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August 1-8, 2007

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Phaedra

Noise in The 'Hood: Good Neighbor Policy made friends at the Jury Room Saturday.

Locals That Rock

By Garrett Wheeler


TOPS OF THEIR GAME Surf town, college town, hippie-filled green town—call it what you will, the fact is our little oceanside hamlet boasts a local music scene that would put towns twice its size to shame. In the weeks to come, MuZ will be working overtime to uncover local bands and talented artists from the West Side to the East. We know you're out there, and in Indiana Jones fashion, we're going on a search to undercover locals that rock.

Though they're not new to the scene, The Chop Tops are more than deserving of a little praise. Leading the local psychobilly movement, the Chop Tops are a three-piece outfit that recently cruised back to town after a stint on the Warped Tour followed by their own tour of the United States. Calling their sound "revved-up rockabilly," the Tops play a kind of '50s swing-meets-punk-rock brand of music, sprinkled with a little surf and a pantload of alcohol. Their tribute song to Jack Daniels at the Blue Lagoon Friday was a sort of bluesy cry for whiskey, with howling vocals from lead singer/drummer Gary "Sinner" Marsh, who wears the diabolical designation tattooed across his chest in what appears to be a case of truth in advertising.

Aesthetically, the band and audience embodied the modern rockabilly revival in James Dean-meets-Beetlejuice fashion that reflected the nightmarish psychobilly sound of the Tops. Greaser hair cuts and leather jackets mixed with cheap beer, turning the Blue into a '50s dance party from hell. Let's just say that if Brian Setzer was a badass, he'd play in a band like the Chop Tops.

Speaking of Setzer, the king of rockabilly was so impressed by the Chop Tops' third album, Evil Six, he gave them the opening spot on his 2002 '68 Comeback Special tour. Makes you wonder what Setzer thought of guitarist Shelby Legnon and his hot hand on the six-string. The guy's hollow body was practically up in flames, his licks were so blazing. Searing solos on the higher frets and crunching rhythm riffs matched standup bassist TK's blistering bass lines, completing the Chop Tops' signature sound.

CUP O' SUGAR Saturday night the mayhem continued at the Jury Room, the tiny tavern across from the Santa Cruz Courthouse. After punk-rocker-unplugged Nothing Left exited the stage (actually just the front of the room), it was time for the furious hardcore of Good Neighbor Policy, who, in retrospect, would probably be anything but. The word "loud" doesn't really describe this band—it was more like a deafening maelstrom of sound. Yup, deafening, pissed-off punk rock fueled by alcohol and pure and utter rage.

These guys were intense—the guitarist broke two strings on the first song and the singer came out double-fisting two bottles of beer as he screamed his vocal chords into oblivion. And the crowd loved it. The tiny interior of the Jury Room transformed into an even tinier mosh pit that included the lead singer. The guitarist ripped, varying his attack from metal riffs to wailing solos, while the drummer worked his ass off trying to keep up. And keep up he did as the band's thrash-punk stayed tight and of course rowdy throughout the set.


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