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Notes From the Underground
By Arwen Curry

Still Psycho After All These Years:
Santa Cruz County's slicked-back psychobilly supporters reach out both at home and abroad

WHILE A LARGE AND MIXED-UP GROUP watched last Friday, warming its hands over a trash-can fire and playing endless rounds of table tennis, Buddies Riot played in a bandmember's back yard following a set by Slow Gherkin. In the audience, the local psychobilly contingent looked on, supporting the only band in town with a stand-up bass.

The tiny but dedicated troupe of local psychobilly kids has released its fourth issue, finally, of Welcome to the Nightmare, a little zine it's calling forth from the nether regions. The three editors, persisting through taunts about their funny hair and their eternal shame about regularly being mistaken for punk rockers, have attempted to support their scene locally to the extent it exists--unfortunately that existence isn't much, consisting of Buddies Riot, touring older rockabilly bands at Moe's Alley, and the occasional visit from Hayride to Hell from over the hill.

Psychobilly--the curious hybrid of swingy trailer rock & roll, stand-up bass, the amplified, aggressive tempo of punk, and pulp-horror flick imagery--has always enjoyed its greatest popularity in England and other parts of Western Europe. Sporadic, small support communities exist from Canada to Japan, where, according to an article in Welcome to the Nightmare, some of the most exciting new bands are rocking out. And it survives here, as well, though only--as the many letters and references in the zine attest--by virtue of exchanging music and ideas with the outside world.

The zine continues to expand its terrain and increase its quality. In this issue, the context of the scene finally overwhelms the personal madness of it, though "Squishy," "Bug Boy" and "Señor Bendeho" still fill the pages with enough Weekly World News clips to frighten off the overly sane. Order your copy for a buck from 535 Onion St., SC, 95060.

Come on Down

The loyal, persistent activity of a small, obscure scene should be something of an inspiration to others who are frustrated that their favorite music never makes it to the Vets Hall--or even to town. Someone, after all, has to actually invite bands to play before they come, and we don't have to look far beyond our stuck-up little noses to find a cache of good bands more than willing to play locally. At a hall in Campbell last Saturday, a varied lineup of underground bands--from the pop punk of Betty's Love Child to the epic metal-crust of Ringwurm--renewed hope in the diversity of bands in the area. Go check out a show over the hill--then invite your favorite band over for tea, crumpets and a chance to be noisy in your own back yard.


On Wednesday night, KZSC--88.1 FM will feature an interview with locals planning a music cooperative--check it out. On Sunday, Sharks Kill, Cherry Ice Cream Smile and Moralyson play in town (look for fliers, 7:30pm, $3).

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From the March 20-26, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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