When most people ask me what bands I’m into lately, my usual response is: “Nobody you’ve heard of.” Sure, I dig some of the better-known artists—Tool, Korn, System of a Down—but as I’ve often said, the truest rock ’n’ roll is still underground, ignored by commercial radio and played in dark bars by sweaty guys in sneakers hauling their own gear. Case in point: a recent concert I attended starring Swedish garage greats the Hellacopters, New Zealand hard-rock hipsters The Datsuns and So-Cal power trio Nebula.

In 1997, two founding members of the seminal stoner band Fu Manchu, guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano, left due to proverbial “creative differences” and formed Nebula. I first met them about five years ago, while writing a stoner rock feature in California [“It’s Only Rawk and Roll,” May 2001). Since then, I’ve seen them perform and partied with them numerous times—in Los Angeles, Brooklyn and at the SXSW music festival in Austin. When they came to New York recently to support their latest album, Apollo, I was charged to see them again.

I got to the Bowery Ballroom just as they were hitting the stage and ran up to the front. Nebula set the stage ablaze with wah-wah-soaked classics like “To The Center” and “Vulcan Bomber.” For the finale, they did an electrifying cover of David Bowie’s “Suffragette City.”

After Nebula’s set, I caught up with Romano in the downstairs bar for a few beers. Thanks to our drunken reminiscing, I missed most of The Datsuns’ set, but I did make it back upstairs for my favorite, “Motherfucker From Hell.” I—like many others, I’m sure—was first exposed to this song when Rathergood.com (famous for their “Viking Kittens” flash video) did a spoof video of it.

As for the Hellacopters, this was their first US tour in four years, so I was really psyched to see them again, but I have to say I was somewhat disappointed. That raw, hungry, manic energy that had made them stand out was gone. Despite their last couple of records, which seemed watered down and over-polished, I had hoped that they’d still pack the same punch live; sadly, they didn’t. As I stood there pondering the corporate injustice of Nebula being the opening act rather than the headliners, Romano—possibly sensing my dissatisfaction—swooped in and rescued me.