The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Beards, Blazers & Glasses: Sunset Junction

A few years ago, Sunset Junction was all leather-clad gay guys (some resembling South Park’s Mr. Slave) bumping shoulders with the area's primarily Hispanic residents. It was sort of like going to a Morrissey concert. But things are different now: the first wave of gentrification came and went, transforming these formerly dicey gang-ridden blocks into a bohemian enclave, flooded with coffee shops, designer boutiques and the bearded, bespectacled hipstacrites who love them.

Today, the Junction is hirsute Hollywood ex-pats rocking $100 fedoras and 15-year girls dressed like Corey Kennedy straining for a glimpse of hometown indie pin-up boy Alex "Sea Wolf" Church after hearing “You’re a Wolf” on Indie 103 and catching the video on MTV2. I suppose indie is the new grunge (which makes Page France the new Collective Soul...kidding....kinda), but I don't see what that has to do with dudes in designer hats. Newsflash hipster males: you aren't Humphrey Fucking Bogart. And hipster females, you look more Britney than Bacall.

But I digress, there I was stumbling around incoherently at 5:45, shortly after Sea Wolf had finished his 40-minute performance, in the process whipping the Junior High set into a sweaty hormonal hysteria (it was the Teen Wolf cover of "Big Bad Wolf" that did it). The sun was starting to tilt, the beer line was starting to scream my name (in Dutch, as it was sponsored by Amstel), I was excited to see Autolux for the first time since they opened for The White Stripes a few years ago at the Greek.

Overcoming Sound Difficulties: The Autolux of the Irish

Autolux is probably LA's most critically well-regarded band for two reasons. The first is that they're obviously influenced by Sonic Youth and critics always like bands influenced by Sonic Youth unless they sound too much like Sonic Youth. The other reason is that they're actually good. However, they started slow tonight, with the first few songs plagued by sound problems and maybe a bit of nerves. But drawing on their Future Perfect material, they soon hit their stride, with drummer/singer Carla Azar delivering poltergeist vocals blanketed in thick white noise, lead guitarist/singer, Greg Edwards playing the Thurston Moore role and crushing sludgy stoner guitar licks like a Creation shoegazer band after smoking some New York Soul Diesel.

Next, was Blonde Redhead, who other than Sonic Youth might've been the most logical band to follow Autolux. I saw Blonde Redhead once when they opened for Interpol at the Grand Olympic Auditorium. I liked them well enough, but I walked away disappointed that they had neither blondes nor redheads. That's blatant false advertising. Take a look at The Parson Redheads. They have at least two people in the band at all times with red hair.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're going to say. Blonde Redhead are underground legends, how dare I not know much about them, why don't I just lock myself up in the closet with nothing but a pair of shoes and shoegaze until I go blind. I get it. My excuse (if I have one) has to do with the fact that I didn't go to Vassar and thus am instinctively am wary of bands fronted by female Japanese art-rock students with squeaky voices (not a gender or a racial thing, it's a Deerhoof thing). But watching their hour-long performance, it's safe to say I've drank the Blonde Red Kool-Aid. They were flat-out spectacular.

Blonde Redhead: They Have Neither Blondes Nor Redheads...Discuss

Front-woman Kazu Makino is effortless on-stage and attractive in a Yoko Ono but actually hot sort of way. Grandmaster Kaz has no need for the histrionic affectations of Karen O, she's all loose limbs and smoothness, slinging the guitar across her shoulders, and unleashing her frail gorgeous wail across the miasma of concrete and fedoras stretching across Sunset Blvd. Lead guitarist, co-lead singer and Wayne Coyne look-a-like, Amadeo Pace played Makino’s perfect foil, delivering rumbling messy guitars and haunting vocals that balanced out the attack. The set was transcendent, drawing heavily from this year’s excellent 23 and reminding me a bit of Love’s set three years ago: a legendary underground band rising above the cluttered bedlam of the Junction and delivering a set for the ages, a performance unlikely to be topped all weekend.

By the time I returned from a short interlude at Weiss headquarters (a mere three blocks from the festivities), Ben Harper was performing, with a crowd that epitomizing the new Sunset Junction (now with $400,000 luxury condos): frat boys and ersatz rockers from Malibu, sorority girls cloaked in Kitson and of course, the old-guard, seemingly a bit confused as to when the Sunset Junction became the Sunset Strip. As for the bearded set, most were long gone by this point, shuddering at the thought of getting their eyes poked out by a stray incense stick being wielded by a Harper-loving hippie. To further compound the troubles was the fact that despite organizers charging a whopping $15 for entrance, they ran out of drink tickets by 9:00, meaning that the crowd was forced to endure a hippie-music show stone-sober. Egads.

As for Harper, I’ll be the first one to admit I know absolutely nothing about his music. I actually purchased one of his DVD’s for a girlfriend once, but we broke up before I could give it to her. I was too lazy to return it and now it hangs on my DVD shelf like a dread-locked albatross. Naturally, it remains unopened. Live, Harper was no slouch on the guitar and was even sorta' interesting when he indulged his funk and reggae side. But when he veered back to straight-forward rock n’ roll, well...the beer was out and so was I. Time to head home.

MP3: Autolux-"Turnstile Blues"

MP3: Blonde Redhead-"23"


At 7:02 AM, Anonymous floodwatch said...

Autolux is still mining from Future Perfect? Isn't that record like four years old now? Probably wouldn't kill them to maybe record some new material.

Great write-up, J.

At 7:16 PM, Blogger Duke said...

$400k condos? i think those new condos are closer to $700k. glad you enjoyed BR, i just couldn't fucking deal and next time they come to town they're playing the wiltern. ugh.


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