Show Review: Mika Miko, Judgement Day, Audacity, Mammoth Exploration Society at Nickel City, 7/27/09

by Joel Edelman on July 28, 2009

Mika Miko prefer the red phone to Le Ballon rouge

Mika Miko prefer the red phone to Le Ballon Rouge

It’s not every day that I get a new favorite band, and that’s a good thing. I already own 160 T-shirts and four tote bags. I don’t need any more. But yesterday I did get a new favorite band, and it caused me to watch an entire set, something that never happens at Nickel City, where the siren song of Beatmania, World Stadium ’92 and Puzzle Fighter are too strong to ignore.

But Mika Miko forced me to do just that, with their mid-90s look and late-70s sounding punk. It left me at times feeling as if I were in a retrospective documentary. Other times I felt as if I were in college again, right down to being starstruck.

After finally beating the Golden State Warriors in double overtime 80-72 in Maximum Hangtime (eat me, Latrell Sprewell), it was time to show my hand-stamped hand to get back into the party room at Nickel City, for Mika Miko were about to start.

I’d played Mika Miko on my show at KSCU (Wednesday nights, 9 p.m.-midnight Pacific) a few times. Our loud rock director had reviewed “We Be XuXa,” but this album was much better than the metal he usually reviews. It had a classic punk feel, and by classic, I don’t mean Green Day. I mean Dead Kennedys.

There were two things I noticed right away: There was a pit, and the two singers were hot in a just-for-me way.

Nickel City holds its shows in the party room. If you are a parent of an elementary school-aged child, you’re likely to use this room on a Saturday afternoon for punch and pie. The walls are decorated with varying cartoon characters, oversize nickels and other decorations, including ribbons. (The one that sings the most, as opposed to the one that yells into a telephone receiver — more on that later — took the time to notice that, where the ribbon folds over, the shading was drawn properly. In so many words, she said “that’s the kind of stuff you have to plan in advance.”)

But it’s just a carpeted room in a building in a strip mall with an El Pollo Loco and a Subway. It’s not Gilman or Comic Book Guy’s Bar (CBGB). Yet what to my wondering eyes did appear, but eight shoving friends and no trace of beer.

I’d only seen a mosh pit at Nickel City once before, and that was when The Maxies were in town, but they’re from Greenland, so you sort of expect that. Those transplanted Danes are wacky freaks.

Maybe it was the static electricity generated from the carpet or the fears of torn ACLs, but this was the happiest pit I’d ever seen. People were actually smiling. It was like a nonsexual orgy of people. The reason for this, of course, was the energy from the music. This is a band that does well in the studio but 10 times better on stage. Why? Because you get to see them rock. And when you’ve had the upbringing I’ve had, it’s the recipe for love.

They either hear this all the time, or this will be the first time, but the two singers look like Darlene and Becky from Roseanne. With their loose-fitting ’90s T-shirts and hairstyles, it was like I was in high school again, although we will not get into what I would do when I would think about Darlene and Becky. (I think it’s safe to say we all liked Becky, and then when Nirvana got popular, we suddenly were heavy into Darlene. I even dated someone who looked like her in 1999, and she hated being compared to Sara Gilbert. At least I always yelled out the right name.)

The band has three other members, too. They look good too, but they don’t sing, and I barely have enough, er, RAM, to look at two people at a time. The band sort of presents itself the way that Call and Response would when performing live: Put the goods in front of the stage and let the rest of the band do its job without being noticed.

So the band looks good, but the key here is that they sounded good too. The first impression i had of them was that they were going to be like the Red Aunts, high praise indeed. But other than the half-Japanese drummer, Mika Miko were superior in every way. The songs were twice as long (so 150 seconds instead of 75) and four times as good. And then there was the clever microphone.

The Becky of the group was yelling into a red telephone receiver during the first few songs before it stopped working. Sadly, we then had to watch her yell into a regulation microphone. What’s the fun of that? I suppose they should do a cover of “Hanging on a Telephone” by Blondie once it is fixed. This downtime did allow for the revelation of the intricacies of Nickel City’s ribbon decorations, however.

One of the nice things about being involved in the music scene is that I get to meet artists all the time, and they’re regular people just like you. They go to Del Taco, just like you. They sleep with strangers, just like you. And they throw up in taxis, just like you. It’s been a good 10 years (Juliana Hatfield) since I have been so starstruck that I have either stammered in front of a performer or found a way to avoid the socially awkward situation in the first place. So imagine the beeline I made for the merch table after the show so I could peruse the wares before anyone from the band actually showed up.

Whether it’s that the band took me back to a more vulnerable time in my life when I was scared of everything or they were just that good is perhaps debatable. But suddenly I was worried that I might have a midterm tomorrow, or I was going to have to work with Donald Lee Langendorf at Burger King again, and he was going to try to drain two deep fryers at once and flood the kitchen with dirty soybean oil.

Luckily the guy working the merch table looked like Mielle’s boyfriend, so I was able to conduct my transaction in peace. I quickly picked out all three shirts, the tote bag (it has a kitten on it!) and a pair of sunglasses for my girlfriend, who is always losing sunglasses, paid $40 I don’t have (thanks, unemployment!) and walked outside in a fashion that likely would have made Steve Urkel blush. There were two chicks working on their lung cancer on the curb next to my car, but I was so twitterpated that I didn’t even feel an urge to be indignant.

Oh, and there were other bands, too. Judgement Day are so good at string metal that they actually have registered They were good at what they did, but I used their set to play Puzzle Fighter. I clinched Devilot at the last possible opportunity, winning the third round of the sixth battle with the four-chain I was lacking. Of course, I then lost to Devilot in a sweep, so really the whole thing was a waste of time.

Audacity had a big enough crowd that I did not think they needed my help. Plus, the room reeked of Marlboros when they were playing. Instead I played World Stadium ’92 and used the Hiroshima Toyo Carp to beat the Chunichi Dragons, 6-5. The controller still has trouble going to the left, and it almost cost me the game. I’ve never seen the computer pinch hit for the pitcher so many times. I cannot remember a thing about them. I guess they were just another punk band.

Mammoth Exploration Society are a local outfit and seemed young, young, young. The lead singer, who reminds me of one of the Chantigs, is still finding his voice, but the band itself should be alright if they stick it out. The bassist, who sports a Michael Cera look, and drummer are really skilled, and the second guitarist also plays hard. It seems that their influences are all different, and they have not figured out what to play that will cause them to put it all together. Their fan base is largely female, which provided for an entertaining diversion, but my main concern is that this is the kind of band that loses confidence because the various members don’t understand why it’s not “working,” and then here come the cigarettes and coke and tattoos. Hopefully they figure out how to shave the puzzle pieces to make them fit, or perhaps it will be the stepping stone to a bunch of separate successful music careers. They need to be seen live more than once because each member is a bit of a show in himself.

[Thanks to Flickr user Sal Y Sus for the photo.]

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Dakin Hardwick July 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm

So, I was always a fan of Darlene, but the Becky of Mika Miko is in fact my favorite. She sold me her last XL shirt at SXSW, too. I’m glad you fell in love like I did.


Marie Carney July 28, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I think Becky looks like Sandra Dee in that picture in her vintage plaid shirt and bangs.
I’m very excited that you used the word “twitterpated” which I haven’t had cause to use for a long time.
It’s nice to hear a new voice round here. 🙂


Caroline July 28, 2009 at 1:48 pm

If they had been described as “Becky and Darlene” then, I might have stuck around to watch them at SXSW.

You will always rule at Puzzle Fighter in my eyes, Joel.


BURGER July 30, 2009 at 7:27 am

wrong, audacity rules.


Gordon Elgart July 30, 2009 at 9:49 am

Hey! Thee Makeout Party! I saw you open for Black Keys; you were good.


just another review July 30, 2009 at 1:02 pm

just keep on playing your video games and keep your ears closed. at least you were right about mika miko!!! they rule


DJ Delirium August 4, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I too have found a new favorite band and am stoked too see the energy of the LA underground representing in the NorCal Bay Area! Tune in to KSCU tomorrow (Wed 8/5) around 6pm for some live recordings of Mika Miko & Judgement Day from this Nickel City show.

DJ Delirium
Wednesdays 5-7pm
103.3fm KSCU Santa Clara (stream online)


jacob August 10, 2009 at 1:46 am

Outfit? Whats that?


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