King Tuff @ Meat Market Garment Factory| August, 19, 2012
The overcast summer evening meant lots of humid heat, building up exponentially as Meat Market grew packed with bodies. Turnout was solid for a showcase of anthemic yet charmingly lacksidasical pop acts that thrived on pounded snares, blissful distortion, and upbeat pogo tempos.
Kicking things off were Fullerton, California's Audacity, who had West Coast vibes dripping off them. "We've come to bring you the gift of music," slurred the singer at the onset, prompting a guy to shout, "Is that California-speak?" Their mid-tempo pop-punk initially matched the impression given by their slip-on Vans and oversize tanks, but their tight meter shifts and whiny vocal hooks made the distinction clear. Looking beyond the obvious attire choices, I sometimes have a hard time defining the subtle sonic difference between a fleetingly catchy, snot-nosed Warped Tour jam and something more refined like, say, Ted Leo. Audacity's garage rock leanings, in conjunction with their sun-burned presentation, were what elevated their grind: bludgeoned kick drums in tandem with smooth pop bass, compact yet wiry guitar solos that didn't last too long. Pop-punk for self-respecting surfers in their 20s.
King Tuff, a.k.a. Kyle Thomas, threw some wild-eyed looks at the crowd between his long damp locks, playing a road-tested guitar that was chipped and patched. Nonetheless, he reached some wild shredding heights right out the gate. His drummer threw down crunchy snares and kicks as the sidemen provided pitch-perfect harmonies to his semi-demented garage-pop. More than one bespectacled audience member was moved to bouncing by the anthemic slackerdom. The psyche-tinged "Freak When I'm Dead" had the frenetic buoyancy of much-missed San Francisco band Nodzzz, all shuffled chords and yelped vocal calls. However, the standout track was "Alone and Stoned," Tuff's ode to isolated highs with the record player on, which drew the most fist-pumps and agitated sweat stains.
His stage banter was expertly half-assed. Tuff introduced his band mates as "G.G.", "Magic Jake" and "Mr. California" (the same beached-blond gift-bringer from Audacity). He dedicated "Connection" to one particularly rowdy audience member in the front because, according to Tuff, they were "making a connection." When the set list ran out, some guy shouted a request for "Dancing on You" that the band agreed to and fulfilled within six seconds.
Though only a pinch over 45 minutes, it was one of those sets that didn't overstay its welcome. The desert air in the parking lot grew cooler than the condensed heat of the venue, but only a few opted out. This dude with a backwards Mortal Kombat baseball cap who looked just like Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation had been air-guitaring like a champ next to me. Near the end of the set, he leaned over and offered me a wordless high-five that I readily accepted. Perhaps the world is irrevocably stoned. Why would you ever want to feel alone?
Last night: King Tuff, Audacity, Otro Mundo and French Girls at Meat Market.
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In the crowd: Young rippers, rock dweebs, Chuck Taylored dads
Best merch item: Tough call between Otro Mundo's brand-new harsh desert pastiche tee and King Tuff's tank top with a brick-lifting bodybuilder imploring all to "rock hard."