A Band With Fizz


Sexy Death Soda is not the Madonna-Kevorkian Bottling Company's flavor of the month but just another band with a weird name. The players in SDS also hold their own on the weirdo scale: Steaksauce sings, Donnie Pleasure and Smooth Angus play guitars, Pinto Vego plays bass and Lisa Demerol hits the drums.

Saturday, SDS will perform at Art City II in Ventura. Opening will be Wiskey Biscuit, a band possessing few spelling techniques.

Located at the far west end of Main Street, Art City II is a cool all-ages venue because the bands can play as long and as loud as they want to the consternation of absolutely no one, mostly because the neighbors are the freeway and the river.

In addition to the gig at Art City II, SDS has made a habit of playing in weird places. The band has played a few times at one of the classic dive bars in Ventura, the Rendezvous Room, which has since closed. The band held its CD release party recently at the Hong Kong Inn in Ventura, usually a Chinese restaurant but on that night a moneymaking operation, as the bartenders were working overtime. The band recently played at a record store, Wild Planet in Ventura, and next, SDS wants to play a gig in Wilmington so it can get a review in Surfing magazine.

Some of the musicians' gigs could've gotten them reviews on "America's Most Wanted." There was one in Laguna where Steaksauce was burning money, which ignited the carpet, and another where he sang without his pants.

Their goals remain on the modest side. "We want to keep on rockin' in the free world," said Steaksauce. "But actually we want to play at Beeper City in Oxnard."

Or, according to Demerol, there's this: "We want to do a prison tour of Europe." Yeah, well, just stay out of that gulag with the black cancer where Mulder ended up during a particularly twisted episode of "The X-Files."

OK, so the band is weird and plays in a lot of weird places. The music itself is not weird at all, but actually, quite accessible. It's basic garage roots rock, not so much unlike '60s garage bands such as the 13th Floor Elevators and the Shadow of Knight, or '80s roots rockers such as Green on Red, the Gun Club or the Long Ryders. The band knows about 40 originals and also covers songs by Black Flag, Captain Beefheart and even Dick Dale, where "Miserlou" has become "Miserylou."

Depending which band member you ask, Sexy Death Soda music is "still in the evolving process," "California barbecue garage festival rock" or maybe "devil music."

SDS has been around for about a year and a month, but Steaksauce and Demerol go way back. They were in a group called Loser, from which one of the members has emerged a winner. Much like Godzilla, Beck has achieved one-name stardom on his own. After that, they were in a band called Liquor Cabinet, followed by Tommy & the Demons, which lasted until Tommy split in his van. Rather than becoming & the Demons, Sexy Death Soda was born.

"California Police State" is the name of the new album.

"This is a totally different band even though we do four or five of the songs from Tommy & the Demons," said Steaksauce. "The players are all a lot better."

Steaksauce is, in reality, none other than video and filmmaker Steve Hanft, who has directed videos for the Cure, Stone Roses, del Amitri, Beck, Rocket From the Crypt and lots more. Not surprisingly, plenty of SDS videos are in the works. And since Hanft doesn't have to be in L.A. every day, he was able to move back to his hometown of Ventura.

No one else is rich yet and they all have less glamorous day jobs than "Steaksauce" Hanft.

"Yeah, I'm doing this for all the money and all the chicks," said guitarist Pleasure. "Yeah, sure. I get 20 bucks after each gig."

The drummer gets the last word, giving voice to the obvious.

"We are completely untrendy."


No budget acoustic duo, Zelig is having a CD release party at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks on Saturday night, and, unlike last time, promises to actually have the CDs. The last CD party was canceled because only two of the three most important ingredients were available, the songs and the band. The CDs never made it.

Zelig, you may recall, are Brian Wurschum and Laurel Hoffman, the vocalists for the most famous rock band in all of Newbury Park, majority DOG. As Zelig, they keep things basic--two voices and an acoustic guitar. Named for a weird Woody Allen movie, the band has a new album, "Race to the Sun." It features 22 tunes, which is a lot.

And finally, for blues lovers, this could be a big week:

Tonight: The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Ventura Theatre).

Friday: Craig Chataqua & the Average Johnsons (Cisco's in Westlake), Blue Stew (Wine Lovers in Ventura) and Kay Bohler & the Kingpins (SOhO in Santa Barbara).

Saturday: The Buds (Hungry Hunter, Thousand Oaks), Blue Stew (Hi Cees in Ventura) and Blue Stew again (Calypso's Bar & Grill in Ojai).

Sunday: Blue Stew (Hi Cees), Ashford Gordon Band (Eric Ericsson's in Ventura), Harmonica Fats & Bernie Pearl (Buttonwood Farms Winery in Solvang).

Monday: Bob Jones (Cafe Voltaire in Ventura).


Sexy Death Soda and Wiskey Biscuit at Art City II, 31 Peking St., Ventura; Saturday, 9 p.m. $5. (805) 648-5241.

Zelig at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd.; Saturday, 8 p.m. $10. (805) 498-0341.

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