ARTS

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November 9, 2001

Nothing smooth about these song-stealing criminals

I think, before truly beginning, it would be best for me to expound on the meaning of the name Alien Ant Farm. First off, "alien." As in, "the concept of music is completely alien to all our opening acts." Next, there is "ant." These would be the tiny creatures also known as ten-year-olds that seem to be swarming during any given Alien Ant Farm performance. Lastly, "farm": any venue holding a concert in which farmers (aka, Alien Ant Farm band members) raise and breed a generation of the aforementioned antlike children to listen to horrible music.

It's not as though Alien Ant Farm's November 4 show at the Metro was completely horrible. Except, in many ways, it was. Now it's true I missed the first opening act. For all I know they could be the next Beatles. But I don't know. I've never heard of them before. I don't remember their name. However, Sunday night, I did hear The Apex Theory.

Now, let's think about this. The Apex Theory. What exactly is "The Apex Theory"? Well, from the appearance of the band, I would say it is the theory that we might all one day devolve into Richard Simmons-on-acid impersonators who in our off time are either (1) overtly manic kindergarten teachers, (2) members of the Mickey Mouse Club, or (3) Ricky Martin. At least, this would be the Apex theory as demonstrated by their lead singer in his buzzed-head/blue kimono "I want to be a fanatic religious leader" look on stage, which was accompanied by his need to constantly move around and appear as though he were doing aerobics.

Of course, the Apex theory could just mean that they are striving for the highest point they possibly can considering they only theoretically play music. I am quite inclined to believe this definition as well.

Now Pressure 4-5, who followed The Apex Theory, was not entirely terrible. Their music sounded exactly like any post-Nirvana "grunge turning into metal." So boring, but all right, and you could tell they at least put some thought into their music. So I have to give them credit. This is also partly because their lead guitarist looks an awful lot like this guy I had a crush on in eighth grade, and partly because their vocalist recruited an audience member to cut his hair after the show. He claimed it was forming into a mullet in the back. "Does anyone out there still like mullets?" he asked, only immediately to respond, "You people suck. You need to go check out fearthemullet.com." (I actually went to this site. It was a waste of my time. Sort of like seeing The Apex Theory.)

So what about Alien Ant Farm? Did they manage to stabilize a show that seemed to be slowly moving downward? Barely, and through very predictable means: they waited to play their big single, "Smooth Criminal," until the very end of the show. That song was passable, though I'm still wondering why I sat through the rest of the set when I could have probably come home, turned on MTV, and seen the video, which was better than the live rendition anyway.

But never mind that. While standing somewhat disengaged through the rest of their less-than-memorable music, I had a chance to survey the crowd around me. After a bit of that, though, I began to wonder — just what are these people doing here? How do these preppy women with their "obviously took awhile" makeup, these 12-year-old girls in the latest Gap jeans and their "I still sing soprano" boyfriends, the "I've seen tougher times than you, kid" weatherbeaten man in a 1963 Chicago Bears jacket, all end up at the same show? Unfortunately, I haven't arrived at any firm conclusion.

For those women, I'll assume they inhaled too much of their own department store perfume and wound up at the venue by accident. The old man was probably too deaf to realize his ears were being tortured; I can forgive him. But kids who likely have yet to hit junior high? Have they even been around long enough to know that "Smooth Criminal" is a Michael Jackson cover? Have they been around long enough to know Michael Jackson was once black? These kids were my little sister's age. My little sister still plays house with her dolls. And my little sister is entirely too young to be let near anyone as strange as the members of The Apex Theory.

All those people were there, however. The overly primped women, the old man, the too-young kids. They listened, and at the end of each number they heard each band exuberantly thank the crowd for being present. Was it fear that the audience would leave in the middle of each progressing number? Perhaps, and if so, it was a well-grounded fear.

Yet the popularity of "Smooth Criminal" proved enough to keep most of the crowd there until the end, through so-so music and Alien Ant Farm frontman Dryden's need to reassure everyone that they are indeed "a heavy metal band." (Um, right…) But that's all the crowd stayed through. For, at the end, Alien Ant Farm also found themselves somewhat alien to very strong applause.