by Nate Morefield

The 90’s were an interesting time for many local music scenes and Long Beach was certainly no different.  After decades of musicians being told they had to fit a certain mold or else they wouldn’t “make it,” a lot of local bands started saying “so what?”  It was becoming easier and easier to record and self-produce an album on your own, which freed a lot of bands to do things they certainly never would have thought to do had they been restrained by the input of a label. The punk rockers had known it for years, but now everybody knew it.

This new found freedom led to some new sounds as bands mixed the various styles that had influenced them. Punk bands mixing in elements of reggae. Funk bands mixing in elements of metal. Nothing was off limits. One of the pioneers in this cross-genre phenomenon was Long Beach’s own, Phobic.

Phobic’s roots were pure metal, as was reflected on their 1996 release, Sphere of Influence. But as the band evolved, they began to mix elements of metal and hardcore with elements of hip-hop into something they called “power groove.” With their final album, Fear Deceives Perception, it was clear to me and the rest of their fans that power groove was what happened when guys who loved Metalica and Pantera started getting into Dr. Dre and Tupac.

They played the usual spots up and down the Hollywood Strip and also became regulars at 90’s era haunts like Linda’s Doll Hut, Club 369 and The Shack and played their final show as a band in 1999 at DiPiazza’s in Long Beach, when DiPiazza’s was still in a bowling alley.

Fast forward 15 years…

Most of the time when you hear one of those drunken, and by now quite cliché, “we should put the band back together” conversations, you think to yourself, “No. No you really shouldn’t.” But on rare occasion, such a conversation leads to more than a hangover and a missed morning of work. In this case, it led to three of the members of Phobic , drummer Will Johnson, bassist Jamis Iovine and vocalist Steve McMahon, to recruit guitarist Ernesto Mora from the band Imperious Rex, to form The FBombs; a project the band says will be a combination of metal-era Phobic and power groove-era Phobic with a few of the group’s favorite 90’s era hard rock covers thrown in for good measure.

The interesting thing about the band’s goals is that they’re publicly stating they’re only doing shows in the month of June. They picked a hell of a way to return to live performance with a debut show at the Whiskey in Hollywood on June 13, opening for Stephen Pearcy (of RATT). There’s a follow up date at DiPiazza’s (6/21) in Long Beach, which may be your (and my) last chance to see them.

A lot can change in 15 years and I suspect some of the bands lyrics about fighting the evils of the establishment, and demanding respect for your views, might sound odd to some coming from a 37 year old father of two. But honestly, I don’t care, and neither should you. A good show is a good show.

To a lot of the younger readers, the independent and sometimes rebellious spirit of the Long Beach music scene has always been there. No two bands sound alike in this town and why would they want to, right? But take it from me kiddies, it wasn’t always that way. Bands like Phobic defied traditional labels, combined genres in new ways and ultimately destroyed the myth that bands had to be this way or that way to succeed. So as you sit there with your fellow 20-something musician friends contemplating your next postindustrial hip-hop folk punk project, remember the guys who paved the way for you to be you and go check out the pioneers of power groove.

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About the Author

Shea Newkirk

Executive Editor, Long Beach Independent

Shea has been involved in the Long Beach music scene since 2003 helping to promote unsigned, independent bands and musicians through various media including photos, video, event production, and marketing. Founder of and Folk Revival Festival as well as a musician with over 15 years experience, Shea has a great ear for finding the best independent music coming out of the local Long Beach music scene.

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