What makes Tom Waits so goddamned special? Waits mumbles words that dribble like shards of glass on honey. Looking at his mug is something like staring at some old dog who has had a hard life and wants to quit. So it must be something else, something harder to define. Call it soul, call it charisma, call it personality. We all know it when we see it, but it''s all the little things that go into making a star''s persona that can turn a technically proficient musician into a crowd-pleasing performer. All the cleanly played and properly practiced music in the world isn''t as important as the presence, the soul, of the person(s) performing it.

Bob Dylan surely doesn''t have a cultured singing voice. Hell, neither does Neil Young. It has been argued many times that Hendrix wasn''t even that great as a guitar player, that he simply bent and gnawed his way around music like a transcendental clown.

It''s their personalities and presence that made these musicians--and many of their equals--apt at shaping the face of modern music. Their individualism, no matter how rough or out of tune, added color and made them stand out from other dull, slate-gray groups. The same principal applies locally as well.

An AC/DC cover band like Red Light Nightmare or a rough original group like the Darktown Rounders can pull crowds to their gigs on any night of the week. The unique soul and stage presence of both bands carries them through shows and leaves audiences wanting more--regardless of what the band is doing: RLN could probably play polka and herd sheep around the stage and still get a turnout.

Personality Poppers

One band dripping with upbeat personality is Pepperstomp, performing its first Monterey club gig at the Long Bar tonight. The alternative/punk group has a great innovative rock sound enriched by band members Justin Azevedo and Jody Dunkel on guitars, Jacob Munns on bass and Christopher Rockwell on the drums. You listen to them perform and it''s obvious they take making music seriously--at least as a hobby. But it''s just as obvious that they don''t take it so seriously they''re in danger of turning into a bunch of tight-pantied prima donnas. On their Website you''ll find them talking about how they''re not going to make any money off this gig--and how they don''t really care. And you''ll also get introduced to the band''s biggest fan, "Skip, the Naked Pirate," who, when asked about the upcoming show, responded, "Yarg! Time to walk the plank ye clothed bastard." Pepperstomp has an infectious kind of fun that rubs off on audiences. You can check it out tonight, when Pepperstomp perform with a "Special Guest." Just pray it isn''t Skip. It''s free, too.

Another show at the Long Bar this Wednesday heralds the return of folk/rock group Abbotfinney to our area, this time coupled with Trial By Fire. The well-polished and tight qualities of both groups will probably lead to some unconscious battle on stage to see who can capture the crowd. The lyrical harmonies of the up-and-coming Abbotfinney vs. the Mighty Randy Baldwin Crew will be a great set to see. It is free as well.

Pepperstomp and special guest, Long Bar, tonight, 9:30pm, no cover. Abbotfinney and Trial By Fire, Long Bar, Wednesday, 9pm, no cover. 372-2244.

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If you guzzle green beer by the gallon on St. Patrick''s Day, you''ll want to go see the Clumsy Lovers on Friday. They''re a high-energy Celtic pop group out of the Vancouver area bursting with an infectious, fun-filled personality that has a happy, slappy, toe-tappy feel. The band played Morgan''s a couple months ago and received such a warm response that they''re back.

Clumsy Lovers, Friday, 8pm. Morgan''s Coffee and Tea, 642-4949.

Great Unknown

The Unknown Jeromes stuck a note on the windshield of my car last week. It seems the funkadelic group out of Salinas and Pacific Grove feels left out of the Weekly. The group has been working on a second album to be released on CultureBoy records in the near future and they want to share the new single, "What I want to be," with the world. To save myself from the bear trap of expectations that awaits a journalist who spends too much time hanging out with a group--and to keep on top of this UJ is doing--here''s the news: The group is shooting a video to accompany the first song on their new CD, What I Want to Be, and the Jeromes are currently looking for some people who want to be a part of it.

If anyone is interested they can contact the Unknown Jeromes at cultureboy@unknownjeromes.com or check out the Website at www.unknownjeromes.com

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