Death Valley Girls With Adult Parts, Secret Stare, Salt Lick At The Echo, Friday November 30th 2018
Death Valley Girls have been touring non-stop for weeks, opening for Roky Erickson all September-long and since the release of their album ‘Darkness Rains’ on October 5th via Suicide Squeeze Records, they still hadn’t had a proper release party in their hometown, Los Angeles. After the release of a video for their empowering track, ‘Disaster (Is What We’re After)’ starring no less than the godfather of punk, Iggy Pop eating a hamburger like an old Andy Warhol classic, the Death Valley Girls certainly got some good mentions about everywhere, but this should not eclipse their excellent album, a collection of vintage punk psych-rock with a dark metal inspiration. More than ever Death Valley Girls want to ‘Glow in the Dark’ (the title of their previous album), because, in case you hadn’t noticed, we are going through very dark and troubled times. In view of an uncertain future, ‘Darkness Rains’, with its supercharged fuzz guitars, its chaotic spirit, and boisterous music, is welcoming the dark ages with a new confidence.
Death Valley Girls had a release party on Friday night at the Echo, and 3 bands opened the long night to make it stretch till the wee hours.
Adult Parts were fast and dissonant, with a bouncing frontman barking his lyrics over cacophonic guitars, bringing the atmosphere to a very agitated level, almost as shaking as the multi-TV screens installed on each side of the stage. While their frontman was howling with tremolos in his voice, the trio pursued their aggressive dissonance with the conviction of a ‘70s punk band (think Jello Biafra with more dissonance in the background) and their songs entitled for example, ‘Deth’s Cumming’ or ‘Psycho A Go-Go’.
If Adult Parts was all punk rawness, Secret Stare brought a magic and surreal ambiance with mysterious costumes and a bizarre imagery. Fronted by Hunx & His Punx drummer Erin Emslie, with guitarist Sharif Dumani (Alice Bag, Sex Stains) and former Death Valley Girls bassist Alana Amram on her side, they performed while wearing very creative outfits with an inspiration between Venice Carnival and Halloween. With multi-head masks and a light-catching silver moon dress, they played an eccentric psychedelic rock with a driving roaring guitar and strange vocal aggression. After a few songs, they riffed hard and loud with a few distortion peaks and catchy rock attacks, which powerfully contrasted with their artsy costumes.
Salt Lick brought up a heavy load of distortion and their entire set sounded like the most distorted and psychedelic side of the ‘70s, amped to the top of the neck of their guitars, and whipped by a restless drumming. The trio was loud and searching for the rawness of a lost rock ‘n’ roll era, burning motor oil at each new guitar assault, enriched by decades of punk rock and riff experimentation. They surely wanted to sound as tough as they could in 2018, with testosterone-charged vocals tearing up with confidence the thick mix of blue-orange fog bathing the stage.
Death Valley Girls looked very happy to headline this homecoming show, and they put the required energy to bring the house down. Singer Bonnie Bloomgarden had painted a third eye in the middle of her forehead, and between guitar and keyboard, she led the party with her high-pitched vocals and unpredictable stage antics. The set got edgy, chaotic and filled with an energy fueled by the girls’ gothic vocal harmonies and Larry Schemel’s trailblazing riffs going into psychedelic dissonance during the opening song, ‘Abre Camino’. It was soon followed by ‘Street Justice’ a feverish rebellious act with throbbing drum beats transforming the scene into a heavy dance scene.
Each time I have seen them, their lineup has been somewhat different, and if Bonnie Bloomgarden and Larry Schemel are the two constant members of the band, last night, the talented Nikki Pickle had returned to her bass/backing vocals position (she is also the bassist for the Mad Walls) while Laura Harris was restlessly pounding on her drum set.
They have described their sound as ‘dystopian punk’, ‘occult glam’ and ‘doom boogie’ with an inspiration drawn from the golden years of punk and hard/glam rock (think Black Sabbath, The Stooges, Bikini Kill, T. Rex and a touch of desert rock), and with the help of Bonnie’ restless howls and wails, they cultivate a unique art of boogie psychedelic witchcraft, with metal riffs and plenty of psychedelic fuzz.
From the feisty ‘Death Valley Boogie’ to the unapologetic biker movie ‘Before I Die’ or the hallucinogenic ‘Disco’, the loud gang wanted everyone to have fun while bringing up the temperature to some dangerous desert highs. There was a sort of abandon in their set, a run-for-your-life vibe, a witchy rock revisiting the vintage side of LA, raising a new riot at each song. But don’t be mistaken, despite the ambient darkness of their last release, the music was blasting too much swagger to bring anyone down and Bonnie jumping in the pit during the last song, turned their occult menace into an exorcism funhouse.
Death Valley Boogie
(One Less Thing) Before I Die
Disaster (Is What We’re After)