The idea sounded good: some old friends would get together to celebrate the memory of Spatz, a defunct Huntington Harbour rock club. But by the time the reunion was over Monday night, many were wondering how good the idea really was.
The lineup, at Night Moves in Huntington Beach, was to have included two bands, Underground God and Gypsy Trash, and an "all-star jam," possibly including members of T.S.O.L and Tender Fury.
The only ones to make it to the stage, though, were the four members of Underground God, a Los Angeles-based band whose 40-minute set of droning music and desperate lyrics ended with lead singer Rudy Navarro requesting help from anyone who could get the group more bookings.
"This was not a good representation of what Spatz was," said Steve Secord, a 26-year-old Huntington Beach resident who had been a frequent visitor to the old club. "And the music represented the worst of the bands at Spatz."
"The show was awful," agreed 21-year-old Eddie Avalos of Long Beach.
According to Richard Laird, who organized the reunion with Jeff Watson (former Spatz employees, they're now partners in an outfit called Bad Boy Productions), Gypsy Trash canceled its appearance because its drummer was stuck in the mountains.
"I had a good time, but it wasn't exactly what I expected," allowed Laird, who continued to serve as disc jockey while the crowd of about 100 slowly dwindled away.
Still, memories remain.
Spatz, which closed in 1986, "was pretty unique for its time," said Watson, who had been manager of the club. And early Monday evening, before Underground God took the stage, there was a nice, long-time-no-see feeling in the air as old friends hugged and reminisced. Spatz, they agreed, "was like one big family."
"Things just haven't been the same since Spatz closed," said Karen Santowski, 25, of Cypress. "We use to have Spatz attacks every Thursday night!"
Jack Richards, who had owned Spatz and who didn't attend the reunion, has said the club closed as a result of rent disputes. Spatz was the fourth rock club to close that year, leaving Big John's in Anaheim and Night Moves as the only venues where local bands could play original music. Big John's was destroyed by a fire earlier this year.
Many at the reunion said they think Night Moves is close to becoming another Spatz, primarily because many former Spatz patrons go there.
But others had their doubts. Night Moves is "trying, but it's not quite there," said Teri Baldwin, 24, of Anaheim. "This isn't quite as cool. But maybe it's just because we're getting older."
Joe Escalente sees it a bit differently, though. The bassist for the Huntington Beach-based Vandals, who performed at Spatz during its heyday, said it's great that Night Moves continues to allow young musicians a place to perform.
The members of Underground God noted that for young bands to have a chance, they need a place to play. "L.A. is very cliquish," said bass player Eddie Rea. "You need to know someone to get a chance to play there, it seems."
Meanwhile, despite Monday night's problems, Jim Glinskas, the 25-year-old former head of security at Spatz, is already thinking about trying another Spatz reunion.
But such talk only elicited laughs from Todd Barnes, Tender Fury's drummer, who showed up for the jam session but was so disappointed with the reunion that he ended up sitting in a booth.
"I came here with the Spatz reunion in mind," he said. "But this is the only thing on my mind now," he added, pointing to his drink.