I have attended a few music festivals, small or big, from the tiny ones happening at the Echo or the Satellite, to the forever expanding FYF fest, but this Save the Smell fest at an undisclosed location, revealed a few hours before the festivities began, had a special goal and spirit: raise money to save the small club downtown LA on the verge of being evicted, as the building that houses all-ages punk venue is set for demolition soon. In every festival, there are restrictions, but there were basically none at the Smell fest, except a no-alcohol and no-drug rule, and a free spirit was reigning to gave the Smell another permanent location, and save this place so important for LA underground music community.
The fest was organized by owner Jim Smith, who recently received a demolition notice from his landlord, the L&R Group of Companies, Gregory Cole of the band Crescendo and many musicians, who had volunteered their time and talent to make the fest a real DIY chef d’oeuvre. The whole afternoon, I was surrounded by seas of teenagers or people not very much older, and if the 9 hours of music I attended (yes 9 hours!) felt like a marathon with not even a second to rest, I can only say that I was impressed! It’s difficult to talk about all the bands, but I ended up seeing more about 24 of them, and all their music made a very eclectic mix.
This is gonna feel like a never-ending list, but it will give you an idea of the overwhelming sensation you get when you are seeing so many bands in such a short amount of time. In the order of apparition during Saturday afternoon and evening, Whaja Dew were very young and wild, and one of the guys fell down in the amps from enthusiasm, Hana VU had very melodious tunes, Wyatt Blair, with his skinny-jeans-Kenny-Loggins look was garage rock meets classic 80’s rock with some glam and a good energy, while Heller Keller brought dissonant chaos outside, which made me a bit afraid of the outdoor stage.
Golden Daze had an expansive sound with glittery synth, psych dreamy harmonies and layered guitars – who said kids don’t like them anymore? Sloppy Jane got the attention of everyone when their frontwoman got totally naked under her jacket, while vomiting green goo! With a ‘Haley Dahl is a mean mean whore’ slogan, these girls were fearless and aggressive, dirty and decadent, and nobody did complain. … No whores in view among Mo Dotti’s members and their gentle, almost nerdy minimalist pop. So Many Wizards played emotional poppy outbursts, so catchy and bouncy that everyone got lost in the singer’s blue eyes.
Outside, Balms, a band from San Francisco, played a loud, ferocious, visceral shouted guitar rock while Wild Wing started a riot inside, with a high-energy glorious punk garage rock and a violent mosh pit, the type of mayhem that makes you watch your back. They were very good and I like the singer’s ‘Make Metallica Great Again’ cap. Outside, Alyeska had sensual fuzz guitars, and sweet vocals from a singer with a Lolita-look, the High Curbs was heavy punk rock with a sludgy edge and a machinegun-voiced singer.
Batwings Catwings was glorious rock & roll fronted by a cute little ball of fire wearing a ‘I am glad you are alive’ shirt,… at one point, a man with a unicorn head showed up! Janelane was effervescent pop, sang by a bubbly delicate schoolgirl who looked like an instagram with her heart stickers all over her guitar. Young Lovers had atmospheric guitars until a gender-bender character ran into the scene bringing confusion and a sort of Explosion in the Sky with long shiny black hair.
The Gooch Palms, an eccentric Australian duo, looked as colorful as their minimalist fast-track harsh guitar shouted music. Beach Bums started with a surfy rhythmic tune with serpentine guitar, and soon turned into a violent but happy psychdelic mosh pit. White Fang was sloppy punk in all its glory, a sweaty screaming outrageous scene as fat as it was vulgar and good.
I could barely catch anything from The Lovely Bad Things, as the outside stage got way too crowded for the last acts. Sadgirl had probably the best looking frontman of the day, a 50s movie star look with a tender surf-doo-wop sound, going to punk rock outbursts which started a mosh pit of girls. I could hear the heavy dark drama and the mean bass of Feels playing outside, when Crescendo and their almost hypnotic music started a set of stamping, bouncy, circular and anxious guitars.
Kim and the Created did her spectacular show, stealing Bowie’s Lightning bolt and looking like the red avenger, reinventing glam rock with furious fuzz and distorted guitar. She asked everyone to get on stage and it was a triumph. The duo Surf Curse built a wall of people around them, and once again it was a jubilant and fearless crowd, a pile of bodies packed till the drumset, bouncing and surfing at the sound of the band’s nervous guitar punk pop. No Age’s guitarist Randy Randall first rushed into the crowd twice then the crowd got rather contemplative when the Smell’s heroes played their loud, amped-up, pedaled-up, maximal-distortion punk rock. Finally it was time for youngsters Cherry Glazerr and their dark dreamy psychedelic outbursts, that made the crowd mosh one more time. The battery of my camera died, I was exhausted and you can understand why.
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