After two years as one of the most popular draws on the Orange County original rock scene, Gherkin Raucous is playing its farewell show Friday night at Foul Play in Huntington Beach.
Drummer Miles Gillett's decision to return to his native New Zealand next month is the immediate cause of the breakup, although the other members said that musical differences and the band's inability to land a recording deal played a role in Gillett's departure and in their own decision not to continue.
Besides, guitarist Warren Fitzgerald, bassist Dan Wallis and singer Darren McNamee said, auditions for a new drummer proved fruitless.
"It would have been hard to go back to square one," Fitzgerald said, "so we decided it would be better to let it lie."
Gherkin's calling card was metallic hard rock delivered with unpredictable, often ribald theatrics that made the band something of a heavy metal parody. Gillett, who previously had played in El Grupo Sexo, wasn't always happy with the unruly performing approach of front men Fitzgerald and McNamee.
Fitzgerald said that "things started falling apart" for Gherkin after the band had an unsuccessful recording audition for Sire Records last year. Plans to regroup from that setback by releasing an album on an independent label fell through as instability set in.
Wallis is playing bass now in local rock band Twisto Frumpkin. Fitzgerald will continue performing and recording with the Vandals, the long-running punk rock band, but he said he is also thinking about starting a new band or joining an established hard rock act. McNamee said his next step will be an acoustic rock project with a revolving crew of side players.
"We're going to make a big production" out of Gherkin Raucous' finale at Foul Play, McNamee said. "We're going to have a big ceremony: bye bye to Miles."
KZLA radio (93.9 FM), one of the two country stations accessible to Orange County listeners, has added "Lift Your Leg" by Costa Mesa-based Chris Gaffney & the Cold Hard Facts to its regular airplay rotation.
What's encouraging about that development--besides the fact that the song is good--is that it's a case of a radio programmer following his own instincts, instead of kowtowing to the mass-marketing surveys and major record company promotional pressure that typically drive commercial radio nowadays (Gaffney is a virtual unknown who records for ROM, a tiny Los Angeles-based label with little, if any, clout to land a song on a major station).
KZLA's operations manager, Bob Guerra, said he made a point of listening to Gaffney's "Lift Your Leg" single after reading favorable reviews of the singer-accordionist's recent album, "Chris Gaffney & the Cold Hard Facts."
"It knocked me out," Guerra said. "I decided there's no reason in the world we shouldn't be playing it. It's great to see these local artists do so well."
Upcoming shows added to the Coach House schedule in San Juan Capistrano include Michelle Shocked and John Wesley Harding on May 29 and Todd Rundgren and his band on June 23, 25 and 26. Leo Kottke's upcoming Coach House date has been shifted from May 27 to May 31.