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Cold (Weather) Kids

Monday, 9:43 p.m.: “Machine guns pointed at my head .?.?. I wish I was American instead.” Michael Bauer, lead singer of Eastside trio The Front, is masked behind a veil of hair, delivering an anti-war statement in the form of a narrative tune. Midway through a rumbling, distortion-heavy set at TheSilverlake Lounge, he affably suggests between songs that George Bush’s justifications for oil are akin to a smack addict’s quest for a fix, which earns a round of whoops and some pint glasses raised in the air. They continue to thunder through less political numbers, and the vitriolic and catchy “Social Bat” (which has earned recent airplay on Indie 103) is tangled in my head for days before I find out that the lyrics are, incidentally, about a chick who goes out to too many shows.

Friday, 8:36 p.m.: “Blogging!” “Live shows!” “Blogging, blogging, blogging!” A comrade and I are engaged in a debate about TheCold War Kids: namely, the mechanism by which they have ascended to dizzying fame (most recently demonstrated by a Letterman gig). Finally conceding that “blogs praising their live shows” is the answer, I head to their gig at TheSilverlake Lounge — where, predictably, a thick line of ticketless desperados waits out front. I pass them with a look of condolence and thread through the sold-out crowd inside. Finally the Whittier boys burst onstage, with nary a breath of hello to announce their trademark frenetic performance. Each member bobs and squirms like an organism beneath a microscope, slamming into the others as the band speed through jangling, sorrow-soaked numbers off their debut, Robbers and Cowards. A cluster of drunk ruffians next to me turns ecstatic at the first notes of the single “Hang Me Up to Dry” as singer Nathan Willett pounds erratically at a piano and unleashes his Jeff Buckley falsetto. The set is brief but engaging, and my proximity affords both a clear view and a spray of saliva from their gum-chewing bassist. I pity those left out in the cold, but wiping my face off, I also kind of don’t.

Saturday, 11:28 p.m.: “I was looking for ass shaking, and apparently I’m in the right building,” a man behind me deadpans at The Echo, which right now has the population density of a bus in rush-hour Taipei. Human beings are wedged up against each other, spilling whiskeys and elbowing the faces of strangers to get a clear view as Girl Talk, a.k.a. Pittsburgh-based master-masher DJ Gregg Gillis, sets up his instruments: two laptops. The crowd is beyond capacity, with eager young hipsters having braved the bizarre near-freezing chill for hours in hopes of a standby ticket. As Gillis sucks at a Corona and untangles wires, the faint chime of his PC’s boot-up is heard, which alone prompts giddy hoots from the audience. Gillis disappears, only to return in a hooded white ensemble to deafening screams, and the next hour is a blur of drunk bodies pogoing in unison, and a human tide breaking the levy, flooding the stage with at least a hundred rowdy revelers, who stand on Gillis’ DJ table, gyrating. Girl Talk himself is stripping off his clothing, performing donkey-kick dance maneuvers, and leaping into the crowd as his intricately cut and heavily bass-laden remixes of ’90s hits by Salt-n-Pepa and Deee-Lite keep the crowd rubbing asses. It’s a good time, but musically, not much different from a WeHo disco. I leave wondering if he’s a genius, or the Emperor’s New DJ. Perhaps both.

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