On Oct. 7, Oakland band Silver Shadows, along with Punk Rock Opera and Chloe Danger, graced the makeshift stage of the Funzone, (a.k.a the garage attached to the East Beach Batting Cages) Santa Barbara’s premier DIY music venue. The Funzone’s questionable yet oddly fitting location does have its advantages; as I waited for the first band to finish setting up, I got the chance to watch the members of Silver Shadows try their arm at hitting a fastball.
Eight o’clock came and went, with no indication that the show would be starting anytime soon. Although it was chilly out, there was a growing excitement in the groups of people huddled around one another, all of us waiting to see how the night would unfold.
Punk Rock Opera, a band that truly lives up to its name, took the stage first. Their set began with a melodramatic spoken word and guitar combo, which soon gave way to a thrashing energy that was palpable in the smallish crowd. One song in particular, the Kafkaesque “Roach Man”, a song about a man who wakes up as a cockroach, channeled some of the apocalyptic dread of the Dead Kennedys, with Matt Cagle’s surreal chord progression and manic vocals. Punk Rock Opera concluded their set in a high-energy frenzy by smashing two guitars against each other before exiting the stage to the cheers of the crowd with one less guitar intact.
Next, the crowd was treated to a performance by Chloe Danger, accompanied by The Chaperones. Chloe Danger began her set, ukulele in hand, with a lyrical stream of consciousness á la Andrew Jackson Jihad. A woman of many instruments, she periodically rotated between guitars, drums and vocals. Songs such as “Be My Baby” and “Susie Homemaker” featured dynamic vocals set to waves of upbeat surf-rock melodies.
With her pastel pink hair and whimsical songs about vampires and love, Chloe Danger was a delightfully quirky and memorable addition to the show. A mosh-worthy song about bunnies (“I like bunnies but bunnies don’t like me/I like bunnies but I’ve got allergies”) brought her light-hearted set to a close and we were once again ushered outside to wait for the next band to set up.
As a man announced “last band is playing,” the crowd shuffled back into the space denoted as the “FUNZONE” only by a crude little banner draped over concert bills and mirrors. From the first few notes, the last band of the night, Silver Shadows, had the crowd in a trance. Although each act had a discernible amount of presence, Silver Shadows single-handedly elevated the show with their almost ethereal aura.
In addition to performing some of their previously-released tracks, Silver Shadows gave the crowd a sample of new music featured on Cold Plastic, their first full-length LP. Blissful dream pop harmonies, gloomy synthesizers and industrial drums saturated the airwaves. To my own amusement, I watched as 20 or so people standing shoulder to shoulder went from headbanging to gently swaying in sync. There’s a certain level of intimacy in watching a band perform five feet in front of you. Although each band played from the same distance, Silver Shadows managed to strike closest to the heart.
The Funzone captures the true spirit of DIY in a special way. At worst, it is the equivalent of watching a group of guys bang instruments around in their basement. At best, it is a collective experience unable to be recreated. Perhaps it was the closeness, or the way you might catch yourself reflected as a face in the crowd in the mirrors positioned behind the band, or the lights projected on the walls. Whatever it was, the Funzone managed to connect an entire audience to each other and the bands playing. It was a thoroughly unique experience; one that was at times intense, energetic or profound, but always memorable.