OC Music Awards at Slidebar Last Night

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Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
BLOK
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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.
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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.

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Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

Sederra
: 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.

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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.

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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.

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Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly

BLOK
: 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.

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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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11 comments
Fourthinline
Fourthinline

All the bands that played the other night were awesome!!! It doesn't matter what the style of music that they were playing, all that really matters is that each band was killer live. I went to each one of these OCMA's live band showcases and this was by far the best line up of bands. Each band was unique in their own way of expressing their music live!!! They all deserve respect for what they do. I think all of us should be thankful that we have so many amazing and diverse bands in OC that we can go out and see or support.

Here's my review on the night. I have never heard of Echo Echo before and they were great!!! Their songs were well written and they reminded me of Coldplay and Jets to Brazil. I was expecting Stereofix to go on and I was really looking forward to seeing them play again but Sederra filled in for them. Their set was intense and cough me by surprise. They reminded me of Foo Fighters meets Rise Against on PCP. I was not expecting to see a band lighting their drums on fire and a singer swinging from the lighting rafters at the Slidebar. They def play with Passion. Friction Reform was awesome!!! They remind me of all the punk bands that I used to listen to when I skated as a teenager. I loved watching their drummer rock out and the singer is super hot. By they way their singer is a girl. We Are the Arsenal was really good. The crowd was totally into them, their songs were catchy and they had TV's on the stage!!! BLOCK was a lot of fun as usual and they are a very intense "Group" live. I read the other comments on here about, "how they don't play instruments live" and I can understand that but they are still awesome live. I have been to a lot of hip hop shows with my chick and I have never seen any hip hop group do anything on stage that was intense. Most of the time its just five guys kicking out rhymes and throwing their hands in the air.

Marc
Marc

Obviously "Pyro" is a member of, is a friend of, or works with Block. They are not creating original or amazing "music" by any means. None of the bands sounded anything even close to pop-punk with the exception of We are the Aresenal and even that is a stretch. Anyone reading this review or comments can look up any of these artists in 5 seconds and hear their music and decide for themselves.

Lyn
Lyn

I just read your recent review from the Showcase #7. I am very disappointed by your insensitive remark regarding Stereofix. I don't understand the purpose of slandering their name and bringing up a past review. I don't get how that reference has any relevance to this current event. I respect Stereofix's talent and admire the hard work from this local OC band. Again, not only was I highly disappointed in your off-mark unnecessary comment, I was personally looking forward to watching them perform. I really hope that they are chosen to perform at the OC Music Awards, because if you are a music fan you need to be able to see this band perform live.

Angel
Angel

How could a group of 3 gyrating around on stage like they are having a seizure, playing no instruments get selected to compete for best live band???

Jason
Jason

BLOK can jump around and dance on stage because they don't play instruments! Credit should be given to bands who actually play and perform live. Blok has a laptop with prerecorded music, which is fine but they shouldn't be in the same catagory as artists who are creating their backing music live with real instruments.

Justone
Justone

Eric bootow is a homo

Kelly
Kelly

All the artists that performed were good but BLOK and Sederra definitely stood out as the best performers of the night.

Pyro
Pyro

BLOK dominated the other, completely derivative pop-punk acts. Go BLOK!

Pyro
Pyro

I'm not associated with BLOK, just a huge fan. And I'm only replying because I think it's lame to deride all of BLOK's efforts just because they don't fit within the established "legitimate" live music genres. The fact that they put on such an awesome live show with only 3 MC's and a backing track isn't a flaw but rather a testament to their abilities as performers.

Booberry4321
Booberry4321

I agree. I'm way more impressed by a band's ability to play music than by their ability to run around and talk really fast. Nothing wrong with Blok, I personally just wasn't that entertained.

Pyro
Pyro

You two might have a point if the other bands were playing anything remarkably interesting, but all were pretty much just rehashed versions of various pop-punk bands. None of them were doing anything extraordinary musically.

Yeah, BLOK don't play any instruments, but they're a hip hop group so you can only fault them so much for that. Vocally, what they're doing still takes talent, practice, and precision. Plus, musically and lyrically they're ridiculously innovative. I know this is strictly a "live performance" category, but even an energetic frontman can't save horribly derivative music from resulting in a boring performance. And that's what BLOK do better than most OC bands, regardless of genre--they actually put on a SHOW that's interesting to watch. They're also extremely charismatic individuals and from the minute they start they're exuding energy and charm 100%.

If being a hip hop band magically gave bands the ability to give a better performance, you'd probably see a few more hip hop bands performing at the OCMA's. BLOK deserve respect for being remarkable artists in a sea of unremarkable "legitimate" bands.

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