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MUSIC : Band Cranks Up the Volume With Hard-on-the-Ears Rock : The Santa Barbara foursome Primal Tribe plays it loud, and the kids go nuts.


"If it's too loud, you're too old" reads a ubiquitous bumper sticker. It could also be the band anthem of Primal Tribe, which will bring its brand of very loud hard rock to the Beach Shack in Santa Barbara tonight.

Primal Tribe is made up of four longhairs from northern Santa Barbara County. Benedict Ofstead sings real loud. Bobby McGee plays guitar real loud. Mark Thompson hits the drums real hard. Rob Cantrell thumps his bass real hard. Occasionally there's enough long hair flying around to create the illusion of a syncopated hurricane.

Local radio generally ignores local bands, but not so KTYD in Santa Barbara, which actually plays local bands, including Primal Tribe, Munkafust and Woodburning Project.

"One of our songs, 'Beautiful,' is on regular rotation," said Cantrell. "We're in there just like the Spin Doctors. They play it five or six times a day."

Before Primal Tribe was able to make its own CD, the band appeared on one of two compilation CDs featuring Santa Barbara bands that came out in late 1992. Both efforts emerged with much hoopla but sank like a "Yanni Does Megadeth" album.

"I know our fans held off (from buying the CD)," said Cantrell. "Instead of getting one Primal Tribe song, they waited for our CD, and got eight songs. We met this young married couple who wanted to make an investment, and they invested in us. We ended up with 1,000 CDs and 1,000 tapes in December. We've already sold three-quarters of them."

Chiefly to blame for the band is Cantrell and Ofstead, who have been jamming together for about a decade, surviving a number of short-lived groups in the otherwise serene Santa Ynez Valley. McGee joined about two years ago, and Thompson derailed the revolving drummer policy about 1 1/2 years ago to form the current lineup. They play relentlessly throughout Santa Barbara County, and have built a large following.

That, and about $2.50, might get them a double cappuccino.

"A year ago, there was a huge Santa Barbara scene," said the bass player. "It's a lot different now. The Safari doesn't have live bands anymore except for a reggae band on Tuesdays. Zelo closed down. The Brewhouse closed down. The Anaconda Theater in Isla Vista closed down. Buster's in Goleta is no longer an all-ages place, and we have a huge under-age following.

"A lot of that is word of mouth, but we've played at a lot of local high schools, plus we've played a lot at the Lompoc Theatre, where we've drawn 300 kids. We've played all over, but we consider Isla Vista to be home."

In addition to Isla Vista, where students major in Party 101, the band has also had its brushes with famous rock stars, most recently at the Santa Barbara County Fair.

"We played at the Santa Barbara County Fair with Robby Krieger (guitarist who played with the Doors)," Cantrell said. "It was great. There were 500 kids going nuts. We ended up signing autographs and everything."

Three hundred kids going nuts plus 500 kids going nuts adds up to enough potential trouble to put the entire Central Coast on probation, or simply attests to the continued popularity of hard rock. Much to the chagrin of parents everywhere, hard rock isn't going away according to Cantrell.

"Hard rock is always going to be the basis of all popular music," said Cantrell, who evidently never heard of the blues. "Look who's lasted the longest--Led Zeppelin, the heaviest band ever. We play hard-core groove music."

Needless to say, no one need waste their best years waiting for Sting and Freddy Mercury comparisons; Ofstead has a deep growl not unlike Eddie Vedder, that rich guy in Pearl Jam.

"People are too quick to judge a band," said Thompson. "People may hear 'Beautiful' and think it sounds just like Pearl Jam. Maybe it's Ben's voice; it's deep, but it's just a coincidence. That was an original song, and if it had come out earlier, people would be saying that Pearl Jam sounds like us."


* WHAT: Primal Tribe, Gila Monsters.

* WHERE: Beach Shack, 500 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara.

* WHEN: Tonight, 9

* COST: $2.

* ETC: Call 966-1634.

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