August 5, 2009

The Verbtones, The Tomorrow Men, Secret Samurai | Pink Elephant Bar | San Diego, CA | July 31, 2009

Words by My Nguyen

You couldn’t have seen a more eclectic crowd at the Pink Elephant Bar. From some man walking around with Don King hair bleached blond all the way to the tips of his spiked hair donning a white suit, to some dude wearing a kilt and biker vest, to waitresses in '50s garb, by all means, the “it” crowd Friday night was certainly up for a psychedelic ride. The Verbtones, The Tomorrow Men, and The Secret Samurai, all surf bands, were undergoing a surf war. Who will this Don King character name winner? Will any of the bands survive this galactic surf odyssey? This and much more if you stay tuned.

On front and center stage, The Verbtones all in matching jailhouse outfits, looked like miniature Elvises convalescing under the limelight. Rather than lamenting their jailhouse blues, The Verbtones’ beach vibe cadence stripped bare the conventions of surf music and proceeded to rock. At one memorable point, the lead guitarist stalked off stage and into the crowd. Like Moses parting the Red Sea, the crowd moved to accommodate this spectacle.

He returns to the stage and drops into a huge jam, an air-guitarist’s wet dream. A hypnotic tune ensues, the band dedicating it to one of the member’s mother who was a stroke victim. A definite delve from the happier grooves, this moody track had couples dancing. After a while a few girls started to snorkel, a patent move of yesteryears. To the left of the stage, one guy reenacts his surfer moves on an invisible board and wave. An impressive move nonetheless, this surfer clearly does not incorporate “wipeout” into his vocab.

After a long set up session, The Tomorrow Men, a San Francisco band, take stage, amping up their mics and equipment for the psychedelic tunes ahead and catching the next wave. Listening to their better crafted and less chaotic sounds was like riding a wave itself. You’re over and under and the exhilaration is contagious. At one point one of the guitarists was playing like a siren screeching in the dead of night, while the drummer, wearing an orange suit decked out in glow sticks, was the heartbeat to the moving tunes, an awesome climax to a very strange night.

Up next, The Secret Samurai, from San Diego, took the surf war into their hands. Their guitars sang and whittled through their competitors egos, something the Don King wannabe would have to take note of when presenting the winner. Something like being caught up in a galactic oceanic wave, these performers’ hallow cadence had an eerie lasting feel for listeners. While space and oceanic wave are clearly oxymoronic, The Secret Samurai are up for the venture. But only while holding the true surf tradition do these space rock 'n' rollers win over the crowd.

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