[MetroActive Music]

[ Music Index | Metro Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

Notes From the Underground
By Arwen Curry

A Minor Threat:
Local alterna-rock hits yuppies at Rosie's

AFTER MUCH COAXING by the band's promoter, I was finally convinced to delve into the eerie bedchambers of local "alternative" rock at Bellah's performance at Rosie McCann's on Saturday. For better or worse, the atmosphere speaks for a band and to it--it was nearly impossible to distinguish the identity of the four-piece from the tipsy, glossy crowd that watched in eager distraction from its games of cockeyed darts.

With a few catchy tunes, like "Deep Blue Sea," that could have conceivably been participants in an early '80s top-of-the-charts radio explosion, Bellah is more precisely a new wave band than "alternative" as touted on the sign outside. The slick and upbeat melodies were rocked through with psychedelic guitar rolls, especially noticeable in the long instrumental intro preceding its set, in what was undeniably intended to catch wavering drunk attention.

Energy and finesse were present throughout but so self-consciously that every time the lead singer threw back from the mic and swung his mute guitar from side to side across his chest, I wondered if the dimensions of the band's practice space were broad enough to practice all the moves and "good evening, ladies and gentlemen"s while perfecting the sound.

The suaveness of the performance was certainly effective--the audience was grateful for the live music but as passive as it might be before an MTV video, sipping on pint glasses and finishing conversations over dinner while the last plates were cleared away.

The sudden flash of pity I felt for the band--playing for 100 smiling, seated patrons--evaporated when I realized this was the desired performance. With no distractions, the entire set could be played out as planned--audience participation was extraneous at best, and the swaying, intoxicated jig of four or five dolled-up yuppies was not only appropriate but easily ignored.

My strong impression of the isolated appeal of a band brought to mind a concern recently voiced to me by a local underground musician and promoter. He observed with some frustration that despite the wealth of talent and diversity in town, we had the strong tendency to support or disregard bands--even venues--for personal reasons. This big soap opera reeks of scenesteritis at times, it's true, and even well-meaning folks fall under its spell.

Straight-edge bands and the kids who dote on them keep their distance from punk and indie shows, and vice versa. Entire crowds of kids avoid particular shows for reasons that unfortunately have little to do with the music and, in fact, strip it of its supposed power to communicate.

While I had no feeling Saturday that anyone was sincerely trying to communicate anything, I did observe that I was in a somewhat forbidden zone, that with a few exceptions it would not attract those interested in music for its own sake, and not as background entertainment. For dinner music, the rocking equivalent to toned-down jazz is, I suppose, a product of the '90s and perfect for the establishment. In the meantime, plenty of truly underground bands will continue to work out their differences.


On Friday, Good Riddance plays at Streetlight Records (7pm, free). Next Wednesday, Modest Mouse, Red Stars Theory and Nuzzle play at the Actors' Theatre (7pm, $4, all ages).

[ Metro Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

From the Sept. 10-17, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.