Early planning is under way for the fourth annual “Music for the Needy” holiday benefit concert in which Orange County musicians donate their performances to raise money, food and gifts for poor families who otherwise wouldn’t have the wherewithal to have a traditional Christmas celebration.
Like many of the most interesting special events featuring Orange County talent, this one, described by promoter Jim Palmer as “Orange County’s independent (rock) Christmas party,” will take place across the county line at Bogart’s in Long Beach. The daylong, noon to late-night show is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 18.
Palmer said he has put out feelers to see whether Jackson Browne--pop’s Mr. Benefit, and a performer who spent his high school days in Fullerton--might make an appearance. “I don’t need him as a name draw because (based on past years) the place is going to be packed anyway,” Palmer said. “But this is Orange County, which is where he’s from, and it’s people helping people.” No indication yet whether Browne will accept the invitation.
Palmer is also trying to engineer a reunion of El Grupo Sexo, the fine Orange County band that went through a bitter breakup about a year ago. But one Sexo member, Vince Meghrouni, was dubious. “A full reunion (involving all the members) would be close to impossible,” he said. “I just can’t see any kind of circumstances under which we would do that.”
Even without a Christmas miracle that would fetch Jackson Browne to Bogart’s or bring together El Grupo Sexo for auld lang syne, the benefit figures to be a worthy talent showcase.
“I’m asking the bands that help out to do stuff that’s not normally done,” Palmer said--such as working Christmas songs into their sets, or playing an acoustic set rather than electric.
So far, Palmer said, the talent roster includes Ann De Jarnett, in a solo acoustic set, and T.S.O.L. singer Joe Wood, playing in an acoustic duo with Dee Dee Grisham of Gypsy Trash. The Scarecrows, Black Daphne and Nick Pyzow are among the other local bands scheduled to appear.
Last year’s benefit at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano brought in enough donations of food, gifts and cash to provide a festive holiday season for 19 needy families, Palmer said.
He hopes that the event will bring in enough donations to supply 20 or more families this year.
MORE HOLIDAY SPIRIT: Another benefit show, with a distinct Jamaican flavor, will usher in the holiday season. It is the Orange County Pre-Christmas/Thanksgiving Reggae AIDS Benefit Festival (and Humanitarian Recognition Presentation) on Nov. 20.
The daylong show at the Old World Festival Hall in Huntington Beach features a multiband lineup even longer than its title. For information, call (714) 458-6471 or (714) 897-4086.
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ROCK BAND: The first of Bogart’s regular band battles (dubbed the Rock City Rumble) for Orange County and Long Beach rockers confirmed club promoter David Swinson’s hunch that there is a substantial audience for local rock bills with a bit of a competitive edge to add some spark. Swinson said the contest last Friday attracted a paid crowd of 220 (plus more than 100 additional fans who came as guests of the bands).
The winner, both in fan balloting and on two of the three journalist judges’ cards, was Circadian Rhythm, a Long Beach band with a mainstream dance-rock sound. The group received the $700 first prize. Second place, worth $200, went to Gherkin Raucous, with Eggplant receiving $100 for its third-place finish.
Circadian Rhythm wouldn’t have won on my card. The five-man band turned in a slick, overheated performance that suffered from rushed tempos and self-conscious rock-hero poses. At best, Circadian Rhythm was a serviceable dance band that didn’t show much personality or spark.
Incomplete Monday, which finished out of the money, played generic hard rock but did it with some strength and spirit. The band has a long way to go, especially in its lyrics and vocals, but it did play with unpretentious enthusiasm.
Gypsy Trash showed promise with rootsy, piano-based country-rock but there is an element of kitschy parody to the band that doesn’t sit well. It could benefit from more straightforward playing and singing, and less display of singer Dee Dee Grisham’s lingerie-clad bod.
Gherkin Raucous also tried to work parody into its show, but only looked foolish with such antics as tearing apart stuffed toys and striking patently ridiculous heavy metal poses. But the band is capable of real heavy metal thunder, which it needs to focus better by substituting coherent songs for the shapeless blasting that dominated its set. Guitarist Warren Fitzgerald, a genuine eccentric, could have the potential to become an American version of AC/DC’s Angus Young, but it would be nice if he followed Young’s example by focusing his playing with blues-based licks rather than indulging in unmelodic metal whanging and noodling. The band also loses points for slavish Led Zeppelin imitation. With better songs and more discipline, Gherkin Raucous could be a contender.
Unassuming, understated Eggplant was the real find of the night. The four-man band from Westminster was a bit gawky on stage, but the awkwardness vanished when it began to play. Easily the most versatile band and the best songwriting unit of the evening, Eggplant incorporated rockabilly and folk-rock influences along with a solid ‘60s pop-rock feel. Highlights included a dreamy, Tex-Mex flavored ballad, consistently good harmonies and sharp lead guitar work.