In no particular order, here are fifteen L.A. bands you need to know. If I have seen some of them countless times, it was just a one night opportunity for the other ones, but they gave me such a lasting impression, that I put them on this list, asnd I hope to see them again in 2019. These are certainly bands that would get me out of the house on any night.
Death Valley Girls: They got the coup of the year, as they managed to get Iggy Pop to star in their video for ‘Disaster’, off their release ‘Darkness Rains’. Singer Bonnie Bloomgarden always leads the show between guitar and keyboard with her high-pitched howls and unpredictable stage antics. Their sound is between ‘dystopian punk’, ‘occult glam’ and ‘doom boogie’ with an inspiration drawn from the golden years of punk and hard/glam rock, as they worship Satan but also Black Sabbath, The Stooges, Bikini Kill, T. Rex, and they always bring a touch of desert rock above some psychedelic witchcraft riffs.
Spirit in the Room: Again, a band I have seen many times, but they are never the same and always fascinating. Frontman Dennis Sanders restlessly races and rushes from one side to the edge of the stage, trapped between the muscular bass delivery of Darren Howard and the sophisticated guitar work of Kyle Nadeau. With them, it’s all about the atmosphere, without even knowing what’s going on whether it is a loud earthshaking noise, a creepy whisper or a blood-thirsty scream, as their songs are habited by a menacing industrial noise and a taste for darkness, while the show often ends into a fury letting the beast escape. Their hybrid music seems to be born from the carcasses of Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, the German industrial scene and dark metal.
Holy Wars: A band I have seen many times, and a frontwoman/star-in-the-making with a rare stage presence. Kat Leon has incredible energy, she is a powerhouse who never fails to soar over the emotional and doom music. Her presence is a force born out of anger and healing, who always builds a cathartic fury of a show and emerges as the triumphant warrior.
Sextile: I have seen them a lot of times and they always put up an intense set, filled with their harsh noise-oriented industrial dancefloors, driven by an obsessive beat coming from drummer Melissa Scaduto, while Brady Keehn spits his anger with restless aggression over a cold synth. They raise their own chaos, blending the past and the future, mixing influences from darkwave, post-punk, and even pure 70s punk with futuristic psychedelic electronica.
Plague Vendor: They always put on an unapologetic punk number, and know how to install chaos in a few seconds. In his own way, frontman Brandon Blaine channels the greatest punk frontmen of the past, he puts the stage on fire with screams, sweat and blood and a fearless attitude, at the sound of violent guitar riffs, and a wall of cacophony wounded by sinister grooves.
The Birth Defects: Again, a band that I have seen many times with the same pleasure. Their music delivers an intense dose of heavy rock, with massive riffs and intense yells coming from frontman Finazzo, who seems to be the perfect reincarnation of a hard rock titan. Their hardcore garage punk is a series of ferocious and invincible riffs and an impressive ballet of flying bass and guitars.
Cat Scan: Didn’t they get noticed by Rolling Stone during their last appearance at Desert Daze? But I was there first, I have seen many times and each time, they have successfully given a powerful, high-energy performance with their signature strangely dissonant chord progressions, abrupt tempo changes, and mechanical oddity, which seems to be inspired by everyone from the B-52s, Talking Heads and even Devo. They have groovy tempos, mad accelerations, while the rest is pure chaos and crazy mosh pits.
The Darts: This is one of the bands I have only seen once, but the all-girl band gave me a strong Death Valley Girls vibe crossed with a motorcycle female gang. Their show was high energy and combined a fuzzed-out garage rock sound with a creepy boogie-ing organ that frontgirl Nicole Laurenne seemed to assault during the entire time. There was some reminiscence of the Cramps’ spooky punk sound and the Stooges’ raw chaos, all brought to you by a quartet of dirty garage goddesses.
VOWWS: I have just seen them a few days ago and they sounded like a more sinister version of Depeche Mode, with deep emotions and passion. They play a creepy Halloween soundtrack with catchy melodies, a mature industrial goth style that they call death pop. But their music aims to something equally romantic and cinematic, in a unique spine-chilling vision despite the obvious influences.
Frankie and the Studs: When I saw them opening for Billie Joe Armstrong’s new band, they played the black leather rock ‘n’ roll theme with plenty of good choruses, power chords and overall a wild energy set fronted by singer/guitarist Frankie Clarke. She brought a vintage of Joan Jett vibe with a tight black jumpsuit, leg-apart pauses, and a genuine glam rock look as if the good old days of the Sunset Strip were still a reality.
Speed of Light: The first remarkable thing about the trio is obviously their very young age (11,13 and 15), and even though they may just be a year older now, they are still underage to play this trashy, furious, loud rock ‘n’ roll channeling the sweaty side of Detroit. Of course, these prodigies write their own material, and have the right stage antics with a cool moniker, SOL, while they have already rocked the coolest venues in LA. They scream and mean it, and the music, inspired by all the princes and princesses of darkness, unleash a type of rawness you don’t see much these days, while the three siblings rock a truly impressive stage confidence.
Hooveriii : They play a dynamic brand of rock ‘n’ roll, which brings guitar solos to distortion, synth lines to fury and propel drums to a new level of madness. To this, you also have to add an unusual saxophone-guitars combo, as their songs often stretch as if they were the new progeny of Ty Segall and Oh Sees’ John Dwyer. It’s a wonderful enthusiasm for rock ‘n’ roll, all head banging and hair whipping with a powerful psychedelic vortex engulfing everything around
Zig Zags: They have so much energy that they could wake up the dead. The music is raw and intense, and if you want excess, listen to them, they sound like the mutants from another rock planet, the punk-metal hybrids with the energy of thousands of guitars and a debauchery of sonic assaults,… a band which could connect Black Sabbath, Black Flag and Motörhead in a single riff.
L.A.Drones: A duo with infectious dancefloors, but also a band I have barely seen during this avalanche of music that is Echo Park Rising. Their liberating electronic table seemed to be inspired by a Neu discotheque, and these two masked bandits looked like the new post-punk heroes.
Miserable: Another mysterious one discovered during the busy days of Echo Park Rising, and a loud fuzz coming from this woman’s guitar, transforming itself into some dark and aggressive shoegaze, letting strong melodies escape the darkness.
essential crossover pop just after disco’s height
a nihilist’s anthem
Do You Believe In the Paranormal?
too on the nose
into rock god land
The venue is deeply symbolic
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“Hard” begs for a live show