By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
HEARTS OF DARKNESSES AND LIGHT IN THE SMELL’S BACK ALLEY
The Brooklyn band finds its L.A. spiritual home
This past fall, a few days before Halloween, Brooklyn’s Hearts of Darknesses rolled their chainsaw/computer-scratch/Pixies-spastic digital mess into downtown L.A. Earlier in the evening they’d played a show at the Henry Fonda in Hollywood, with tour-mates Girl Talk and Grand Buffet. In the big room of the Fonda, however, Darknesses’ sound had failed to register with the mostly underage (as in junior high), spandexed American Apparel girls, who were no doubt confused by the band’s non-sensical beats and macheted melodies. Eager for Girl Talk’s steady thumping fun, Hearts’ stuff is a bit tough to digest at first. It takes about 10 listens before you can speak the language — you know, the good kind of music.
Mere hours later, however, the group walked quietly into The Smell, gear (computers, hard drives, amps, effects) under arm, to play a secret midnight show with club mainstays Anavan. The alley had been filling up since Darknesses had stepped off the stage at the Fonda, and kids milled around talking quietly, throwing glass bottles against walls and wandering in and out to sit on the brown punk-house couches across from the coffee stand. Some clutched LA Records, others handed homemade mixtapes.
Anavan took the stage first, and the sonic synth blast transported the crowd back to the early 1980s, when most of them were maybe alive but too young to experience firsthand. A pulsating wall of dance-death-disco-shred filled the all-brick room, and sound bounced all over the place. The pack of kids erupted with slamming. The band’s sheer volume pushed people back into the front room — where they continued to thrash.
After Anavan finished, kids floated back into the alley, where an older man arrived in a limousine. The father of Hearts of Darknesses lead singer Frankie Musarra parked the limo by the back-alley entrance to The Smell, and began hocking Heart of Darknesses T-shirts to the underage punks, homeless wanderers and sullen A&R guys smoking outside.
It was into this scrum that a young girl spun from the club, exuberant, sweaty and flush with color. She immediately made her way toward the shirts: “I’d like one,” she announced, out of breath and reaching into her duct-taped wallet.
Old-man Mussara smiled and waved the money away with a dismissive hand. “Nah, it’s cool. Just take one.”
She looked around, beaming. “Really?”
“Sure, sure,” he answered, and handed her the plastic tub so she could find her size. “That’s what it’s about, right?”
When the younger Musarra emerged from The Smell an hour later, the tub of T-shirts was empty. Instead of inquiring about the money, he smiled at his father, patted him on the back and thanked him. The crowd of kids still loitering in the alley clung to their shirts, some proudly pulling them over those they were already wearing. One sheepishly approached the younger Musarra, “That was great, man.” Others smiled, offering waves and nods. Then the limo drove away and fans dissipated back into the streets, taking with them the ephemera of something done right.