The unassuming Café Nela occupies a special niche for punk veterans and new bands, owner David Travis, who has been involved in the punk and hardcore scene since the 1980s, knows this very well. The Northeast LA dive bar may be a far cry from Silverlake’s hipster bars with its old fashioned Mexican bar décor, but punk bands know there is a real community there, and this is not gonna be my last time over there.On Friday night, I checked out a few bands over there.
Minority Whip had the energy of heavy punk rock with a hardcore scream alternatively coming from their female bassist and male guitarist. The trio from Seattle played inside the small Café, and left a strong impression on the people having a beer at the bar. They were loud and had a destructive sound with an abrasive bass and a fast tempo to whip their punk garage rock songs. With plenty of rage in the belly, the energy was mostly coming from their tall dark-haired bassist while their music was mixing dynamic melodies with darkness and a desire of destruction only seen in hardcore.
It was my third time seeing Spirit in the Room, and their intense performances, filled with gothic imagery and ambiance noise background, never disappoint. Dennis R. Sanders is quite the frontman, fearless and commanding the place right away with sweaty stage antics that had brought up the most interesting comparisons in the reviews. But he doesn’t need to be compared to Jim Morrison, he has created his own stage persona, mysterious, vulnerable, aggressive at the same time, and going in total crisis from start to finish. He was a man on a mission, the stand of mic never stayed still a second and chaos was installed during a night-transforming live show. ‘Cut to the Crash’ or even ‘Satan’ had the roaring aggressive guitar textures of something from early Queens of the Stone Age, with a bluesy malefic edge you can’t really compare to the famous band. Meanwhile songs like ‘Doing Them In’ released a furious swag mixed with a darkness that could evoke Nine Inch Nails. The loud elastic bass led the somber dance all the time, while a guitar and electronics added layers of sound for Sanders’ powerful vocals and sinister screams. It takes only a few songs, to realize how many cinematic ideas the band has, a lot of them, beautifully served by their live theatrics.
Gitane Demone Quartet had another kind of theatrics, but not less fascinating. Fronted by chanteuse Gitane Demone, who was keyboardist for the gothic rock band Christian Death, they brought weirdness, drama and dissonance with plenty of space-y keyboards, and original guitar work by Rikk Agnew, who used to play with Social Distortion and the Adolescents. Their soundscapes were complex and unexpected, haunted by all kinds of noises like church bells but especially Gitane’s bold operatic howl, almost PJ Harvey-esque. There was nothing conventional in their performance and music which was flirting with avant garde, and when I saw blood on Gitane’s face, I thought it was part of her routine, although she had really cut her finger on some electronic equipment.
As I said, I will be back at Cafe Nela, the underground low-key venue has a real atmosphere and seems to be forgotten by time. Let’s not forget about it before gentrification takes over the place.
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