Los Angeles, California
July 20, 2003

Pop Explosion!

David Bash’s International Pop Overthrow celebrates its sixth year in Los Angeles with its usual fun lineup
by Aaron M. Fontana and Brent Simon

From command central, his home in Sherman Oaks, promoter, journalist and founder of the International Pop Overthrow festival, David Bash has his work cut out for him. Not only does he have to organize this, the sixth year’s roster of over 180 bands, some from as far away as Israel and Austria, but he also has to stay in touch with his venues, keep his sponsors happy, organize time slots for the gigs and attempt to get publicity — the list goes on and on.

Of course, one of his main tasks sometimes proves to be the most difficult; and it’s an ongoing battle. While Bash knows it’s a no-brainer, he still sometimes has a hard time getting people to accept the dirty little word—“Pop”—in the title of his festival which has also gone off twice in New York and Chicago and will soon be truly international (he’s working on IPO Liverpool for October). “I think it’s one of the more misunderstood genres out there,” Begins Bash on a phone from his home base, which has an entire room filled with shelves of CDs. “And, especially with the name meaning so many things to so many people, I kind feel it’s my duty almost to get this music out in front of the public to where they can get a pretty good idea of what it really is.”

Bash, who grew up in the ’60s, of course, knows that while pop used to mean the Beatles and the Beach Boys, two acts whose stock only continues to rise as time goes on, these days the word is sometimes negatively likened to acts such as Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Christina Aguilera, even though it, in truth, also includes bands like Green Day, Jimmy Eat World and Blink-182, for that matter.

Bash’s definition of pop is simple and inclusive: “It’s melodic, hooked-based music that evokes the spirit of what radio used to be like without necessarily sounding retro.” He adds: “So I mean a lot of what people call modern rock today is definitely pop.” And, by God, he’s right.

Which means you should throw away your preconceptions and come on down.

David Bash’s Sixth Annual Los Angeles International Pop Overthrow festival touches down July 18 and ends Aug. 3 at venues such as the Knitting Factory, the Derby and Fais Do Do, among others. While the list of bands is long and comprehensive, here are some of our personal favorites.

The Grip Weeds

The band may be named for John Lennon’s character in How I Won the War, but their music—a swirling, ’60s-era melange of pop, psychedelia and straight rock—evinces a more robust set of influences. Fronted by non-bickering brothers Kurt and Rick Reil and anchored by a female axeslinger (Kristin Pinell), the Grip Weeds’ recently re-issued The Sound Is In You is a 17-song document of idiosyncratic honesty, captured musical nuggets of a bygone past infused with a decidedly modern yearning. Visit their eponymous Web site for more information on their three Southern California dates and other tidbits. (Brent Simon)

The High Dials

Any band that records a concept album about a mysterious character named Silas and his attempts to navigate a nightmarish city of the future (that’s A New Devotion, folks) has my attention if not necessarily admiration, but the Montreal-based High Dials retain plenty of the latter with a fresh sound that leaves plenty of room for their jangled, open pop soundscapes. Think psychedelized Squeeze with a pinch of paranoia-free Radiohead. July 25 at Fais Do Do with the Grip Weeds (a natural match) and July 28 at Echo Club.

Stereo 360

So is this quartet fronted by Shad Hills Stereo 360 or Stereo Three-Sixty? The debate may never be completely settled, since both monikers appear on Enjoy Your Life Poolside, a great collection of 11 melodious, direct-connect rockers that sound like the open road. But you can catch plenty of harmonious romps in song form at the group’s IPO set, including “Automatic,” their catchy tune of romantic supplication (“Oh oh/You’re better looking/Oh oh/You make more money than me”).

The Blondes

Think OK Go driving a Trans Am to the roller rink, combs firmly placed in back pocket, and you’ll get an idea of the Blondes’ jumpy, sunny ’70s pop. Their recent release, Swedish Heat, is a fun throwback to all things dazed and confused, like Suzi Quatro (the song of the same name) and when hot chicks used to be called foxes (“Teenage Foxes”). They play Fais Do Do on Sat., July 26

Andy Dick & The Bitches of the Century

“The name alone should suggest certain striking images,” says Bash about L.A.’s favorite drug reformed comic and his backup band, who will play their deliciously, evilly humorous music on July 22 at Spaceland, IPO’s Guerilla Pop night, featuring “subversive” acts — the word subversive alone should make you want to go.

Ray Paul

Boston/New York/Los Angeles old-timer and founder of Permanent Press Records, Ray Paul has been compared to Badfinger. Recently, he released The Charles Beat, a sort of Ray Paul hits collection, which a friend of mine described as snappy — and she was right. He plays Sat., July 19 at Zen Sushi.

P. Hux

Playing a sort of dark, singer-songwriter pop, P. Hux, or Parthenon Huxley as he is formally called, put out his latest of six albums, Purgatory Falls, this year; and it’s a pretty, little collection of depressing love songs that’ll make you feel at home with your favorite unrequited love — the strings in the background only add to the beautiful weight. Check him out Mon., July 21 at the Derby.

The Grip Weeds : The Sound Is In You