-gun clip and dance moves straight out of a grand-mal research center, these guys are avant garde to say the least. Their performance was bizarre, silly, at times shrill, and utterly compelling. 

Lone female band member Gianna Gianna, clad in some sort of ice-skating leotard, her untamable blond mane adorned with roses, moved across the stage with the grace of a malfunctioning fembot. Meanwhile, front man Damien delivered rhymes in a cadence recalling 1990s hip-hop act Fu Shnickens. Don't count out brother Jesse St. John, who is as limber as the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz and blessed with the muscular control of a New York street mime.

While watching them, I couldn't help but wonder what bizarre, grand artistic concepts they're capable of, should they begin to hit their stride. Is there a full-sized gospel chorus in their future? Time will tell.

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

The Crowd:
 Lots of media and photographers. Pretty girls with $2 cups of Budweiser and their faux-leather-jacket-wearing boyfriends. Several performers from previous OCMA shows were in attendance, including members of Honeypie, I Hate You Just Kidding and Billy Kernkamp.

Random Notebook Dump: The Slidebar was serving 50-cent pork and chicken tacos. They were fucking delicious.

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