By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Inside the Green Room, two Axl Rose types with long hair and tattoos are talking in Swedish. One of them heads for the door, and the other calls out as a cheerful goodbye: “Rock and roll!”
A sober and pale Memphis sips coffee, explaining how he and his band ended up at the Musicians Institute. “It’s pretty easy to get student loans in Sweden. Economically it‘s not that hard, until you gotta go home and pay it back. But that’s another question. I just wanted to get out of Sweden for a while -- come here and learn how to play.”
He and his fellow Swedish punks like to hang out at a bar up the street called the Powerhouse. “I love that bar, it‘s small, not too many people. I don’t like going out to the Strip, it‘s just a bunch of guys with makeup and poofy hair and spandex. That’s the thing I did not expect. And they still get the chicks!”
A while back, the Swedes met a guy at the Powerhouse who was on the lam from Arizona authorities. He had nowhere to stay, so they put him up in their apartment for a few days until he disappeared back into the desert. A few months ago, their Arizona pal got out of jail and invited them out to Tucson to play an appropriately labeled Dumb Drunk and Fucked Up party with some local grindcore bands. Memphis was awed by the vast Arizona landscape. “The desert was fucking cool, it was great. I mean, it‘s hard to imagine -- the road that never ends.”
A weary Memphis confesses that he’s broke and tired and starting to miss home. “I‘ve learned a lot. Musically, I’ve learned a lot. And meeting all these people from all around the world. That‘s been very good.” He smiles, sadly. “It’s been a great time, but it‘s got to end.” He produces a cassette of his band and cautions, “Don’t play it around small animals.” Listening to it on the way home, it sounds like the car‘s engine is exploding.
A sports bar in suburban Huntington Beach, surrounded by the same few bland houses, repeated endlessly for miles and miles. Inside, there are multiple television screens showing different sporting events, and several green pool tables. Some construction types hover around the bar nursing drinks and stroking their mustaches. On a small stage, a three-piece goth band in black vinyl outfits play to a single booth packed with their loyal friends. The show was set up by a Musicians Institute student who lives in the neighborhood. His band, Melancholia, is headlining. Also on the bill is a band called Steiger, and Hostile Groove.
A tiny man with long, feathered hair and a huge, bushy mustache shuffles by as Dan and Aric set up some CDs and T-shirts on a back table. Dan’s girlfriend, Daniela, a vocal student from Switzerland in a shiny red leather jacket, orders some French fries. Shawn‘s girlfriend, Leah, dressed entirely in black leather, goes outside with him for a smoke. A man walks in sporting a neatly trimmed mustache and blow-dried hair, a dead ringer for Eric Roberts’ character in the film Star 80. He disappears into the bathroom, leaving an intense trail of cologne.
A half-hour later, Hostile Groove take the stage and tear into “Our Hatred Feeds.” As they finish, Shawn announces, “We have earplugs for sale back there for only a dollar.” He is completely serious. Dan clicks his sticks and they start into “Fly Routine.” Leah stands out on the dance floor with her tattooed arms folded, nodding her head to the furious beat. The song ends, and a young white convict type with “Orange” and “County” tattooed on the back of his huge biceps yells out, “Slayer!” Shawn shrugs and executes a quick Slayer lick on his guitar.
During the next song, a tall albino in a bright-yellow track suit walks in and glances around the bar. After a minute, he turns and walks out. Shawn finishes the song and shakes his head, lamenting, “My guitar‘s out of tune, so I can’t play all that romantic shit.” A stocky kid with a goatee and wallet chain looks up from his game of Space Invaders and yells, “Who cares?” Shawn looks over. “Not me, dude.”
The band launches into a blistering cover of a song by the Brazilian metal band Sepultura, and as they finish, the wallet-chain heckler utters an appreciative “Tore it up!” The rotund soundman in a Hawaiian shirt informs the band that they have time for one more. Shawn announces Metallica‘s “Creeping Death,” saying, “This is one I think we can all get together on.” As they start into the song, people begin assembling on the dance floor and banging their heads to the music. Even the young convict is out there, flexing his muscles in appreciation. A few kids start to mosh, but the middle-aged, motherly type working the door taps them on the shoulder and shakes her head sternly. Hostile Groove finish to enthusiastic applause from the small crowd. As they walk off, the wallet-chain heckler approaches Shawn and apologizes.
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