What began as a simple-enough request to book an estimable punk-pop band on a local college radio show has mutated into something almost unimaginable, possibly awful and probably quite silly.
Brothers Albino Brown and Tazy Phyllipz,longtime hosts of "The Ska Parade" weekly show on KUCI-FM (88.9), decided last spring to have the Descendents appear on the show. The Descendents don't play ska, but the "Parade" proprietors like to keep their show stylistically open-minded if they think a potential guest is good.
The word came back from the Descendents' manager that the band wouldn't be able to make it, but how about one of his other clients, Gwar?
Gwar is the costumed, theatrical speed-metal band whose act consists of mock-gory mayhem that more or less seeks to answer the question: What if the electric guitar had been discovered by some sociopathic ancient conqueror, like Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun?
Brown knew that Gwar would be a stretch for ska-tuned listeners. What common ground could be found between the metallic stench of battle and the happy, skip-along beat of ska?
Then Brown and Phyllipz hit on the idea of pairing Gwar with the Aquabats, who have an equal, if opposite, yen for the theatrical. Members of the O.C. ska-rock band dress up like refugees from an old Buck Rogers serial and run their concerts as if they were kiddie shows in which silly but benevolent superheroes face nasty, cartoon-evil foes.
Brown whipped up a script, taking cues from old radio series such as "The Shadow," and on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m., Gwar and the Aquabats will face off. This "war of the music worlds," as Brown describes it, has been prerecorded, with Gwar providing specially rewritten dubs of existing songs, and the Aquabats chipping in some new material written for the occasion.
Those who tune in will hear My Superhero, another O.C. ska-rock band, open with a live set. Then Gwar will invade, having decided it's time to conquer the world, and why not commandeer a radio station to start? At that point, the fate of "The Ska Parade," and humankind in general, will be in the hands of those plucky rescuers, the Aquabats.
"Gwar vs. the Aquabats: the Rock Opera" also will air Sunday at midnight on San Bernardino station KCXX-FM (103.9), which also carries "The Ska Parade."
Assuming the forces of Gwar don't prevail, "The Ska Parade" will carry on with its own visions of conquest.
Brown and Phyllipz are pursuing national syndication for their show, which has been on the air at KUCI since 1990 and served as an early champion for the O.C. ska-punk-reggae scene that produced No Doubt, Sublime, Reel Big Fish and Save Ferris.
A 1995 compilation CD, "Step on It: The Ska Parade," has sold more than 25,000 copies, according to Phyllipz, and a sequel, "The Ska Parade: Runnin' Naked Thru the Cornfield," is set for release Sept. 30. The 25-track CD will include previously unavailable songs by the Specials, Reel Big Fish and many more.
Help Fest Canceled
For the third time since 1995, UC Irvine officials have pulled the plug on a concert that would have included bands playing the loud, aggressive musical strains favored by fans of Orange County's modern-rock scene.
The latest casualty, a show scheduled for Saturday called O.C. Help Fest, would have benefited developmentally disabled people. Fifteen grass-roots county bands, representing a mix of youth-oriented styles, had been booked for a daylong, daylight concert to raise money for the Sutton Foundation. The Santa Ana-based agency runs three group homes for developmentally disabled adults.
Monica Salci, the Sutton administrator who organized the show, said university officials canceled the show on Tuesday, citing safety and security concerns.
"We regret the need to take this action, however, the safety of the attendees as well as the security of the campus must take priority in our decision," campus scheduling director Jeffrey T. Cole wrote in a Monday letter to promoters.
Salci said she had expected a turnout of no more than 2,000 people at Aldrich Park, the rolling green at the heart of the UCI Campus. The scheduled bands were not star touring attractions, but rather ska- and punk-influenced acts such as Lit, Dial-7, My Superhero and Burnin' Groove. (Ticket holders may call  569-1910 to arrange a refund.)
Seven months ago, UCI officials showed their reluctance to host punk rock when they canceled a show by Social Distortion that had been booked at the 2,000-capacity Crawford Hall. The popular Fullerton band had no history of problems in previous campus shows, but officials said they did not want to assume liability risk for such concert-related mishaps as moshing injuries. They have become a concern at major modern-rock concert scene because of the physicality of such fan rituals as slam-dancing and bodysurfing atop a stage-front sea of packed-in heads and shoulders.
From the early '80s to the mid-1990s, UCI staged several shows a year by modern-rock bands, some of them punk acts. Shows could bring in thousands of dollars in rental fees. The campus' image as a home to youth-oriented concerts began to change a little more than two years ago, when, on short notice, administrators rescinded permission for a large-scale alternative-rock festival dubbed "Board in O.C." The festival moved to Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson, which continues to host big punk and alternative-rock shows at its Olympic Velodrome.
Not all proposed modern-rock shows have set off UCI administrators' worries. The popular ska-punk group the Mighty Mighty Bosstones will play Sept. 21, and a bill of three ska-punk Christian rock bands is booked Sept. 27, both at the 5,000-seat Bren Events Center.