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Vandals: Punkdom Begets Filmdom

The Vandals and Guttermouth, Orange County’s two leading satiric punk bands, will share a bill April 12 at the Showcase Theatre in Corona. The concert figures to be not just funny but also fodder for fiction.

Filming the proceedings will be Jeff Richardson, a producer-

director who plans to use footage of the two headliners and opening act X-It in a feature-length movie tentatively titled “Citizen Punk.” It isn’t a documentary, so the Vandals and Guttermouth will have pseudonyms.

So will Vandals’ bassist Joe Escalante, who has been cast as the lead, Dirk, a punk rock musician who cheats on his girlfriend and spends the rest of the 90-minute film trying to get her back.

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Richardson has directed videos for the Vandals and filmed their “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” concert video. Escalante’s extra-musical pursuits include running a small, Huntington Beach-based punk record label, Kung Fu, and working as an entertainment lawyer. Richardson and co-writer Robert Stinson saw him as the ideal Dirk.

“He was maybe a little unsure of himself” when invited to be a star, Richardson said, “but we told him, ‘Don’t worry, you’re exactly what we need,’ and he was up for it.”

Escalante describes his acting qualifications as nonexistent. “They said they needed someone who would understand their sense of humor more than they needed someone who was an actor,” he said.

Vandals guitarist Warren Fitzgerald, Escalante’s partner in Kung Fu, will have a role not too far afield from his topsy-turvy stage persona: “He plays a mentally challenged boy who hangs out in front of an apartment building and says unusual things,” Richardson said.

Everyone involved is working without pay, he added, and friends have donated most of the film stock.

“The concept of the movie is to produce it the same way a punk record would be made,” quickly and cheaply. “I’m hoping to bring it in under $10,000,” with film processing and editing accounting for most of the budget.

Kung Fu will sell “Citizen Punk” as a home video, packaged with the soundtrack CD. Escalante says fans who bought the 1996 soundtrack for “Glory Daze,” also released by Kung Fu, complained that they didn’t get to see the film, which appeared briefly in theaters.

“You can’t make a movie for worldwide release unless you have huge amounts of money,” Escalante said. “If you want to put it on screens and [show it at] festivals, it’s not punk anymore.”

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Also in the offing is a new Vandals album, “Hitler Bad: Vandals Good.”

* The Vandals, Guttermouth and X-It play April 12 at the Showcase Theatre, 683 S. Main St., Corona. $10. (909) 340-0988 or (909) 276-7770 (taped information).

A NEW TWIST: Are Orange County pure-pop bands cursed? And is Chris Karn the man to break the spell?

The answer should come by year’s end. Karn’s Twist Top is almost finished with its debut for Capitol Records and expects a summer release. The trio, trying to think up a new name to avoid a conflict with another artist, plays catchy pop with Karn’s guitar distortion effects thrown in for roughage.

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Lately, O.C. bands with roots in punk, ska and metal have done very well in the marketplace. Yet no local modern-rock band springing from a pop background has gotten anywhere. Karn’s current sound, and his roots in Standing Hawthorn, the Mission Viejo alterna-rock band, don’t exempt him from the curse. Nor does he get any helpful karma from bandmates Rodney Mollura and Craig Randolph, who played funk as bassist and drummer for the south county band Goldfish.

But wait: After Standing Hawthorn, Karn served hitches in General Public and Bang under one of ska’s most seasoned generals, Dave Wakeling. Maybe he’s been inoculated.

“I’m very happy with it,” Karn said of the album, which will mark his recording debut as a singer. “It’s the kind of record I would buy.” And Karn is selective; his only recent purchases have been “OK Computer” by Radiohead and “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys.

Last year, Twist Top was courted by big labels, but Karn says the attention didn’t turn his head.

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“I’m into writing music in Orange County, surfing, just hanging out and being real. You come [to Hollywood], and the next thing you know you want to start acting. I’m a musician. I don’t even want to act in our videos.”

PROMOTER’S BLUES: If at first you don’t succeed, try again. That is Ernie Lujan’s philosophy, even if his previous attempt at concert promoting cost him $20,000.

Lujan of Rancho Santa Margarita put on a Summer Blues Jam concert in August at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center: frequent O.C. club-level headliners Eric Burdon and Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers into a small arena. The predictable results: 502 paid seats, 4,500 empty.

Lujan, who used to book talent for concerts sponsored by the city of Santa Ana, says his bad luck deepened when a car hit him the week after the jam.

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Though still hobbled by injuries, Lujan, 50, is back for more: He has reserved the 2,500-seat Freedman Forum in Anaheim for a May 9 show dubbed the Orange County Blues Jam. Taj Mahal is the headliner, with Arthur Adams and local bands Blue by Nature and the Blue Spirit Band.

Lujan says his big mistake last year was trying to promote during the summer, when people are on vacation.

“I just figured I’d give it another shot,” he said. Tickets, $22-$26, go on sale Wednesday at the theater, (714) 999-9599, and through Ticketmaster, (714) 740-2000.


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