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A Musician Finds Himself at Desk, Reviewing the Critics

December 27, 1987|NICK PYZOW | Editor's Note: For a fair judgment of the critics-turned-musicians, Calendar asked Orange County guitarist, singer and songwriter Nick Pyzow to turn critic and review the group's performance.

Opening the show with energetic, R&B-tinged versions of "We Three Kings of Orient Are" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," the Beat Pests set the tone for the rest of the set: earnest, yet fun. Sort of a Los Lobos-joins-Sam Cooke for a Fabulous T-Birds tribute to Eddie Cochran, sitting in with Jack Mack & the Heart Attack, brought to you by Bob Seger.

Running the gamut of styles from blues ("What My Heart Needs") to calypso ("Iko Iko") to a Bo Diddley "Little Drummer Boy" to a straight-ahead rock 'n' roll closer ("I'm a Christmas Tree"), the Beat Pests hit a lead-off home run that both challenged and supported the rest of the show's bands.

Strong points include Jim Washburn's sparse, evocative, one-note's-as-good-as-10-if-you-play-it-right guitar, Randy Lewis' ditto approach to saxophone and, especially, the vocal passion, histrionics and phrasing of drummer and lead singer Rick Cassidy (who I'm told works as a mobile disc jockey). An incredible voice. Move over Don Henley.

No individual song was really weak, but some of the vocals (both lead and backing) got lost in the mix. Hey, if you're going to bother to learn the words and sing them, let us bother to hear them.

Despite the one-size-fits-all staging that sometimes mars production values at such benefits, the musicians must still be tuned into one another--something the Beat Pests need to work on to make the most of each song's nuances.

Nevertheless, if this loose coalition of pop music critics, mobile deejays and regular musicians plays again, make the effort to see them.

So what if they don't explore new musical territory or break lyrical ground? Everyone, especially other musicians, would get a kick seeing these "outsiders" having just as much fun, taking themselves just as seriously and being just as nervous in front of a large audience as we are.

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