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Nowhere to Hide

Flashy wardrobe can't cover trio's fine musicianship.


The Angel Anton Band looks like a colorblind test come to life. Marcel Anton, who should give out sunglasses to fans, is the guitar player for the group, which includes two other colorfully dressed characters, Gary Vaughn on bass and Leon Abner on drums. The trio is playing its ethnically diverse, guitar-crazed roots rock at the Ban-Dar in Ventura every Tuesday this month.

This is a very entertaining band--and the next "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is a rerun anyway. Wearing bright red pants and a matching frock coat over an electric yellow shirt, topped by a white straw hat, Anton appears to be from over the rainbow, but actually lives in Malibu.

Having started his career nearer to that other ocean and spent time in places such as Florida and New Orleans, Anton has been in California for years now and has been playing with the same guys for more than a decade. It's impossible to hide anyone in a trio and in the tradition of Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Grand Funk Railroad, the players in Anton's group are masters of their craft.

The guitar player got inspiration for his future night job in the usual manner.

"I started as a kid in Florida," Anton said. "My neighbor was a deejay and he used to bring home all these records by Jimi Hendrix, Elvis, James Brown and Otis Redding. My parents were into jazz, so I started out playing a clarinet in junior high and high school, but then I figured I could get more dates if I played the guitar."

The plan was a success, as Anton is now married. Musically, Anton did his homework and then some, studying his craft at the University of Miami and out west at the Grove School of Music. Anton has also learned to make a living off his talent by playing his own stuff and producing and arranging for others. The band has done its time in the L.A. scene, but also makes road trips around the West Coast and does a European tour several times a year.

"It seemed that paying twenty to thirty grand for an education for a job that doesn't pay very much was irrelevant," Anton said. "This band survives. Even though L.A. is the center of the music industry and the film industry, no original act doing original music is going to break out of there any time soon. Forget about it."

Anton has appeared on numerous albums and released several of his own, including the latest, a virtuoso performance on "Tantra Carnival." A live album, "Orbital Groove," is in the works. In the meantime, the band could play longer than Phish with a repertoire of about 150 originals and 50 covers, including the entire Jimi Hendrix catalog. Sometimes billed as a zydeco band, this outfit is much more than that, and the Hendrix influence is more apparent than Buckwheat Zydeco.

"I like to call our music 'tropidelic,' " Anton said. "It's a little bit tropical with some soul, zydeco, reggae and some World Music. It's zydeco and Creole music--not Cajun--and with no accordions. I have a couple of boxes that create an accordion sound. It's just sort of a mix of all the ethnic musics."

The band's trademark is masses of massive guitar solos and Anton's soulful vocals. Then there's that costume change, a spur-of-the-moment fashion show that Anton introduces by saying: "I'm Marcel Anton but the group is Angel Anton--you'll understand more about that later."

Near the end of the set, when the rhythm section is percolating, Anton leaves the stage, only to return wearing a pair of white angel wings, a pair of fishnets and little else but a smile. One recent night at the Ban-Dar, a couple of rednecks who thought they were still at a country bar saw this angel materialize and left as if their boots were on fire, never to be seen again.

"They either find it stimulating or just funny," Anton said. "I just do it for the energy and the shock value. . . . It's just a big performance. People pay, we try to give them a show. It's all in fun."

This Ban-Dar gig is a kinder, gentler affair then some of the places Anton has played over the years. There have been shows in the southeast where the venue has installed chicken wire around the stage to protect the band from flying beer bottles--a tradition in some bars. And for a working musician, music is a lot like work except for the weird hours. And, someone has to pay off those $89 sets of wings.

"I just want to play some good music," Anton said. "I'll go to my grave playing music."



Angel Anton at the Ban-Dar, 3005 E. Main St., Ventura, 8 p.m. Tuesday; $3; 643-4420.


The second annual Hueneme Beach Festival, after skipping a year, is back with a two-day affordable epic, featuring plenty of all the usual stuff.

Expect arts and crafts booths, food, rides and games--something for the entire family. There's also a solid music lineup with lots of local players. On Saturday: Banned From the Beach (1 p.m.), Teresa Russell & Cocobilli (3 p.m.) and the Ska Daddyz (5 p.m.). Sunday: Jazz Renegades (11 a.m.), Rick Reeves (1 p.m.) and E'Nuff Said (3:30 p.m.).

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