Buzzbands I Have Known
By Scott Creney
People in music scenes love to predict the future. These guys are going to be huge, they will insist. And if you disagree with them, even mildly, they will turn indignant and accuse you of not supporting the scene, like blind local patriotism is something to be proud of.
In my lifetime, I’ve been fortunate to live in all kinds of different places, on the periphery of the various local music scenes (this means I read about most of them in the local paper — I was either too young or too busy to be out at the club every night). And in all that time I’ve learned one thing.
People don’t know shit about predicting the future of music. The following are all bands that people — local and/or national media — said were going to be stars. In some cases, I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning how great their music was. But such is the nature of buzz.
San Diego: 1986-1998
I didn’t really start going to shows until the early 90s. Before that there were The Beat Farmers and Mojo Nixon, and a band called The Origin. Things didn’t get really interesting until 1992-93 when the music industry reacted to the success of Nirvana, Grunge, et al by trying to find the next Seattle. Which makes about as much sense as reacting to the success of Phillip Roth by going up to random old Jewish guys on the street and offering them book deals. And it worked about as well for everyone involved.
Lucy’s Fur Coat – Treasure Hands
In addition to Lucy’s Fur Coat, bands like Rocket From The Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, Uncle Joe’s Big Ol’ Driver, Fluf, Rust, Heavy Vegetable, Three Mile Pilot, and a bunch more I’m probably forgetting, all got signed to major label deals. Spin magazine even did a feature on the scene around this time, and it looked like stardom was all but assured for everyone. However, with the exception of RFTC, none of these bands went on to have anything resembling a career. Most of these bands never even saw their albums released as the labels just decided to bury them. But on a more positive note, some of the people in these bands (though NOT anyone associated with Lucy’s Fur Coat) went on to have success in Pinback and the Black Heart Procession.
The Rugburns – Hitchhiker Joe
Play this song to anyone who lived in the San Diego area around 1994 and they’ll probably scream in agony and beg you to stop. This was all over the radio — I think I even heard it on the soft rock station a couple of times. The Rugburns were a band most likely to who never quite did. Frontman Steve Poltz was given a second chance at success when an ex-squeeze named Jewel hit Top 40 stardom a couple of years later, helped in part by a song he co-wrote called ‘You Were Meant For Me’. Mercury Records gave him a deal, and apparently Van Dyke Parks was involved with the album, but I wouldn’t know because I’m never going to listen to the damn thing. After ‘Hitchhiker Joe’ (to say nothing of their other radio hit ‘Me and Eddie Vedder’), there are some things you can never forgive.
Sprung Monkey – Get ‘Em Out Of Here
Third on the list of great artists to dig their way out of the dusty methpit of El Cajon, California (Lester Bangs is #1, and I’m a close second in case you’re wondering) is Sprung Monkey. I used to have one of their early cassettes that had a song on it called ‘Love Slug’, the chorus of which went, “Hop aboard my love slug/You fucking bitch”. Based on the above video, it would seem that the major label got a hold of them pretty hard. We’ll produce this one song so it sounds like Sublime, and we’ll do a video based on… Animal House! Yeah! Animal House! Anyway, by this time I knew I needed to get out of California forever.
Last note about San Diego. There was a band called Blink around this time, who later changed their name to Blink 182, that went on to, you know, actually make it. I don’t remember one person ever predicting this would happen.