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[whitespace] Noodles and Shoegazers

Soba gets a brand-new bassist and a musical makeover; Sin in Space gets ... well, spacey

By David Espinoza

POST-RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS funksters Soba up until the holiday season were gigging all over town--almost as often as the Dizzy Burnett Quartet or Sean Kennedy & the King Kats. But then the ex-Colorado kids disappeared. What happened? All blame can be laid at the feet of ex-bassist John "J.B." Barkowski--especially since he's now out of town--who got hitched and moved to Maryland over four months ago. Love, true love.

Everything happens for a reason, and J.B.'s departure has led Soba to hook up with Bobby Hanson--a stupendous player, says the band. ("He's so good, it's ridiculous," guitarist Mike McGuire adds.) The band has also added a fellow Colorado emigré named Andy Mont on the turntables, rounding off the Soba roster at six members.

The new and improved Soba debuted to a packed house at the Aptos Club last month but has decided to lay low to work out the new sound. "People have been calling us and trying to book shows, but we want to write more first," McGuire says. Soba has gone into the studio at Oakland's House of Faith with "recording guy" Bart Thurber (who doesn't like the title "engineer") for a five-song EP due out in a few months. The tracks are all new material and even include some hip-hop rhyming from a guest MC. When might locals get to hear the new Soba live? Who knows.

"When we start hitting it again," says McGuire, "we're going to try to come out with a boom."

Sole-ful Sinners

Speaking of locals, indie rockers Sin in Space seem to be enjoying the "out of the garage" phase of band life. Just in the last few months, the quartet has hit practically every venue around town, and the band's wasted no time advancing to the next level with T-shirts and stickers clearly available at gigs. This is obviously a sign that the Sinners have some idea of where they want to go with their music, and a little self-marketing always helps.

On Feb. 27, Sin in Space played to a sparse crowd at the SC Vets Hall with other up-and-coming local crews like Robotgod and 40 Acres. Looking slightly more awake than their audience, Sin in Space opened the set with an a cappella rendition of the Mr. Ed theme, and as the lead singer gazed off into nothingness, I was reminded of something Rob Zombie once said about finding shoegazer bands dull since they seldom move from one spot on stage.

The way I figure it, Zombie misses the point. Bands like Sin in Space are symbolic of the rejection of showy rockstardom. It's an idea that goes back to the late '60s with the Velvet Underground but that really took off during the '80s when there was a common enemy named David Lee Roth as a reference point. Credit for perfecting the shoegazer style should really go to those ever-melancholy Brits, who have always been masters of saving face. We gave them rock & roll, they gave us Morrissey.

As for Sin in Space, the band's Pavement-esque blend of simple but yelping vocals with catchy guitar leads over octaves of dissonance is without question going to make them popular among the college crowd. This town could definitely use more bands like them.

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From the March 1-8, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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