The Bellrays With Supersuckers And The Bombpops At The Wayfarer, Wednesday December 20th 2017
The Wayfarer used to be called the Detroit bar, but when the old place closed in 2015, the Wayfarer was born, with a new owner determined to continue the tradition of live music in Costa Mesa. I revisited the place last night more than a decade after my last visit – I remember seeing Elliott Smith there in 2003, whereas famous acts like Stereolab, Modest Mouse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Raveonettes, Cold War Kids, Foster the People and Young the Giant also played at the venues decades ago.
Three bands were playing on Wednesday night, in front of a typical Orange County crowd, middle-age men moshing their hearts out during the most raucous moments of the Bombpops, the Bellrays and Supersuckers! OC is the birthplace of hardcore and it’s not a joke.
The Bombpops were a very melodic punk band, fronted by two women blasting their vocal harmonies over powerchords inspired by Bad Religion, the Descendents and other Cali skatepunk favorites… I could even say they had a few Titus Andronicus-like riffs in their blend of 90s punk rock, but overall they were very poppy and a lot of fun, all legs apart and lip curl attitude. Their mistake – if I can say that – was to bring their 4 year-old at the show, and you know what they say, a cute little kid always steals the show! On the side of the stage, the tiny blonde boy was air-guitar the whole set, following the gesture of his mother Poli Van Dam and bandmate Jen Razavi, and basically having a blast. When he was given an unplugged guitar for the last song, he certainly knew what he was doing, walking around like a real punk rocker and ending the set in chaos, rolling his back on stage with the other members. ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ is their debut album on Fat Wreck Chords, and their entire set was as sweet as one of their songs ‘Be Sweet’, since music always works with catchy choruses and a caring attitude.
I had never witnessed the Bellrays in action, but their performance is surely something not to be missed, their unique blend of punk, soul and bluesy rock ‘n’ roll makes them impossible to categorize, although you may hear bits of some of the greatest during their set, from the Stones to MC5 and the Stooges with a large dose of raucous soul. Their sound was larger than the modest stage of the club, and this was especially due to the commanding stage presence of singer and frontwoman Lisa Kekaula, whose soulful and powerful howls dominated the distorted guitars, which didn’t stop for a second during their 40-minute set. She sounded like Tina Turner impersonating James Brown, or the opposite, clapping her tambourine along her leg, howling her bluesy gospel of rock ‘n’ roll, and occasionally pushing screams as if she was fronting a hard rock band. A few songs started like something from the Ramones, or a sort of sweeter take on the Stooges, before morphing into a devilish R&B tune, other songs touched a real hard rock level, with Robert Vennum’s guitar reviewing rock history into a few riffs during a single song, while Bernard Yin on bass and Marty Faragher on drums propelled the music to a rocket speed. Their set was all killer and no apology, with a sound decided to shake the walls and bring back a vintage but fiery soul, too often tamed down in commercial music.
The Bellrays’ attention-grabbing garage rock, and Lisa’s big personality were certainly a wining combination quite hard to follow, however, Eddie Spaghetti of Supersuckers came to share vocals with Lisa on a few songs at the end of their set, and the transition from the Bellrays’ bombastic punk to Supersuckers trucker hat rock ‘n’ roll went very smoothly.
The Bellrays have been around since the 90s, they have released about 8 albums, and with an inexplicable underground cult status, they have been continuously spreading their message of self empowerment all over the nightclubs in the US and abroad. It’s no brainer if James Williamson of the Stooges picked Lisa for the vocals on one of the songs of his ‘Re-Licked’ album, a 2014 collection of Stooges-era songs that had never been released before.
Supersuckers have declared themselves the ‘Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World’, so you get my grip, there’s a lot of humor in their show, but they also take rock ‘n’ roll very seriously. With Eddie Spaghetti on vocals and bass, ‘Metal’ Marty Chandler on vocals and guitar and ‘Captain’ Chris Von Streicher on drums, they have been touring the country with the Bellrays and the Bombpops to spread their outlaw punk county rock, while trying to make everyone’s life better through the ‘Evil Powers of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, according to their own expression. And their set was just what I expected when I saw Eddie Spaghetti’ s cowboy hat and sunglasses, combined with a badass attitude, the music roared from start to finish, with guitarist Chandler getting to the edge of the stage at each song for a series of wild and scorching solos, getting close enough to the fans for them to be doing the devil-horns finger signs on his guitar. The three guys were on a mission, a mission to mess up the party with a punk rodeo ambiance and songs like ‘I Want the Drugs’, screamed-along by everyone, while many of them were ready to mosh at the band’s guitar-driven rides.
The shredding was very loud and the sound filled with enough heavy country riffs to make you want to buckle your belt, put your cowboy boots on and hit the road, but I also heard Motörhead here and there. Eddie Spaghetti, a stage-3 throat cancer survivor, had an undestructable demeanor on stage and was spitting his lyrics with a raucous voice, so it was not difficult to imagine Eddie and Lemmy hanging out at the Rainbow room on Sunset. And they probably did.