Shot on Scene
La Mesa drummer Timm Newton has made it to the finals of Guitar Center's 20th annual “Drum Off” competition. Newton, along with five other finalists, beat out nearly 5,000 other drummers and will hit the skins to win a $45,000 prize package. The finals will take place on Saturday, Jan. 10, at L.A.'s Music Box @ Fonda theater. The finalists will be judged by a panel that includes Adrian Young (No Doubt), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters) and Danny Carey (Tool). Past winners have gone on to play with Prince, Sly & The Family Stone, Jay-Z and Mars Volta.
Local reggae DJ and production crew Dub Traffik Control and Habitat Sound are doing a special Friday night show at Kava Lounge to promote the release of their original dub album, Murder on Golden Hill.
January album releases include something from Rob Crow's dirge-metal project Goblin Cock and knotty rockers The Focus Group. Meanwhile, Christmas Island's anticipated full-length Blackout Summer is also due out early next year, as is Wavves' self-titled second album. Also keep an eye out for limited releases in all formats (yeah, including cassettes) by Spirit Photography, Blessure Grave and Jeans Wilder. —Seth Combs and Todd Kroviak
The Enrique Experience
Everyone has their own gauge of when they start to feel old. Mine is reminiscing about drunken nights at establishments that have since been replaced with supposedly safer and more upscale versions of their former selves. Leaving El Dorado (formerly the Hong Kong Nite Club) without an offer of a hand job, walking out of Soda Bar (formerly Chasers) and not witnessing some sort of race war, or not having to rush out of The Office (formerly Scolari's Office) without rushing to get a tetanus shot—just to give a few recent examples—always brings a tear to my eye. Such is also the case of the Radio Room (formerly the Zombie Lounge), located at 3519 El Cajon Blvd.
The smell of Aqua Net and Vanart shampoo (Mexico's answer to White Rain) lingers, thanks to the bar's primo location between the San Diego Beauty School and Tommy's Estetica Unisex. You can still feel the psychobilly angst dripping from the flat-black walls, adorned only with some patrons' pet portraits and an enameled baroque mirror.
Behind the nü-hipster façade, though, lies one of the town's best intimate live-music venues. Last Saturday's showcase featured Mod Amish, The Drowning Men and North County quintet The Burning of Rome, who, thanks to a high-power fan near the stage, struck Fabio romance-novel-style poses all night long. “I wish I could adopt all of you and have crazy incestuous sex,” vocalist Adam Traub said during the band's set, which featured the kind of songs that Danny Elfman would assemble as a soundtrack for the Technicolor birth of the spawn of Satan. At times, the music sounded like a zombie marching band, perhaps an homage to the bar's undead past.
Just when I was starting to not dwell on my dotage, one phrase from 23-year-old Traub brought me back down a peg: “This next song is very old,” he said, “dating back all the way to 2006.”—Enrique Limón
Reaching cult status?
The line of mostly Hot Topic-type goth kids wrapped around the corner of the block to get into last Friday night's screening of Repo! The Genetic Opera at The Ken Cinema. Thanks to the word-of-mouth prowess of the SoCal Repo Army, an unofficial street team, both the Friday and Saturday midnight screenings were nearly sold out—despite the film's reviews, which mostly range from bad to worse and often refer to the film's director, Darren Lynn Bousman (the guy behind Saw II through IV) as the worst horror director of modern times.
Another big draw of the night seemed to be San Diego's Tragic Tantrum Cabaret, a two-person theatrical music group that performed a quick set before the screening.
“Just look at these people,” said Kasey, a 21-year-old, clad-in-black kid who sat alone quietly in a side seat. “They're quite interesting. I've missed the last three shows, so I'm grateful I was able to make it here tonight. The movie's a plus, but mostly I'm here for the band. I've actually never even heard of the movie.”
Kasey's case is somewhat unique. The rest of the angsty youth in the theater that night had either seen the rock opera last month during its limited release or had heard about it from friends and were already fans—and not just normal fans, but hardcore-cult fans dressed as characters in the film. Sixteen-year-old Sabrina Blakely, dressed as Pavi Largo, one of the film's twisted villains, said she hadn't seen the film yet but was already convinced of its greatness.
“It's just awesome,” she said.
“Yeah,” agreed her friend, 17-year-old Julia Friedman, dressed as the film's protagonist, Shilo Wallace. “It's a modern Rocky Horror, and we all love Rocky Horror, too.”
After 98 minutes of campy gore and violence—which included a scene in which the face of Amber Sweet (played by Paris Hilton) literally falls off—and a stream of goth and industrial-rock compositions with ridiculously cheese-ball lyrics, co-writer and actor Terrance Zdunich and composer Darren Smith took to the front of the theater for a quick Q&A. It's something they've been doing at late-night screenings across the country in an attempt to garner followers and help their film.
“If a 21st-century rock opera with scalpel sluts isn't your thing,” Zdunich said, “blog about it. We need your help getting the word out, good or bad.”Will Repo! be the next Rocky Horror Picture Show? If the eyeliner- and fishnet-wearing youth have their way, maybe. But if the critics are right, Repo!'s popularity will be chipped away as quickly as the second coat of black nail polish on the fingers of its youthful fans.—Kinsee Morlan
Repo! The Genetic Opera is showing at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas through Dec. 18. Tragic Tantrum's next show is at Planet Rooth Gallery in North Park at 6:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20.
View from a Stool
Winter has always been a dead zone when it comes to national bands touring, and even more so now with the economy looking worse than The Casbah's men's room. So, two weekend shows with rockers Transfer and the vaudeville-inspired The Silent Comedy (each headlining separate nights at The Casbah) could have been seen as an attempt to get somebody, anybody, to come out to a local indie-rock show.
But when you're talking about San Diego's two most promising acts, it appears the hipsters and groupies will still come out. So, after a rather mediocre set from Tucson psychedelic act Holy Rolling Empire on Friday night, Transfer took the stage to a packed house and rocked scorchers like “Bring a Knife” and “You are the Wolf,” with Mike Cooper proving that he's one of the best drummers in town. The ladies went wild enough for me to look over to my companion and remark, “Apparently, The Beatles are playing.”
Then there's The Silent Comedy, in their vintage three-piece suits and beards galore. There's not a more energetic live band in the city, and bodies were in fill motion to favorites like “'49” and “Bones.” Despite some recent lineup changes, it's easy to see why labels and PR firms are courting them aggressively.
What separates these bands from the rest of a very talented scene, and what their sets clearly displayed, is that not only do they make infectious music, but they also have the drive, marketing skills and, well, the looks to make it big. Some might see them as posturing, but don't hate—congratulate. I only hope that if one gets the big break before the other, they remember how fun this night was and bring the other band on tour. —Seth Combs