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Live Review and Photos: Screaming Females, La Sera, The Audacity, and Lovely Bad Things, January 17, 2010, Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA

I am late for…well, for everything. And somehow, on Monday, for the first time in I don’t know how long, I arrived before the first band had finished setting up for the garage-rock celebration that went down at the Echoplex that night. The show was put on by the L.A. based quality-concert gurus FYF, but still I was a little worried that checking out four bands, the first two being bands that I had zero experience with, would be a bit much and surely be sprayed with moments of boredom or displeasure. Luckily, that was far from the case as the entire bill brought their energetic tunes with force and made lasting, positive impressions across the board. And seriously, I am not easy to please.

Lovely Bad Things were the first band on and played a blend of garage and post-punk tunes, with the four members showing a general disregard for traditional musical roles. Everyone played everything, switching instruments between nearly every song. This team-spirit was easy to get behind, even if it meant that some of the songs would slightly suffer because their strongest guitarist was currently behind the drums. After a few numbers of traditional, generally well-received rock (the crowd steadily grew throughout their set), the band announced that they wanted people to move. Not move like leave. Move like dance. Or mosh. Or something.

And though only a handful of attendees actually complied to their request for participation (one of the gentlemen even invited people to come up on stage and punch him in the face, which was damn tempting for the sheer novelty of it), the “movement” song, which they introduced as “The Dinosaur Song,” showed off some hardcore influences and got them out of the rut, though it was a nice rut, and showed them off as more versatile than they would appear at first listen. They are a band that can put themselves on your radar with one performance, and on this night they had me thankful I grossly overestimated Los Angeles traffic.

Next up was The Audacity, who have been causing quite a stir in Northern Orange County with their current residency at hipster-haven The Continental Room. And things in Northern Orange County rarely stir. Similar in tone to the preceding act, The Audacity showed why they were billed higher with even tighter musicianship and the catchy-enough songs that can almost remove garage rock from the conversation. Almost. They are still a garage-rock band through and through.

And this is a genre that is easy to brush off, with its simple chord progressions and allowance for shitty equipment, shitty musicianship, shitty attitudes, and even shitty taste. Yeah, it is easy to sound mediocre through layers of fuzz and retreaded melodies. But when the energy is right and the band shows conviction, as was the case with The Audacity, fuzzy-pop music can be supremely enjoyable, offering a quick escape into nostalgia for your youth. And for The Audacity’s peers in attendance, it is clearly music that speaks to a particular brand of young person right now: the individual who wants to hum along and tap their foot, but still wants the music to be their own and not show up in a Hyundai commercial.

The last of the support acts was La Sera. I had caught the group about a month earlier, and well, La Sera is totally a different band. The band’s previous guitar player is out, leaving Katy Goodman with Devin Williams to fill in, as well as a second guitarist who is apparently involved with Ms. Goodman (heartbreak!). Matzah, formerly of Woah Hunx, is still behind the kit, but this was very much a getting-to-know-how-to-play-together kind of show. And we as an audience got the message that Katy Goodman is La Sera, and that she has some pretty talented friends.

Some of them even came out to support her, with both co-Vivian Girl Cassie Ramone and former Vivian Girl/current Best Coast drummer Ali Koehler both offering their moral support and leaving me really wanting some new Vivian Girls music. But, La Sera and Cassie’s upcoming project The Babies are both solid substitutions (as long as it is temporary!) and the second time around, La Sera’s tunes are starting to get the earworm-thing going. La Sera was the odd-one-out sonically, though, but being a little bit of a breather-band might have served them well, as the Screaming Females were about to rip the fucking roof off the building.

Now, I talked to a friend after show and was telling her just how good Screaming Females were and was reminded that they played FYF Fest and I skipped them to watch Vetiver. Now, I really like Vetiver, but what the hell was I thinking? Baking under the sun as I was doing that day, Screaming Females are the kind of punk-based rock that are perfect to let out any angst and anger at the world to. If you were gonna rip someone’s soul straight from their body while laughing hysterically to yourself, you would want the New Jersey three-piece to be the soundtrack. So yeah, add that to my “bad calls” list with some illustrious women, too many two-bit friends, and a few nights of excess.

But yeah, blown away is not even a fair assessment of how impressive Screaming Females are live. They were a revelation. Singer and guitarist Marissa Paternoster, my new hero, appears to stand under five feet tall, probably weighs like 90 pounds and weilds a guitar that looks about as big as she is. But she owns it in ways that men twice her size dream of. She shreds. Her vocals are powerful, sounding of traditional Dead Kennedys by way of Bikini Kill, but when she lets loose on guitar, the world could stand still for a moment without getting the crowd to take their attention from the songstress.

And for as good as the the entire bill was, Screaming Females was like an Eternal-Sunshine-mindfuck, leaving everything in their dust and making it clear why they have buzz and why pretty much everybody who is in a Los Angeles band was there on Monday. Or, to sum up, Screaming Females are legit. Buy a ticket to their next local show and be impressed.

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