STORY BY SAM BLOCH
On Saturday, over 200 bicycle enthusiasts descended upon Culver City's Media Park for the monthly FMLY Ride.
Since late 2009, show promoter Cameron Rath has taken his "do-it-together" ethos to the streets of Los Angeles, leading sprawling group bike rides from Venice to Pico Union, and stopping for bands anywhere in between. Prohibitively expensive permits be damned: these brief guerrilla shows take place wherever there's an open outlet or enough space for a portable generator, and benefit tremendously from the cover of night.
"I have a loose definition of public space," Rath says.
Rath has been throwing shows since he was a teenager. Dissatisfied with the all-ages venues on the Strip, he started organizing shows in houses and backyards near his home in Venice, before moving on to off-kilter locations like the Santa Monica Bay Women's Club, a furniture showroom in Culver City called Out of Asia, and eventually opening a art space called McWorld in Midcity. And while Rath has long been interested in using music to recontextualize Los Angeles architecture, it was a group bike ride that got him thinking about neighborhoods.
"In Los Angeles, the city is controlled by zoning. Urban decay can only happen here, certain socioeconomic classes can only live here," Rath says. "Group rides show that things can be different."
We went along for Saturday's Ride, and asked both old pros and rookies the best biking soundtrack, what they ride, and just what the fuck FMLY Ride really is:
Beth Willow Yeah, 19, Mar Vista
Spotted: Blasting George Michael's "Careless Whisper" through a megaphone in Media Park.
FMLY veteran? Truest deepest. "Lost count" of how many rides, but has been there "since the beginning."
What kind of bike are you riding? Her name is Gladys. It's a French fixed gear with blue headlights and glitter spray painted on the body. It's a piece of shit.
Favorite song to ride to: "54-46 Was My Number," Toots & the Maytals.
When you're not listening to music on your bike, the city sounds: Like a metal song during rush hour, and like Beethoven at 3 AM.
If a drum beat is a pot hole, then a wailing guitar solo is: Riding along a really bumpy, cut up road. I have bells on my bike, so they'll make a beat too.
Is a FMLY Ride a mosh pit, jam session or drum circle? Mosh pit. It's fucking mad, and you're always moving.
FIRST STOP: PROFESSOR CALCULUS, SANTA BARBARA PLAZA, INGLEWOOD
Japanther-style skate punk in a vacant shopping mall. '80s samples and thrashing guitars are punctuated by bursts of literal fireworks.
Joseph Floris, 31, San Fernando
Spotted: Checking out Professor Calculus at the abandoned Santa Barbara Plaza in Inglewood.
FMLY veteran? Casual participant.
What kind of bike are you riding? Giant NRS 1.
Favorite song to ride to: Orko Eloheim, "Outbreak."
Headphones or speakers? Speakers. I'll be bumping hip-hop, metal or dubstep out of my backpack.
Is a FMLY Ride more of a mosh pit, jam session or drum circle? Jam session, because people are playing different kinds of music while they ride.
Gia De Jesus, 24, Koreatown
Spotted: After the Professor Calculus show at the abandoned Santa Barbara Plaza in Inglewood.
FMLY veteran? Fifth ride. Also rides with Spoke-N-Thursdays and MOM Ridaz
What kind of bike are you riding? Peugeot seven-gear road bike from 1982.
Favorite song to ride to: Zoot Woman, "Woman Wonder."
Headphones or speakers? Always headphones. I like to keep the rhythm going. But I keep one off so I can catch the vibes of the city.
Is a FMLY Ride more of a mosh pit, jam session or drum circle? Drum circle. There's usually boom boxes and sound systems. This is the first time I've seen live music.
SECOND STOP: TWIN STEPS, PIZZA HUT PARKING LOT, ADAMS & HOOVER
Moments after Oakland-based Twin Steps start playing, police roll into the parking lot and the crowd disperses. Slice in hand, Rath pleads with police, but is ordered to turn down the music.
Paulie Trinidad, 16, Culver City
Spotted: Watching police bust up a Twin Steps performance in a Pizza Hut parking lot in West Adams.
FMLY veteran? Fourth ride.
What kind of bike are you riding? A fixie.
Favorite song to ride to: Whatever other people are playing. There's always someone playing music. But I'm usually bobbing my head to something like "Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn & John.
Is a FMLY Ride a mosh pit, jam session, or drum circle? Mosh pit. Each band plays at least one song where you just gotta mosh.
Mark Mallare, 31, Culver City
Spotted: Getting a bite to eat at Lucy's Drive In at Hoover and Washington.
FMLY veteran? Frequent rider who also participates in Critical Mass and Taco Tuesdays.
What kind of bike are you riding? KHS road bike.
Favorite music to ride to: Random Movement podcasts. Really, anything with a dirty bassline.
Headphones or speakers? Speakers. Lots of people will talk to me if they like what I'm playing.
Is a FMLY Ride a mosh pit, jam session or drum circle? It's more than that. It's a party and a great way to meet people.
THIRD STOP: PEP BOYS PARKING LOT
Undeterred by the encounter with the police, the set from Long Beach-based Wild Pack of Canaries goes off without a hitch. Three guitars sure aren't soft, and the large projection of old Hollywood movies isn't inconspicuous, but the location feels guarded enough to accommodate.
Dustin Muenchow, 21, Mar Vista
Spotted: Boogieing to Wild Pack of Canaries at a Pep Boys parking lot in Pico Union.
FMLY veteran? Taking photos, scouting locations, and leading rides since 2009.
What kind of bike are you riding? Bianchi road bike.
Favorite song to ride to: None More Black, "Banned from Teen Arts"
How does the city sound on a bike? Alive. It's so loud and chaotic.
If a drumbeat is a pothole, then a wailing guitar solo is: Riding down Sunset Boulevard at 3 PM, zooming by the traffic.
Is a FMLY Ride a mosh pit, jam session or drum circle? Mosh pit. You always meet the nicest people in there.
FOURTH STOP: RELIGIOUS GIRLS AT CULVER CITY PARKING LOT
Maybe it's a vendetta against Northern California. Like Twin Steps, Oakland-based Religious Girls are also visited by the police during their set. But the squad cars roll in just as the Girls finish their set, and this FMLY Ride ends with a blissful swell of analog synthesizers.
Alex Corona, 26, Lynwood
Spotted: Heading west on Washington Boulevard, occasionally stopping to help fallen riders.
FMLY veteran? Second ride.
What kind of bike are you riding? A black road bike.
Favorite song to ride to: "Gouge Away," Pixies. But I learned the hard way not to listen to headphones when I ride. Too many crashes and close calls.
How does the city sound on a bike? It's like a car radio. The tracks change often. You can stop to relax, or just listen to the noise all around you. Like that ambulance!
Is a FMLY Ride a mosh pit, jam session or drum circle? It's communal performance art. You could be playing drums or a guitar out of an amplifier on the back of a tandem bike. Or you could make a noise bike, where oscillators or knobs are stuck to your pedals.
Jeremiel Diaz, 31, Lawndale
Spotted: Leaving a parking lot near La Cienega & Washington after police catch the end of the Religious Girls set.
FMLY veteran? Rookie. An avid biker participating in his first FMLY Ride.
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What kind of bike are you riding? "The Rasta." It's a red and yellow Bianchi.
Favorite song to ride to: "One Step Forward, Two Step Back," Max Romeo.
How does the city sound on a bike? Ecstatic. There's a soundtrack to everything, whether it's people kissing on the street or people fighting.
Is a FMLY Ride a mosh pit, jam session or drum circle? Jam session. I see more people standing than dancing.