Despite a venue mix-up on my part, I still managed to arrive at Bar Deluxe about 45 minutes before the opening band went on. This gave me an opportunity to mull over the scenery and take in the atmosphere, which proved to be incredibly easy, as The joint was completely empty, so there was nothing terribly complex I needed to digest about the situation. Bar Deluxe’s tattered and torn aesthetic seemed to match perfectly with opening band Breakers’ distorted surf-punk sound. Mastering a sound check would be in their best interest, as it proved difficult to translate most of their songs, except when they were screaming—literally screaming. By the end of it, the performance was perhaps one of the longest sets I’ve heard from an opening band, because of a lack of crowd and time to kill. As Breakers’ set came to an end, the night started to turn. Members from all the bands were ordering drinks and meeting up with friends, and I suddenly felt like the odd man out at a punk-goes-country social mixer.
By the time The Safes got on stage, I had observed a flock of band roadies and a modest entourage enter Bar Deluxe. As a result, The Safes’ performance began as though coming from the perspective of a child placed in time out—they were more interested in finishing out a sentence in order to join the rest of their playmates than put on a show. The benefit of having incredibly contagious melody in a pop rock’n’roll band, however, is even the members can’t help but catch their own chorus. The O’Malley brothers can always be credited with being incredibly in sync with one another, and playing their melodies on point. By the third song, the energy of the band finally picked up, and the familiar spirit of summer and driving along the coast set in. Even with this pull back “into the moment,” so to speak, the night had taken on an air of obligation.
Matching The Safes’ lineage of rainbow-washed rock’n’roll with contemporary flair, The Soft White Sixties attempted to resurrect the night. The band has made a scene in the last year with their release of their album Get Right, which received a more formal launch in February. They’ve opened for The Hives, and due to the hype on full blast, I expected to be wowed by their performance. “City Lights” started their set and gave introduction to singer Octavio Generas’ affinity for the tambourine and imaginary trampolines. The Sixties’ undying love for showmanship and the stage allowed for some of the evening to be salvaged. Their strong suit for the evening was their natural simplicity—and being the only men alive capable of making denim, floral print and leather a cohesive fashion statement. Somewhere around “Don’t lie To Me,” it started to feel as though Generas was the only one playing for keeps. Granted, it was Drummer Joey Bustos’ birthday, and sometimes you just want to party.
Whether it was a lack of participation from the audience or the same mentality that briefly afflicted The Safes, there was an alarming disconnect between the crowd and the bands. Generas’ high energy, burn-through-the-set motivation, came across as less than enthusiastic, overly rushed and too brief of a stage presence. The music quality was spot on, but a lackluster vibe seemed to have settled far too early in the night.