Sure, The Mission Creeps tend toward the dark side. The Tucson-based band describes its fusion of goth, surf, garage, rockabilly and punk as "noir horror rock," and they even requested that most of the stage lights be turned out when they played at Plush on Saturday. But more than ever, these Creeps proved to be a lot of fun, working through an hour-long set emphasizing the catchy pop sensibilities and innate danceable nature of their material.
Along for the ride were two California bands with obviously complementary styles.
From San Francisco, the Graves Brothers Deluxe weren't exactly ghoulish, but their 40-minute opening set definitely felt dangerous and spooky. Fronted by bassist and singer Stoo Odom, their brand of garage rock combined elements of jazz, surf-rock, spy-movie soundtracks and Beat poetry. The guitarist (who occasionally picked up the alto sax) often would play mantra-like rhythm lines, as did guest keyboardist Jai Young Kim, freeing up Odom to play lead fuzz bass. The set, incorporating several songs from the band's 2010 album San Malo, closed with "Yoo Doo Right," originally by Can and covered by the great 1980s band Thin White Rope, of which Odom was a member.
The Lonesome Ones, from Chino Hills, followed with unrelenting garage rock, proto-metal and '60s-style rave-ups that combine psychedelic rock with maximum R&B. The five-piece band played like a hot rod redlining on a long stretch of desert highway, and the resultant rumble caused a light fixture to break off and fall from the ceiling early in the 45-minute set. Lead singer Derek Coon, the only band member not wearing black, kept the audience engaged with an animated persona that was a cross between AC/DC's Brian Johnson and Sam the butcher from The Brady Bunch.
The Mission Creeps closed the evening, and rarely have James Arrr's feral snarl and vibrato-laden guitar-playing sounded better; the same went for Miss Frankie Stein's predatory, melodic bass parts. Rikki Styxx furiously pounded the drums, keeping the beats big and irresistible. Some promising new tunes were sprinkled in, but "Monster," "Creepy," "She's My Witch" and an encore of cult classic "Goo Goo Muck" were among the highlights.