REEL BIG FUN: Southern California has lately been serving up big pop doses of retro in the form of punk and ska, and over the last five years the mainstream has gone from browsing the buffet to gorging all it can eat. As a genre, the new wave of punk and ska, and the blends thereof, offer an outlook a little less vitriolic and grim than the drizzle from Seattle, with lyrics more often rantings over an ugly breakup than existential ponderings on the fate of the universe. Granted, the highbrow literary allusions are scant, but who needs 'em when the music is this fucking fun? As grunge has grayed around the muzzle, upstarts like Green Day, Rancid, and the Offspring burst onto the Billboard charts, vying for alpha alternapop status, no doubt (pun intended) to the chagrin of hardcore fans of punk and ska.

On the upside, more ska and punk gets listened to by the record biz higher-ups, and in turn by us. Riding the sunshine shock-waves of the south Cali ska scene over hill and dale to our humble pueblo is Goldfinger, along with real good friends and Mojo Records labelmates Reel Big Fish. Comprised of members John Feldman, lead guitar and vocals, Charlie Paulson, guitar, Simon Williams, bass, and "Dangerous" Darrin Pfeiffer on drums, these fans of 007 are winding up a long, grueling tour in support of their self-titled debut release.

Touring like the frenetic madmen they are, Goldfinger boasts 217 shows in 264 days in the past year, sharing the stage with the Buzzcocks, the Sex Pistols, No Doubt, Moby and all the rest from the Warped Tour of last summer. Upon winding up their road schedule in late February, the band heads back into the studio to record their second Mojo record, with release anticipated for sometime in the fall. In the meantime, let the clowning around continue.

Fresh, young and energetic, Reel Big Fish, have been hitting the road pretty hard themselves, touring with other noted masters of ska, the Toasters, as well as the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Let's Go Bowling. Supporting their first, self-released disc, Everything Sucks, and their second, Mojo disc, Turn the Radio Off, this raucous, humorous, rollicking, three-horned band has everything a culturally hip young 'un could want.

Goldfinger, with special guests Reel Big Fish, play here in your backyard at the Cage Nightclub one week from today on Thursday, February 13. So come on, get happy. Tickets for the show, which starts at 9 p.m., are $10 in advance and day of show.

HOT PICK: Joey Peña (front man for Greyhound Soul) and very special guest Maggie Glaston perform an unplugged set at the 3rd Stone Bar & Grill, 500 N. Fourth Ave., as part of the bar's continuing Unplugged Tuesdays series. Judging from their last appearance as part of the same bill a few Sundays back at the Club Congress, you can expect to be amazed. Both are exceptional performers and the red-velvet intimacy of the stage at the 3rd Stone couldn't be more apropos. Need another reason to go? It's free! Call 628-8844 for more information.

LAST NOTES: With Calexico in full swing and nary a word regarding the drift of Giant Sand, imagine our surprise at a last minute fax announcing The Friends of Dean Martinez were making "one last stop" at the Empire Café and Lounge on Friday, February 7. Say what? Whose friends? The jury's still out on who the hired help is joining the sole survivor of the original line-up, Bill Elm, in his Tucson appearance. But rest assured it ain't the old magic--Joey Burns and John Convertino, who rounded out the original trio of Friends, are far off playing the Windy City this week, leaving Elm to a somewhat solitary homecoming.

Who knows what the evening will bring? Word on the street is that Sub Pop refused the new Friends' second album, which may not bode well. But we've also heard they're still playing some old material, which may well be worth your five-spot at the door. So call them what you will--The Friend(s) of Dean Martinez, The Not-So-Good Friends of Dean Martinez?--and see them if you must. Show time is 10 p.m. at the Empire, 61 E. Congress St. Call 884-9779 for information.

There are two commemorative nights at the Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., this week--two excuses to whoop it up good. Local music Sunday, February 9, hosts a tribute to Bob Marley featuring One Blood and Bass Culture. The show starts between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Tickets are $2 at the door.

Break out the beads for a Fat Tuesday Party on February 11, with The Low and Sweet Orchestra. Zander Schloss (Circle Jerks, Thelonius Monster), Mike Mart (Thelonius Monster, The Electric Thing), James Fearnley (Pogues), actor Dermot Mulroney and brother Kieran Mulroney, tour to support their first Interscope release, Goodbye To All That. Joining this amazing assemblage of talent is Crawdaddy-O. The doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $5. Call 622-8848 for information on either show.

BACK IN BUSINESS: Mostly good news about the Luna Loca: The January 23 court date was canceled after a compromise made the day before. On January 22, Luna Loca owners met with the City Attorney to determine standards for noise in the neighborhood. We hope this will preclude future uncertainty about what constitutes a nuisance, and keep your tax dollars and mine from being thrown away on disputes that should never have been in question or in court to begin with. At the very least it's a significant step in the right direction, and a reason to celebrate. The Luna Loca has already begun booking shows, and in the meantime will be making some costly modifications to contain runaway decibels. Call 882-4488 for a calendar of upcoming events. Best wishes for and good business to Bruce and the Loca crew. TW

--Lisa Weeks
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