When exiting off the 10 East in Pomona near the Fairplex, it doesn’t appear that the city would offer much in the way of arts and entertainment – it’s a somewhat bleak landscape of empty lots, drugstores, fast food chains and post-war ranch-style houses. However, turning onto W. 2nd St. in downtown Pomona, one encounters a completely different and vibrant side to the city. The Pomona Arts Colony is only a few blocks long, which means everything is easily within walking distance – antique and vintage clothing stores, galleries, wine bars and quality dining. The street is adorned with whimsical stringed white lights and century-old lamp posts. Weary Angelenos, accustomed to driving around L.A. looking for parking spaces or shelling out $20.00 for the privilege, can relax: the Arts Colony has a huge parking lot, with metered parking for only a dollar. (I was so happy.) For music, there is The Glass House, an all-ages venue at which legendary paisley underground band The Three O’Clock performed a reunion show.
While eating dinner across the street from the venue, seated with friends outside a restaurant, we were treated to a dramatic pre-show sight: a parade of people riding Vespa scooters arrived, heading slowly down the street towards the venue. (I suddenly felt like I was in a much cheerier version of Quadrophenia.) Sure enough, the old-school mods had indeed turned out in droves to see The Three O’Clock: clean-shaven guys dressed impeccably in tailored, mid-60’s suits, the girls with heavily lined eyes, miniskirts and boots. (No big bushy hipster beards in this crowd.) The excitement in the audience was palpable as the band took to the stage (and people got their smart phones ready to document the event).
Three of the original members of The Three O’Clock – Michael Quercio, Danny Benair and Louis Gutierrez – were performing. Unfortunately, original keyboardist Mike Mariano was not involved with the show. However, Adam Merrin (keyboardist for British invasion-influenced L.A. Band The 88) did an excellent job playing the parts, while adding his own style to the mix.
The band opened up with “Simon in the Park” and followed it up with “With Cantaloupe Girlfriend;” Gutierrez employed some Townshend-style showmanship, letting his guitar feed back and lifting it above his head. The band sounded a bit grittier live than their records, which was a good thing; though their recordings are brilliant, the band played their live set with a ferocity that brought the songs to life, and included some wonderfully noisy psychedelic jams. Quercio’s trademark tenor was clear and strong, and he and Benair locked in tightly to provide an excellent rhythm section. Skilled guitarist Gutierrez kept his roadie busy, often changing guitars to produce specific sounds (mostly of a mid-to-late 60’s nature, though his playing style wasn’t strictly confined to that decade). One would have never guessed that the band had been broken up for years; they played as if they had been performing continuously since the 80’s.
Several songs from the 1983 album Sixteen Tambourines (my personal favorite) were featured: “Jet Fighter,” beginning with its signature beat; “Fall To The Ground” (keyboardist Merrin performing the piano arpeggio flawlessly); “When Lightning Starts” (there was no brass section onstage, but the keyboards and guitar substituted the horn lines nicely); “Stupid Einstein,” and the Bee Gees’ “In My Own Time” (“It’s time for the Australian part of the set,” Quercio quipped beforehand). Other set highlights included “Her Head’s Revolving,” from 1985’s Arrive Without Travelling, and the Salvation Army song “Upside Down” (which had less of a 60’s pop influence than their later material and more of a garage feel; the cow-punk bridge evoked the sound of L.A. clubs in the early 80’s).
The band performed a generous encore set, starting with “And So We Run” from Sixteen Tambourines, a cover of The Byrds’ “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” and ending with the Salvation Army’s first single “Mind Gardens” (for which Quercio gave props to original guitarist John Blazing).
At one point in the set, Louis Gutierrez noted, “Wow, everyone’s gotten older! What happened?” As far as the band, though, especially the eternally youthful Quercio (how does he do it?), they’ve aged extremely well; more importantly, so has their music. Although droves of the band’s original fans came out for the show (no doubt many babysitters were making money that night), there were also quite a few starry-eyed 20-somethings, who seemed just as thrilled to see the band as the older folks. Great music stands the test of time, and The Three O’Clock is living proof of that.