Weird Scenes Inside the Silver Mine
“Then I called Mark, the kid from the Pedantiks, and we arranged to meet at Texarkana. He said he was bringing the guy Sam from his group. Anyway during dinner we talked about rock, I guess. . . . Sam’s teeth are bad and he looks grey, but I guess rock and roll isn’t healthy and these kids do start to look like that.”
—Andy Warhol, The Andy Warhol Diaries, Sunday, September 25, 1983
A decidedly stalkable Annie Hardy leans against the front of the Echo, on Sunset near Glendale Boulevard, amid a meandering parade of 50 or so youthful thrift-store-fashion aficionados. A petite and pasty little party cookie, she reads 15 and trailer-park slutty to the naked eye, but is actually 25 and Silver Lake savvy. She lights a cigarette, looks like she may have had a drink or two, and effects a flat-line veneer, but her darting eyes are a dead giveaway. She’s absolutely engaged. Networking. Eastside style.
It’s 8 o’clock on a Saturday night, midway through the Fuck Yeah Festival, a three-day indie jamboree put on by Spaceland Productions and some ambitiously shaggy kid named Sean Carlson. It’s a sort of Silver Lake/Echo Park All-Stars thing. It all happens at the Echo and simultaneously a block east on a makeshift stage at the Rec Center. There’s also standup comedy at the Downbeat Café on Alvarado and an art show at Sea Level Records on Sunset.
Los Angeles Angels vs. Cincinnati Reds
TicketsMon., Aug. 29, 7:05pm
UCLA Bruins Double Header: M Soccer vs Duke & W Soccer vs Penn St.
TicketsFri., Sep. 2, 5:00pm
UCLA Bruins Men's Soccer vs. University of Akron Zips Men's Soccer
TicketsMon., Sep. 5, 5:00pm
UCLA Bruins Women's Soccer vs. North Carolina Tarheels Soccer
TicketsFri., Sep. 9, 7:00pm
Annie’s band, Giant Drag, is at the top of the Silver Lake/Echo Park food chain. It’s a two-person affair, her and Micah, a pale, thin boy who drums and plays bass lines on a keyboard at the same time. Micah works a sort of listless, disaffected persona. Giant Drag is just back from a Euro festival tour and a few weeks from going out again. It’s gone well lately for Micah and Annie. Though Annie still brings out the strangers offering kindnesses, of a sort.
“I get a lot of older guys who will give me money and will, like, stand outside waiting for us to show up at a venue for four hours to get a picture and autograph. And just a lot of men who would like to tie me up with ropes and throw me in the trunk of their car and take me home and rape me,” she tells me. And though I don’t personally care to do any of that, I can see how her Russian-mail-order, child-bride, fetish-girl good looks could incite those so inclined, or at least get them to hit up Giant Drag’s Web site and buy a CD. It’s a MySpace world here in Silver Lake. Everybody’s got a Web site and a band.
“They seem to be very generous,” Annie goes on about Giant Drag’s pedophilic patronage. “When I announce that I’m broke, a couple of them put cash in my hand. I think it’s cuz I look like I’m 14 and I have a dirty mouth. Onstage and off.” Micah stands nearby, staring into space.
“We’ve been around for three years and we’re poor, but we do all right in England,” Annie tells me. “I’m singing about myself mostly. Most of our first record was about me being in shitty situations with shitty people. And sometimes I sing about cats.”
Annie’s a foulmouthed Silver Lake superstar. Her band is a big local headliner. Silverlake Lounge to Spaceland to London and maybe to the bank . . . if things go really well. But making bank isn’t what this new crop are all about, or so they’ll tell you.
“Hopefully we’re taking this to a life of semicomfort where you don’t have to worry about paying bills every month and have enough money to not be stressed out and have enough integrity to not be bummed out,” she says. A humble goal. Micah and Annie are just friends, and a lot of their friends are in bands in Silver Lake.
Annie likes Autolux, Midnight Movies and Darker My Love. Micah’s into Rolling Blackouts, Dios Malos and the Silversun Pickups. He’s played with Going Stag and Radio 4. “Not the one [Radio 4] you heard of. Another one,” he says.
“Our record that we have out is doing okay,” Annie says. “We’re on Kickball, which is a subsidiary of Interscope. Which means subsidiaries pretending to be indie labels that are really owned by major labels so they can give you less money.” Her eyes are still darting up and down the sidewalk.
She’s from Orange County. Micah’s from the San Fernando Valley.
“I notice that people are looking for the new Silver Lake. Like where I live in Echo Park. And I can tell you that it is because the rent [in Silver Lake] went up $200,” Annie says.
You can always trace the evolution of a creative community by following the socioeconomic trail. It’s about the real estate. Like Portland or Seattle, where five kids can still all pay a hundred bucks a month to live in some shit-hole house, work some shit job and get their indie nut off with their bands in small clubs on the weekend. It’s a lifestyle choice dictated by property values, so when the rent went up downtown in the ’80s, the broke and arty kids scattered like roaches when you switch on the kitchen light at 3 a.m. They nested in Silver Lake and the surrounding area.
A block east of the Echo, Ferraby Lionheart’s self-released eponymous CD is playing quietly in the background at Sea Level Records. Aaron from Earlimart, a band’s band, just finished listening to rough mixes from his group’s forthcoming CD. Aaron likes to hear songs on a few different systems before committing to final mixes. His car and the stereo at Sea Level suit his ears.
Owner-operator Todd Clifford leans against the counter of the undecorated, overstocked storefront on Sunset Boulevard near Echo Park Avenue that has emerged as a hub. Each wall a different color red, gold and purple; it could be a Latino community center. The place is a well-ordered clutter of CDs, promotional swag and other stuff Todd sells, like guitar strings, aftermarket faux-vintage amplifiers and guitar knobs, cables and picks.
Nerdy, blond Todd is the kind of guy who could only fit in a place like this. He’s a collector, an archivist, a businessman, a fan and an indie historian. His five favorite Eastside bands currently are “Silversun Pickups, Earlimart, the Radar Brothers, Irving and the Brokedown.” Needless to say, Todd’s done the research. “I know all of the Silversun Pickups. Aaron from Earlimart I consider a friend. I know most Eastside bands by name, or at least by sight. Anthony Kiedis was here yesterday. He came to see the Jack Bambis at the Fuck Yeah Festival.”
But the Chili Peppers aren’t really the kind of thing that resonates over here. “Elliott Smith used to come in here a lot. He lived up the street a bit. He was really nice. Gave me 7-inches.” Todd’s talking about a vinyl 7-inch single, not a sexual encounter with the late adopted Godfather of Silver Lake.
“Almost a holy figure in this neighborhood,” he continues in solemn tones. “All the musicians, the ages they are now were influenced by him. They liked the way he did things. His songs spoke to people. And when people met him, they really liked him.”
The Elliott Smith memorial ends when I ask him about another of the area’s top contenders, the Silversun Pickups (named for the liquor store where Sunset and Silver Lake boulevards converge with Parkman Avenue, and where people still get shot occasionally), whose show I attended at the Troubadour recently. Turns out Todd was there too.
“It was great to see Silversun Pickups at the Troubadour sold out. It was great to see the Troubadour packed with people who know their songs. They did an in-store here about a year ago with about 150 people. It was packed,” ?Todd recalls.
“We’ve been here about four years, and it’s neat to see the neighborhood change and not change. Silver Lake did its thing 10 years ago with Beck and Weezer and all that. I like it that there’s not a sound, like New York had. Everyone’s into their own thing. We have bands that are all over the place play with each other and support each other that are totally different.”
Todd riffs out on a verbal Rubik’s Cube of recent Eastside band history. Around here, folks like to compete in these anthropological gymnastics: who was in what band with whom before they were in another band with someone who used to be in another band before it was a different band . . . that kind of thing. And they say “aesthetic” and “sort of” a lot. It’s an audio assault that insinuates proprietorship, rendering the possessor of the information superior. The ever nebulous “what’s cool” is their area of expertise. It’s exclusive. You’re in or you’re not. They choose. The older the veteran connoisseur, the more evolved the exhaustive oral dissertation and the more times they say punk rock and rock band. Todd’s a relative novice and as sweet as pie, but it’s all kids’ stuff regardless of the period: Richard Hell to Greg Edwards, Television to Upsilon Acrux, Mudd Club to Spaceland . . . it’s all a little enduring. But maybe that’s just me. Todd’s happy as a pig in shit. Listen to him:
“Sea Wolf is a side project of the band called Irving. Patrick Park and other guys from Irving and, at various points, Silversun Pickups and Earlimart members have been in it. Great Northern is another one in that crew that former members of Earlimart are in. Let’s Go Sailing is another one that came out of Irving. Tigers Can Bite You is another new band that has members of other bands, like Byron from Possum Dixon, who was in Kennedy from Silversun’s band. One of the guys from Darker My Love, who have a record coming out, was in the Broke Down, who are about to sign to a label who are real local . . . sort of twangy guitar stuff.”
Todd starts to go on about the 88, but I’ve succumbed to some kind of selective audio blackout and I can’t hear band names anymore. I come back on line just in time to hear Todd say, “ ‘Burn in Hell Fuckers.’ That was the name of that record. I personally love big, bad hip-hop. Autolux are fantastic too. That record is fantastic. They’re so good live.” And just when he’s about to tell me more, in walks Cali Dewitt, and it seems like everything’s gonna be all right.
Cali Dewitt is a sort of an Echo Park elder statesman in a current incarnation as transcendent, benevolent scenester patriarch. Handsome charmer Cali looks like “the guy.” Walking down Sunset past the Brite Spot diner, he takes me deeper, through a dark and artsy portal that reveals how we got here from there, and why it’s still on up in here.
“I dropped out of high school in 10th grade because a new place opened called Jabberjaw on Pico and Crenshaw and I felt like I’d found my home. It was an all-ages place,” Cali says. “I roadied for Hole and L7. I was just hanging out. I moved to Echo Park about eight years ago and put out a bunch of records from around here. I had three failing, bankrupting labels. The first real snapshot was the Fuck Yeah Fest three years ago. A band I’d been working with called the Mean Reds played to 300 16-year-olds with 40-ouncers [of beer]. It was mayhem. The security guards just gave up.”
Cali worked at Jabberjaw in the early ’90s and had a label called True Love that released records from bands including the Mean Reds, Future Pigeon, Brother Reade, the Rolling Blackouts and Dios. But it’s something else that earns his rank. Charm, charisma . . . street appeal. When you’re walking on the Eastside with Cali Dewitt, it feels like you’re about to be in the middle of what’s up and who it’s up with. Right now I’m following him around the corner from Sunset onto Alvarado to the Downbeat Café. He tells me he’s got a new vision in the form of an entity called Teardrops.
“I’ve been around and trying to make things of beauty for a while. This new thing Teardrops is not a label, it’s just something to put something out through. Help these bands and kids make one honest statement at a time,” Cali says. “Teardrops? If I wanna make a skateboard, I’ll make a skateboard. If I wanna make a poster by an artist, I’ll make a poster. My girlfriend told me I was immature last week. That might be true. I’m always interested in what the loudest, youngest kids are doing.”
And though I’m sure there’s a diagnosis for that, I’m having too much fun scenester-sightseeing to worry about that right now. Cali laughs a lot. He says stuff and then laughs and smokes, and laughs again. I ask him why this Silver Lake thing persists.
“I don’t know why it’s Silver Lake. Outside of here, everybody’s got their eye on some kind of record deal and fame kind of bullshit. It’s different over here,” he says. “There’s not really anything to figure out. A scene has to have a community and people supporting each other. There’s a lot of people who support each other. And out of that support it seems to me to do better. They give each other their all and grow from there.”
Deeper still into the indie vortex, I trace the tracks to Mano restaurant and bakery on Sunset a few doors east of the Echo. Inside is taste-making teddy bear Mitchell Frank. Mitchell is a mensch, a straight-up kissin’ cuddle buddy. He invented Spaceland in 1995, according to his best recollection, and the dream goes on forever.
Mitchell sits between his counterparts, Liz Garo and Jennifer Tefft, from Spaceland Productions. He breaks it down for me as Jennifer uses her cell phone to place her ads in the newspaper for the coming week’s lineup. Liz is old-school with lots of street cred. She and Mitchell were up on this Eastside stuff while Jennifer was still booking bands at a Christian college in Indiana.
“The whole reason the Silver Lake scene happened is because of the Seattle scene,” Mitchell says. “I was sitting around drinking one night with a friend, Mark Stewart from the Negro Problem, and we were like, ‘Why can’t we have a Silver Lake scene? I had a recording studio. I got bought out and started Spaceland with that money.”
The scene grew out of an existing coffeehouse culture. The infrastructure was already intact.
“The original Onyx [coffee shop] was next to the Vista,” Mitchel explains. “There was Club Fuck and Fuzzyland. It started with the Onyx and the Bourgeois Pig [the venerable coffee shop on Franklin and Tamarind]. It was a coffeehouse scene. The other coffeehouses were the Pick Me Up, off La Brea and Sixth, and then Jabberjaw at Pico and Crenshaw, that turned into an all-ages venue. Spaceland tried to pick up on what Fuzzyland, Club Fuck and Jabberjaw did.”
“It was back when the L.A. Weekly was on Hyperion,” Liz says, her eyes glazing over as she goes back in time. “I worked there in the ’80s. Jac Zinder who did Fuzzyland worked there, and Craig Lee, who was part of Club Fuck, and Donita Sparks, who later formed L7, and Scott Morrow, who did the listings. It was all part of the Silver Lake thing . . . the early days. And that was when the people who lived in Silver Lake were the unemployed artists and musicians and a pretty big gay community.”
“When I first started you had a choice of coming to Spaceland or going to the Roxy, Troubadour or Whisky. I used to have to explain to people where Silver Lake was. It was a social community where there was a social epicenter. People would pull up with a map,” Mitchell remembers. “First show was Foo Fighters, Beck, Possum Dixon and Lutefisk. I think that the day of 10 or 15 years ago when alternative bands would get these huge deals is now over, and I think that bands now understand [the goal] is not necessarily the big payday but to have some say creatively in what they do. . . . It’s not like it used to be. The playing field is much more leveled. There’s no more payola in radio, and radio is much more tuned into good music.”
Mitchell and the girls are still on the move. “We’re expanding the Echo to be one of the largest venues on the Eastside,” he says about the forthcoming ExPlex, a 600-plus-capacity space adjacent to the Echo that will have bands, dance clubs and special events. “We’re moving downtown next. Broadway theater district. It’ll be a totally different place downtown. A place similar to the Echo in size, then a larger venue.”
I was a little surprised when Rob Zabrecky showed up to meet me at the Tropical Bakery wearing a shiny sash with gold letters spelling “Mr. Silver Lake, 1989.” Okay, he didn’t really, but I think he might have one at home in his closet.
Rob was the singer/songwriter/bass player for Possum Dixon. Possum Dixon was the Silversun Pickups of its day. Rob played bass on Beck’s first record, Mellow Gold, with an early incarnation of the Geraldine Fibbers (post–Ethel Meatplow) and a gang of other Silver Lake stuff. Rob comes with a decidedly arch wit, tightly compressed in a thin frame, wrapped in a tight T-shirt and jeans with a crop of dark hair and some arty looking glasses. He remembers what it was like.
“It was kind of a social cohesion. Here was a group of people that weren’t interested in what was happening on the Sunset Strip. When I first started playing music with Possum Dixon in the late ’80s, hair metal was still rockin’ the Sunset Strip. The term indie rock hadn’t been defined by hipster vernacular. It was the alternative years. Before indie rock became a name. Probably Nirvana’s Nevermind . . . that sort of changed everything.
“To me there was a great sense of magic in the air between ’90 and ’93. It was a very fertile ground in L.A. The art-rock groups that were happening, they were all sort of different. I liken them to New York in the ’70s, where you had the Voidoids, Suicide and, like, Blondie. All these bands were completely different from each other. There was no cohesive sound. We’re in the entertainment capital of the world and we’re gonna be art-damaged — insert band here. I don’t think it’s over. There’s still a scene here. There’s always a wild hair growing somewhere. There’s always a kid somewhere in his apartment going, ?‘I’m gonna do something different . . . watch this.’ ”
These days, Rob’s a magician at Hollywood’s Magic Castle and performs with his magic group, the Unholy Three, which also includes Pixies drummer David Lovering and Fitzgerald, an L.A.-based comic magician. They were recently profiled in the May issue of Magic magazine. He also has a cover band with actor John C. Reilly. Rob says he doesn’t think about the old days much, but I convince him to revisit a magic moment with the erstwhile king.
“Beck is the superstar of Silver Lake. We recorded the bass track in a bathroom and him just sort of yelling from the other room, “Okay, it starts A, it goes down to F sharp.” Before, he was just some waif kid who was just around. He was ubiquitous. You’d see him around. He was an anti-folk singer. He’d come to all of our shows and we’d just lower the mike and he’d play for 15 minutes unannounced because he couldn’t get gigs.”
Speaking of Beck, the Dust Brothers have been having a rich Eastside experience for a long time. John King and Mike Simpson moved to Silver Lake together in ’89 from Koreatown. Way ahead of the game back in the day, they started making records in a small house on a hill long ago. A little older, wiser, and a couple of kids and wives later, the DBs are elder statesmen, but by no means crusty.
We relax in the lounge of their professionally appointed recording studio, called “The Boat,” on Hyperion. Music-industry mags are on the table and a politely eager intern asks me if I want anything to drink. It’s all very grown-up, but they don’t mind giving me a peek in their rearview mirror, back to when they lived in the hills on the west side of the Silver Lake reservoir and recorded out of their house on Panorama Terrace.
“They called it Pill Hill because a lot of retired doctors lived around us,” says Mike, sneakers casually up on the table. “Working with Beck, I could definitely feel a connection to Nirvana, spiritually, musically in terms of that thrift-store aesthetic.”
“When we did Beck’s album there, Odelay, he was probably a real part of this community here and he was living in the area as well,” soft-spoken John remembers.
The A-train the Dust Brothers engineered through Silver Lake went a long way toward putting the once-sleepy hood on the music map. They globalized a local aesthetic. Went wide. Beckified it, if you will, and they did it at a time when a still pre-prepubescent ?Silver Lake music scenes nuts were just ?about to drop.
Their shit-hole rehearsal space in a defunct strip mall on the outskirts of Silver Lake doesn’t make Autolux an anomaly in these parts. The nondescript studio is the usual dungeon: gray industrial carpeting, egg-crate soundproofing stuff on the walls of the 15-by-25-foot room with lots of gear, mad-scientist wiring, drum kit, amps, keyboard, outboard gear in racks, mikes, mixer. Sparkly red, white and green Christmas-tree lights from the 99-cent store are spontaneously draped about. A paperback copy of Notes From the Underground is on the snare drum. A rendering of Alfred Hitchcock is on the wall. Once inside, we could be anywhere in rock America, or the world, for that matter.
What sets Autolux apart, though, is sophistication and track record. Members Carla Azar and Eugene Goreshter scored Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo’s play Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Eugene is also a violin virtuoso in addition to his role as bassist and singer in the band. Carla is a world-class drummer who soft-pedals her impressive résumé. She’ll be doing the new P.J. Harvey record. Add Greg Edwards on guitar (and some vocals) and you’ve got the band that outgrew Silver Lake while operating frow within its parameters.
Born in 2000, Autolux has played and/or toured with Elvis Costello, Nine Inch Nails, Beck and the White Stripes. Currently they are taking a break from a year-and-a-half on the road promoting their record, Future Perfect (DMZ/Columbia), to record their second album.
“We don’t play in Silver Lake anymore. Our last L.A. gig was at the Hollywood Bowl with NIN,” says coquettishly thin and artsy Russian-born Eugene, who appears to have commandeered Edith Piaf’s hair for our meeting. We’re at a Denny’s somewhere near Glassell Park, a situation that has me contemplating the possibility of actually ingesting something from a place that has faux-Warhol prints on the walls.
“My first exposure to this side of town was back when the G Sun studio was at Grand Royal [Beastie Boys’ label and headquarters] over in Atwater,” he says. Eugene wrote and played on, yes, “Eugene’s Lament” from the Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication.
Soon, Carla shows up, working a sort of foxy, “East Village by way of Berlin” Euro thing. She, too, it seems, has commandeered Piaf’s hair. In the contemporary vernacular, one might describe her as “tight.” Greg shows up last, cute with scruffy brown hair and a slightly disaffected manner, which I think means he just woke up and needs some coffee. “We don’t want to be a local band. We wanted to move beyond being artistically associated with where you live,” Greg says.
“DMZ is an imprint of Columbia. That’s [producer] T Bone Burnett’s and [filmmakers] the Cohen brothers’ label,” Eugene informs me as Carla orders pancakes. “We were the only band on that label. We were sort of assimilated halfway through that record, and now we’re primarily on Epic. We started at Silverlake Lounge and Spaceland, back in 2000.”
“We moved into this area when it was really cheap,” adds Carla. “People talk about the Silver Lake thing. I know it as a region. I don’t know it as a sound.”
“I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old,” Eugene interrupts. The chemistry between the two reads as almost sibling. “This is all I’ve ever known. I grew up in this city. I didn’t move here to become famous or start a band or try to weasel my way into some trendy music magazine. It’s unfortunate the way that bands are marketed.”
It would be easy to misread Autolux’s denial of Silver Lake as arrogance, but the fact is, they have a lot of street cred and critical respect, and the chops to back it up. Nobody has anything but much love for A-Lux.
I press them for connections to Silver Lake bands, and Carla finally relents after the sugar from her syrupy pancakes hits the bloodstream.
“Greg’s sister’s in a really trippy band called the Pity Party,” she says. “One day she was knitting, now she’s doing a million things onstage at once.”
“I like 400 Blows. True punk band,” Greg adds, now fully awake. “They rehearse next to us. I don’t really have friends.”
The Silversun Pickups have a gang of friends. Everybody loves those Silversun Pickups. Their triumphant return from a recent tour was a jam-packed Friday night at the Troubadour and their performance at Fuck Yeah was the money shot of the weekend.
Singer/guitarist Brian Aubert is a delightfully gloomy little peanut from Topanga. Elliott Smith hair, tight brown T-shirt and black jeans. Thin and pasty. Perfect for the job. Bass player Nikki Monninger has a more reserved art-school thing going on. She’s the “quiet as a church mouse” singer who has every Eastside indie girl’s dream job.
“Brian keeps reminding me. He says they got a list if I hit any bad notes,” she says and he laughs, but she doesn’t.
Brian, Nikki, nerdy keyboardist Joe Lester and cute man/boy drummer Christopher Guanlao are the reigning champions of Silver Lake. It’s straightforward, indie-rock, guitar-bass-drums stuff with some trippy keyboards and melodic, sometimes-snarling vocals. Surprisingly clever, the winning formula here is classic pop-song structure with easily accessible choruses. When the day’s done in this particular genre, you can either write a chorus or you can’t. If you can’t, you better find somebody who can or keep your day job at Millie’s.
Brian’s favorite band right now is Darker My Love. “I was in Earlimart, helping for a while,” Brian says. “I accidentally joined them on a tour. Sort of helping out. They’re friends of ours for a long time, so that’s always fun.”
I ask him if there was a particular magic moment in the past few years.
“The funny thing about magic moments,” he says, “is they just keep on happening. Before we used to talk about . . . one day if we could play the Silverlake Lounge with this band Pine Martin.”
The Pickups opened up for Elliott Smith and Rilo Kiley at the Music Box a couple of years ago. “Elliott asked us to do that, and I thought, This is going to be scary,” Brian remembers. “Our set was short, and we played really fast . . . when we finished we still had extra time and people started calling out names of our songs and it made us feel really amazing. We know Elliott from around. We had friends who were friends with him. He was a local guy.”
Earlier in the night, Brian and Annie from Giant Drag played on the main stage at the Echo for the Fuck Yeah Festival, where the gathering storm of shoe gazers is still growing and waiting to get inside. Annie is still propped against the building, chain-smoking and snake charming.
Just down the street at the Rec Center things are a little more teenage and testosteroned as Hit Me Back, Latino thrash-’n’-roll vets from South-Central, tear shit up for reals. The raucous combo are a real independent band in the authentic sense. Stick breaker Danny Diaz (a.k.a. Dingy Danny), hyperfrenetic singer Abraham Garcia, austere, straight-edge guitar player Alberto Gamboa and headbanging bass player Bogar Garcia have toured the States, Canada and Japan and have just lined up a South American tour that includes dates in Brazil, Peru, Chile and Argentina. They put it together themselves.
Spiky-haired 19-year-old front man Abe always gives it up. “Like if it’s the last time we’re gonna play and shit,” Abe says. “The lyrics? They’re, like . . . social. About, like . . . hating shit.”
Danny interjects, “Everything we play comes from the heart. If we feel it, we do it. Being alive and being there. That’s what we’re doing in Silver Lake.”
Like a lot of self-propelled touring acts, these young punks manifested their transcontinental vision outta dust and nuts. Now materialized, it’s held together by spit and jism, fueled by vigorous impetuosity. The omnipotence of youth. One element always present in the DNA of these high-functioning, self-contained creative organisms is a superorganized expediter. In Hit Me Back, Dingy Danny is the one with his head screwed on straight, but Abe doesn’t mind being the mouthpiece.
“We just did it,” Abe says. “We booked and went.”
Danny fills in the blanks. “We have a release in Southeast Asia and Indonesia, so hopefully we’ll be there soon, too. We got a split 7-inch with [Tokyo speedcore legends] Crucial Section on 625 Thrash out of San Francisco. We’ve had releases on some European labels, and we got one coming out on a South American label. We do it all independently. DIY. Do it yourself.
“We’re from South-Central,” Danny continues. “We’ve seen parts of the world we never thought we’d see. We’re not from the rich neighborhoods. With us, everything we’ve done is truly amazing. We’re from a place called poverty level. We save our money and we work for it. It’s not like we have tour support. I paid for the Japan trip with the insurance money from a car accident.”
Oddly, with a five-year history, the globetrotting and the releases (seven total), these tambourine-thrash all-stars seem to feel a little alienated being so far away but so close to home at the Fuck Yeah Fest here in Echo Park.
“We go to the Echo on Sunday for the Part Time Punks things. We show off our dance moves.” Danny laughs, but the veil is thin and you can tell they don’t feel particularly embraced here . . . this isn’t their scene.
“We played backyard and street shows,” Albert says. “The kids over here are more exposed to music, instruments and offbeat bands. They’re not gonna experience parties that go on all night and then wake up to Mexican oldies blasting from next door.”
Honest Abe sums it up: “I know it sounds cheesy, but the cholos down my block were like, “Yeah, you did it. You got out of the hood and went somewhere different and made it happen. Everyone was giving us credit. I wanna take this to a Third World country and play for people who never seen some shit ?like this.”
Meanwhile, back inside the Echo, hard-rockin’ tweensters the Jack Bambis are just finishing their set. Shit is tight too. Room is full. It’s a kind of blues-influenced punk with a girl-singer thing.
“I’m in it for the money,” 13-year-old scruffy-blonde guitar shredder Indio jokes. He’s working a perfect Cobain as Jimmy Page, in a Led Zeppelin T-shirt. “Really, I don’t think we’re trying to get rich and famous. We just don’t wanna be so unknown that we can’t share our music.” But I doubt obscurity will be an issue for the Jack Bambis. They played at Sunset Junction and their calendar is filling up fast.
Lanky 12-year-old singer Lia says, “I just wanna express myself musically and hang out with my friends.”
I ask the precocious 12-year-old bassist, Jasper, where he hangs out in Silver Lake. “I don’t go to clubs,” he tells me flatly, “I’m 12.”
“Super Bowl!” beams 10-year-old drummer Cash, a pintsize firecracker with a Mohawk, when I ask where he’d like to see the Jack Bambis go. As for his musical home base, Silver Lake, Cash adds: “It’s fun. The people are cool. I live here, by the Vista.”
Ah, the Vista, right where this whole party got started, at the Onyx. Full circle back at ya with the JBs. And the dream goes on forever.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.