L7 And Sex Stains At The Echoplex, Monday November 21st 2016
The all-girl Los Angeles band L7 inspired many riot grrrls in the 90’s, they broke up in 2001 but decided to reunite in 2014. They were playing a few sold-out shows in LA this week, and I opted for the one at the Echoplex on Monday because it is the best place to see a raucous band like L7.
Just before them, Sex Stains opened the show, it wasn’t my first time watching their impulsive riotous style but first, you have to love Alyson Wolfe appearing on stage with a bright yellow ‘Fuck Trump, Dump Trump’ shirt, and a pink giant sign to match it. Sex Stains delivered their riot grrrl bullet songs, Wolfe and her acolyte Mecca Vazie Andrews installed mayhem, chaotic nonsense and dissonance in a few seconds, and it was a lot of fun as always.
They were restless and fearless, talking about anti Trump protest and back rolling on stage, jumping joyously with an aggressive and almost mechanical delivery, before playing with tampon, a direct allusion to the moment L7’s singer guitarist Donita Sparks threw her used tampon to a angry crowd back in 1992. They shouted and spit their lyrics right in our face, and they would have awake a cemetery. ‘I love California and don’t want to live anywhere else,’ she said referring to the election results, and soon practicing a possessed dance probably to exorcist all the evil thoughts born from this election.
On stage, L7 is a storm, and I use a singular word because, if they are four, they work extremely well together as one unique force, one exclusive weather-altering experience, while their set feels like an earthshaking event, with one massive guitar riff after another, and a succession of sonic assaults
The four women may be in their 50s now, but as they like to say, they are only 18, with 32 years of experience and you have to admire this pursuit of the heavy riff, this resurrection of the harsh headbang, I bet there wasn’t that much hair waving at a Poison concert
The whole set was an unapologetic series of rock and roll tunes, getting very heavy at times with shouted harmonies, and horror-movie trash metal guitars. It was Joan Jett meets Alice Cooper meets 90’s hair metal rock meets riot grrrl, and riot it certainly was. Just take a look at their song titles, ‘Deathwish’, ‘Monster’, ‘Fuel my Fire’, ‘Pretend we’re dead’, ‘Fast and Frightening’, most of them express a will to annihilate the place, or at least to trash it. They all sang but Donita Sparks was still the leader of the pack, restless and energetic, while guitarist Suzi Gardner brought the creepiest-sounding vocals and bassist Jennifer Finch jumped in unison with Sparks and Dee Plakas participated into the loud chaos behind her drum set.
Last year, a documentary about the band, ‘L7: Pretend We’re Dead: The story of the fierce, funny and feminist pioneers of American grunge punk’ was very successfully crowfunded on Kickstarter, proving a real interest for the band and its place in music history. However, these women proved all set long that they were not interested by a nostalgia trip, it was tough and raw, a repetitive punch in the stomach, and much more than a simple reunion, actually they were just interested by having a good time: ‘These past weeks have been fucked up,’ said Donita Sparks, ‘Let’s have fun, life is shorter than you think’, before going into another series of headbang songs. Although I had never seen them, or even listened to their music before, there was an easy and immediate familiarity in their music, which in retrospect now echoes in my mind like a blast of impetuous and heavy grunge-rock, unifiying into a wall of sound.
These women have always refused to play it pretty, with their sludgy and heavy songs, riff-assaults and angry vocals, they have refused to be chicks on guitars and bass. ‘She’s fast, she’s lean, She’s frightening,’ they sang during this last song, and this was this exact L7girl-power feeling.
Fuel my Fire
One more Thing
Must have More
Pretend we’re Dead
Fast and Frightening