The punk underground scene is well alive in Los Angeles, in all sorts of ways and venues, and if I have attended a few shows at the Redwood bar and at Café Nela, I had never visited the Factory, a DIY venue located on the 4th floor of a warehouse in the industrial district of downtown LA. You cannot go more DIY than this place, but I must have been the last person in LA to know about it, because very soon, the Factory got packed with young people, who had come to see no less than 6 bands during the night… Organized by Minty Boi Presents, the smoky, sweaty Factory hosted a night of loud punk music with Tall Juan, Enemy, Kraus, Dumb Fucks, Surfbort and Ex-Cult,… Interestingly these last two bands had just played Shaun White’s upscale festival, Air + Style, the previous weekend, and it was fun to see them again in this very different environment. The show had the wild passion of Tall Juan, the aggressiveness of Enemy and Ex-Cult, the deafening fuzz of Kraus and the boldness of Surfbort, it was varied and ended to be a lot of fun, although I was happy to get on stage, because the mosh party that started very early on, was a ferocious one.
Tall Juan was a very passionate garage rock number, fronted by Argentina-born Juan Zaballa, who was screaming his bullet-like punk songs with a fun attitude and plenty of heart. He had spunk and was strumming his guitar like a speed car while singing, screaming and even barking with deep vocals and a Joey Ramone accent. Often described as a ‘Latin Elvis inspired by the Ramones’, he revealed himself as a very entertaining frontman, mixing streams of polka and Cumbia in his upbeat rock ‘n’ roll, and rushing through his melodic Ramonesque explosive tunes with a free spirit.
Enemy was a change of pace with a very aggressive set of pure loud hardcore, brutally spit at everyone’s face. The band exulted rage and destruction, often ending their short and fast songs in a scream, which was as morbid as it was hostile. They were the type to expedite 20 songs in 15 minutes with barking vocals which did sound more and more bestial as the set progressed, and a combative attitude reflected by the increasing crowd moshing movement. They were hard to the core, no doubt about it.
Krauss, a band from Texas with a release on Terrible Records (also home of Solange, Blood Orange and Porches), was definitively more noise-oriented, with a tremendous electronic fuzz building an anxious wall of noise and distortion. There were two on stages, exchanging places behind drums, guitar and an electronic table, while the drumming was exploding in successive beats behind a chaos of dissonance and strangely contemplative vocals. The duo was obviously building deeply atmospheric soundscapes more than simple songs, adding complex layers, which were forcing their white noise to transform into a curious ethereal sonic transcendence, with some Panda Bear reminiscence.
With a moniker like theirs, Dumb Fucks, I was not expecting the most delicate performers of the night! With deep bass lines launching their aggressive short songs, their singer was screaming his lines in full assault, when he was not recharging his rage with beer, and he did this almost every minute! But I have to say that the place had become so hot and sweaty at this point, that hydration was a survival necessity, and Dumb Fucks, with their close-to-hardcore injections, distorted guitars, abrupt accelerations and speedy energy, didn’t let anyone cool down.
I had already had a glimpse of the wild Surfbort at Air + Style, and the Brooklyn band ripped the place once again with their raw brand of punk. Led by the fearless Dani Miller and her red dress, the band played a series of aggressive but melodic songs, snarling into a sort of ‘70s punk vibe. Miller was restlessly commanding the place, with a half deranged delivery and weird antics. Of course she jumped and moshed in the middle of the crowd, of course she had crazy eyes and a carnivore smile, she was taking daring poses, as the band was trying to install terror in a fun way, looking for the ugly and barbaric with songs like ‘Hippie Vomit Inhaler’ and ‘Bed Bugs’… and if I am obviously not familiar enough with the urban dictionary or Beyonce’s songs to know that surfbort is a sex position in a bathtub (you should see the t-shirts these people are selling), I know about the rage she was channeling into long terrified and terrifying howls.
Memphis’ Ex-Cult was headlining this long night of loudness, and the stage presence of singer Chris Shaw is something you have to experience live, as he is quite the frontman of the moment. I had first experienced him as the singer of one of Ty Segall’s many projects, GØGGS, and he had already impressed me and everybody else. He was a combination of intense toughness and magnetic stage presence while his snarling smoky vocals were constantly whipping the fury of the guitars and drums, building a hardcore atmosphere with post hardcore melodies. The music was fast and violent going into a sort of constant loud panic attack as Shaw was repeatedly bending over the front of the stage, his two hands holding the mic, when he was not throwing himself in the crowd to mosh and get violently pushed. And during one of these iconic leaning-forward poses of the hardcore man, he seemed to be resisting against the weight of an invisible mass, as if he was embodying the claustrophobia of the small venue
Six bands on a Tuesday night in this sweaty DIY venue? I must have been crazy, but I must say, it wasn’t too bad for a Tuesday.
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