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[whitespace] Mea Culpa, Battling Bands

Catching up on what went down at last week's finale

By David Espinoza

IT IS TIME to repent. Last week's Battle of the Bands story was a load of sloppy and unprofessional hogwash. The accusations regarding Ribsy's Nickel engaging in voter fraud were baseless and bore no relation whatsoever to election weirdness in Florida at the hands of GOP cyborg operatives. Ribsy's Nickel did win the Vamp Magazine and KMBY-sponsored three-month-running Battle of the Bands finale fair and square, collecting more than $4,000 in cash prizes. Furthermore, Vamp and KMBY deserve full props for giving a year's worth of fuel to the local scene. The Battle of the Bands contest has been one of the best things to happen for local crews since Bad Monkey Records released Santa Cruz Sucks. My deepest apologies to KMBY, Vamp and especially Ribsy's Nickel. The rest of my year will be spent doing 20 Hail Marys a day and self-inflicted back-thrashings with a cat-o'-nine-tails.

High on Hi-Fi

Indie rock & roll must be getting old--either that or Jets to Brazil didn't want their fans to be too tired Monday morning--as the band wrapped up their Sunday set at the Catalyst a little bit past 10pm. Supported by a three-piece bass-drums-guitar ensemble, the stellar-voiced Blake Schwarzenbach clocked in at over an hour's worth of material from his two post-Jawbreaker albums, Four Cornered Night and Orange Rhyming Dictionary. One of the few diehard romantics of the indie scene, Schwarzenbach delivers high-fidelity power-pop ballads that are somewhat perplexing: they seem tailored for mainstream radio airplay, and yet Jets to Brazil doesn't receive any.

While most bands of such caliber and sound would have found a cozy spot on MTV, Schwarzenbach and crew seem content to ride their own waves. The latest material has Schwarzenbach playing more piano/keyboards, which tends to water down much of the sonic guitar assaults and rock-solid drumming. There are, of course, exceptions, like "One Summer Last Fall" and "Orange Rhyming Dictionary," which has enough distorted effects to make the keyboards actually sound more like guitar. Much of Jets to Brazil's appeal centers around Schwarzenbach's ability to fuse jaded omnipresent lyrics ("Be a believer, believe in everything, you'll be right half the time") with bright, poppy music a la late-'80s modern rock. The standard sex and drugs and rock & roll suspects don't fit Jets to Brazil's personality--they aren't dangerous or rowdy, just poetic.

Halfway through the set, Schwarzenbach, who spent a good deal of the night sitting down at his piano/organ facing the sound-system manager and not the audience, commented on the sporadic hoots and hollering, "I never realized liquor was such an ally to the traveling band." It's difficult to say whether Schwarzenbach really had the audience hanging on his every word though, as background conversations peppered the air during the moments when Schwarzenbach and crew methodically let the sound ring through.

Estradasphere Returneth

It hasn't even been a year since Santa Cruz's most devious delinquents of mutant music, Estradasphere, released their debut album, It's Understood, with the assistance of Mr. Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance and emotional support of the death-metal cheerleaders. Well, the boys are back in black with Buck Fever, May 12, at P-ville. It's always a guess what will happen at an Estradasphere show; whatever it is, bring it on. Lastly, a correction from last week's Joan Jett show: promoter Lois Petrozza's band is Hakken Kraks Howl (who will open for Joan), not Surfing With Satan--that's her promotions company.

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From the May 2-9, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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