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Volume 71, Issue 6, Monday, August 29, 2005

Life & Arts

Aquabats change for better

Eclectic heroes aim to give fans more than a generic performance

By Tina Marie Macias
The Daily Cougar

With cartoons and other assorted videos playing on a big screen, about a dozen moms standing off to the side and five superhero-clad musicians fighting evil with the power of rock, Thursday night at the Meridian looked more like a wacky birthday party than a rock show.

But that's just what The Aquabats wanted. 

"(The antics) are just from joking around and saying, ‘This would be fun, why don't we do it?'... Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't," bassist Crash said after the show. "We have so many villains that we never know who's going to come on and we just have to do something on the spot."

Charlton Heston depicted as an asteroid-like creature with blinking eyes and a "joy tree" turned evil were just two of the villains who joined The Aquabats on stage, proving that the band is still as goofy as it was when it began nine years ago.

The band's onstage antics may remain the same, but with the recent loss of a horn player, The Aquabats have ditched ska for synthesized keyboards and a sci-fi guitar sound, something Crash said will keep the band from being lumped together with third-wave ska bands such as Less Than Jake, Catch 22 and Reel Big Fish.

"There's so much more to us than ska," Crash said. "We borrow a lot from ‘80s new wave, a little from reggae ... and some from electronica."

When the band pleased the young audience with old favorites "Super Rad" and "Pizza Day," their ska sound was still prevalent, but when playing "Now, Stand Back for Your Own Safety!" and "Tiger Rider vs. the Time Sprinkler!" -- both songs from Charge!!, their new album released last month -- it became obvious that the band has changed, but for the better.

"(Charge!!) is better (than previous albums)," Crash said. "We had a better procedure going into the studio. On the last couple albums everyone just went crazy. ... each song could have been a different band. This one just makes more sense as a whole."

During their encore -- or as frontman M.C. Bat Commander called it, their "hardcore" -- the audience's size decreased by half. They had not left the venue, but had rather all ran onstage during "Pool Party," jumping up and down, nearly pushing the band offstage, not taking the hint when Bat Commander said, "Not enough of you are dancing in the pool! Too many of you are on the deck!"

The fans stayed onstage until the show ended, and the band hung around to talk to them and give autographs instead. The band members -- M.C. Bat Commander, Crash, guitarist Chainsaw, keyboardist and saxophonist The Robot and drummer Ricky Fitness, who do look a lot like reject Mexican wrestlers in their aqua spandex outfits -- proved they can get away with their antics by redefining genre lines, giving their fans what they want and proving that they're more than just a gimmick.

"We love the kids. We do it for them," Crash said. "They were going crazy tonight."

The Meridian's tiny Red Room couldn't hold all-girl openers The Eyeliners hard rock sound, and they seemed out of place on The Aquabats' bill, getting little response from the audience.

However, predecessors The Phenomenauts had the crowd almost as rowdy as their aqua-outfitted counterparts. The California group offered the early comers spaced-out rockabilly and were well received, as the audience seemed eager to participate in the bands many sing-a-longs. 

Opening act Time Again used their punk rock stylings to work the crowd into a frenzy despite the fact that their musical quality was a low as the lead singer's pants.

The Aquabats

@ Meridian

Verdict: Aquabats defeated evil with the power of "hardcore."

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