The umbrella name given a current caravan tour of four freshman rock bands, "Four Play," turned out to be all too appropriate in its pun-manship as the tour wrapped up Wednesday at the Palace.
The (good) idea was to take several young bands that would normally hit the road only as opening acts and send them out together in a group package for maximum exposure. But as Hurrah!, the Royal Court of China, the Northern Pikes and Will & the Kill proved Wednesday, a quantity of four warm-up acts does not necessarily add up to the satisfaction of one quality headliner. It was all foreplay, indeed.
And here in Hollywood, the goal of exposing these bands to the public seemed overridden by the need to expose them to their own record company personnel. Thus the packed lobbies and bar areas of the Palace looked like a West Coast version of the New Music Seminar's annual industry jabfest, the Schmoozatorium--while inside the hall, a progressively dwindling number of actual music fans gathered to listen to and consider the mediocrity of today's comers in an atmosphere more akin to a Snooz atorium.
Canada's Northern Pikes opened with a so-so set that sounded like it could have come from an unsigned power-pop band at Madame Wong's in 1980. A slight flair for the offbeat was encouraging but underdeveloped, and this very unassuming, average-looking bunch of guys has yet to figure out how to turn normalcy to its advantage.
Next up, Will Sexton, teen-aged Charlie's little brother, fronted Will & the Kill--and no, it's not in his sibling's Bowie-esque style, nor is it the blues-rock stuff they both left behind in Texas, but something rapidly approaching the glam-rock camp (big power chords, big hair, medium-sized melodic content). Young Sexton, 17, showed promise as a rocker but exuded too little presence (like, zero) or substance.
Royal Court of China, the ornery third batter, livened things up and overcame a fatally misleading name with an energetic, rootsy, strum 'n' hum sound a la the BoDeans--but, alas, nothing remotely remarkable song -wise. (Also, someone should tell singer Joe Blanton that having a swastika on your guitar and a helmeted Nazi death skull on your amp may play in Peoria--or Nashville, the band's hometown--but it doesn't endear you to folks in this city. Actually, some audience members did tell him--loudly and repeatedly.)
Finally, with most of the schmoozers already having headed for home and bed, England's Hurrah! wrapped it up with a fair set of upbeat, major-chord ditties like a less mannered, more rough-hewn Aztec Camera. "At last, some chord changes," sighed one attendee.