THE BELLRAYS, THE DATSUNSat the Troubadour, November 15
Minutes before they hit the stage at the Troubadour, the Datsuns could be heard revving up in their dressing room — “yeaaaah! whoohoo!” — like a rugby team pre-huddle. The lights dimmed, and out they tumbled in their tight, flared Levi‘s, and for the second time in the past six months L.A. was privy to a wild anthropological experiment: What happens if you lock four antipodeans in a closet furnished only with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and ACDC records? You get — wowee! — the Datsuns.
The seven years this foursome spent perfecting their act in the New Zealand sticks has rendered them terrifyingly skillful at approximating their idols. Between the screech of front man and bassist Dolf De Datsun and the sonic attack unleashed by his likewise-surnamed mates Christian and Phil on guitars and Matt on drums, the Datsuns showed the initially blase L.A. crowd who was boss. Up and down bobbed the heads, helplessly twitched the hips. Onstage, mock fisticuffs broke out and long manes tangled up in knots while the band explored simple but sacred rock themes from their self-titled debut, such as ass-shaking action (“Super Gyration,” “Harmonic Generator”), intimidation of male rivals (“Freeze, Sucker”), unrequited desire (“In Love”) and the winner of the set, “Motherfucker From Hell.” Noted a stunned member of the audience in the aftermath: “It’s good to see a band that‘s good at something!” And while two teens slinked close to the stage to have their new vinyl copies of The Datsuns autographed, a Tony Soprano look-alike offered the band primo cigars from his shop in the Valley. It was a utopia in which the Datsuns displaced boy bands in the hearts of mall rats and made their Led Zep–lovin’ parents happy too . . .
In a less fucked-up world, Riverside‘s soul-punk quartet the Bellrays would be huge on every continent, and front woman Lisa Kekaula — she of the unapologetically floppy ’fro and rumbling growl — would be queen over phony MTV divas. Though currently a sensation in the U.K., they seem to have plateaued out at home, because by the time they came on, the Troubadour crowd had thinned out considerably. Those who stayed behind were treated to a furious, swinging set of mostly new songs with intriguing titles like “Snot Gun,” “Voodoo Train” and “Tie Me Down.” It all sounded sexy, groovy and mean, boding well for a possible new record — as it should, ‘cause the Bellrays are as real as it’s ever gonna get.