Pump It Up!

Photo by Eric Mayfield

'Twas quite a weekend for small, little-publicized music fests—the kind you can't pay for at TicketBastard—what with the Cool Radio 94.3/Live Magazine-sponsored Summerfest at the underutilized Grove Theater Center in Garden Grove (which we wanted to attend but were ultimately frightened away from at the mere thought of having to endure another performance by ghastly Ashley Bee) and the always-welcome return of International Pop Overthrow's (IPO) OC/LB wing, which this year changed locales for both nighttime and daytime blowouts. We opted for the afternoon bill for two reasons: 1) we're always into seeing music that takes us out of dank, dark clubs, and 2) the fascinating prospect of witnessing anything musically relevant at all going on in Stanton. Poor Stanton! Along with Irvine, it has to be OC's most-dissed burg—and there we go, adding to its stack o' slurs.

But while we admit guffawing—loudly—over IPO mastermind David Bash's onstage pronouncement before the first band played a note (“Please give a huge Stanton welcome!”), we also must say we had a pretty good time during our five-hour Stanton stopover. Though we felt like bailing as soon as we noticed that Stanton Park is far more devoid of shade trees than Garden Grove's Eastgate Park (IPO's previous OC daylight site), we managed to find a canopied picnic table with a good sightline and made camp there (though somehow we still got sunburned—we'll go ahead and blame stray radiation from the high-tension wires that loomed ominously overhead).

When the music eventually hit, it was with Costa Mesa's Big Stick Friday, who adhered closely to pop's catchy, hooky, just-rough-enough tenets, coming up with a mixture that sounded something along the lines of Collective Soul fellating near-metal in between the frequent PA cutouts. Their closing cover of “867-5309 (Jenny),” however, served only to annoy our companion, who wound up humming the damn thing all day long. Such is the blessing/curse of pop, though.

Next was Australian Michael Carpenter, subbing for a Canadian band who couldn't make it down. Too bad for us because the dude was dull, with hackneyed lyrics about how love is like a river that rolls on and on and how the sun shines brighter on summer days, blah, blah, blah. He followed those with what he termed “slow, wussy love songs”—the kind of aural swill that makes people want to smash guitars over such “sensitive” singer/songwriters' skulls. Not pretty.

Then came Molly, a product of Jamie Knight's Loud Music Club at Fountain Valley High School. By day, Knight is the Fountain Valley High librarian; at night, he becomes the super-badass rock-star bassist of OC pop icons Sparkle*Jets UK, hence the connection. Though they're young, they weren't bad at all, with nice, jangly melodies; new-wavey keyboard farting; a girl backup singer who sweetly augmented the lead boy warbler's shaky, tentative vocals; and a sometimes ethereal, spooky tone that smelled of neither punk nor emo. For that alone, we applauded.

As for Buzzie—which was really just two guys, one of them being that Michael Carpenter again—it was more of the sleepy acoustic stuff, tunes that would've worked far better in full band arrangements (turns out that back home in Texas, Buzzie is a full band, but the main man, John McElhenney, couldn't bring them with). Better and far less catatonia-inducing were the Popdudes, a giddy, fun cover combo made up of a couple of Sparklejets, IPO administrative coordinator John Borack and OC pop buddha Walter Clevenger: they zipped through such choice nuggets as “Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio” and “Helter Skelter,” which turned the park's family-friendly environment suddenly Manson-family-friendly for a spell.

The band that followed, Las Vegas-based Tripsitter, started off great with an a cappella take on They Might Be Giants' “Kiss Me, Son of God” (which some in the crowd probably thought was a fabulous Christian spiritual), but though their high harmonies were impressive, they were a tad too '70s SoCal mellow for our tastes—like Gerry Rafferty circa “Right Down the Line.” Sorry, but we left our open-collared shirts, white-boy 'fros and coke-spoon pendants at home, thanks.

This Year's Model were, as you might guess, an Elvis Costello tribute band, but thankfully not so hokey that they all looked like Elvis. They scored even bigger points with us by doing a few obscure, lesser-known Elvis tunes—ones even we didn't know!—but were kind enough to make everyone happy with the inevitable rendition of “Pump It Up.” Happy, as long as the parents in the audience didn't have to explain to their kids what it was about. We could picture it already: “Mastur—uhhhh, bike tires, Billy! It's about the importance of proper inflation!”

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