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NIGHT LIFE THE CLUB SCENE : Funny Felines : And as far as bands with odd names go, Plato's Cat holds its own.

October 18, 1990|BILL LOCEY

Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Minneapolis, London, Manchester are all cities with a vibrant, happening rock music scene. Maybe Ventura and Santa Barbara should be added to the list. There's plenty of good bands in the area--Raging Arb & the Redheads, the Mudheads, the I-Rails, Durango 95, the Lion I's, Something for Nothing, Expression, Spencer the Gardener, the Leo Downey Band, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and the like.

Except for Toad, these bands have a grand total of zero videos on MTV, yet they deserve at least three-quarters of the money earned by all those shrieky, "foofoo-hair" bands.

Rock 'n' roll, talent and justice have about as much in common as Frisbees and cats, and make about as much sense as changing the National Anthem to the "Peter Gunn Theme" then letting a polka band perform it.

Anyway, this week's happening local pop rock/folk rock/what- the-heck band is none other than those philosophical feline fanciers, Plato's Cat. Like the other local bands, the trio's first album is a tape, the recently released "Taking a Ride." And as far as bands with funny names go, Plato's Cat holds its own. "We stole the name off some comedy album," bass player and singer Dave Girtsman said. "I don't even know who it is, but we all laughed when we heard it."

For most local bands, the number of local venues is rather limited--in Ventura, there's Charlie's, Charlie's, oh, and Charlie's, where the group plays Tuesdays. Recently, Hornblower's added a local night, but the Ventura Theatre remains a tough place to get into for locals. There's a few places in Santa Barbara, otherwise, it's the garage. "We like Ventura," Girtsman said, adding that Santa Barbara hasn't "a lot of venues up there for us."

So, for the one-album, oops, one-tape rock band, it's not all gorgeous groupies or record companies giving away dump-truck loads of money. "People don't realize how long a band has to practice before you actually see them onstage," Girtsman said.

"For every hour we play, we've probably practiced four hours. And there's nothing like playing until 2 a.m. then getting up at six to go to work--or getting paid 10 bucks and having a 20-buck bar tab. Maybe we just do it for the endless supply of women we wish we had."

Plato's Cat music is your basic pop rock featuring some swell harmonies by Girtsman and guitarist Brad Altavilla. Drummer Randy Cunningham is the third member. Altavilla and Cunningham, both from Santa Barbara, started the band, then recruited Girtsman, their Ventura connection.

They were once a quartet, but for the past month have been a trio. It hasn't seemed to have hurt them much. Plato's Cat doesn't have as many hooks as hell raiser, but it's close. The title tune is the sort that lives on and on in your head.

"I'd say our music is diverse, sort of hard-edged; we're willing to do anything as long as it has a polka beat," Girtsman said, tongue firmly in cheek. "Hey, we're good, we're entertaining. And if you come to see us, we'll give you a dollar."

Plato's Cat performs Tuesday nights at Charlie's during October, thus becoming the musical antidote for "Roseanne."

But do they want Bon Jovi's money or even the house he gave away on MTV? "We just want to play good music that's not cheesy," Girtsman said. "We're not in it for the money; that's out of the question. No one even knows who we are. Personally, I want to grow as a songwriter, and besides, you can't go wrong for two bucks. You can't even rent a movie for two bucks these days."

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