BIRTH! and Jellowaste on Hollywood Blvd. 6/19/08

By Liz Ohanesian

photos by Liz Ohanesian

At just after 10 p.m. last night, the first wave of summer tourists were still filtering through Hollywood and Highland, stopping every few steps to take a picture with Spiderman or the twin Marilyn Monroes, pausing occasionally to offer polite applause for a drummer or saxophone player.

BIRTH! and Jellowaste, two L.A.-based one-man bands, set up in the middle of the hubbub, plugging a laptop and air of amps into Jellowaste’s car battery. There were no microphones this time, as experience had taught them that in this setting and with that setup, mics will distort until ears begin to bleed. Instead, they shouted over electronic jolts that overpowered the poor souls attempting to walk from the subway exit to the bus stop.

The two artists have been playing in the middle of this shopping mall/tourist trap/public transportation stop on a monthly basis since Jellowaste relocated from New York three months ago. Neither one comes here to hawk CDs or pick up spare change. They’re here to create a spectacle.

Only a few people came out specifically to see BIRTH! and Jellowaste, the rest of the crowd, which swelled to around one hundred or so bodies at its peak, were passersby, folks for whom phrases like “minimal electronic music” and “DIY warehouse parties” mean nothing, whipping out cameras and text messaging friends as they stared in utter disbelief.

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“This is actually tight,” said one of the kids with a shaved head and oversized outfit as BIRTH!, slathered in white paint, flailed in between bouts of spat lyrics. When BIRTH! dropped to the ground and proceeded to convulse on a random Walk of Fame star, a group of teenage girls flashed metal-mouthed grins as they teetered on stiletto heels and debated whether or not one of them should dance with him. They opted to stay on the sidelines.

Covered in fake tanning lotion, Jellowaste kicked off his flip-flops and laid down on a beach towel before racing in and out of the crowd. In its recorded form, Jellowaste’s music bears the cheeky-creepy vibe of 45 Grave re-imagined in raver colors. Out on the street though, it was a flurry of quirky, noise-riddled beats. The guys in the “Crazy About Hip Hop” t-shirts, regulars on the boulevard who sell $5 CD burns like they’re souvenir t-shirts, became Jellowaste’s unofficial hypemen, dancing with the slight, bleach-blonde artist as they waved their hands in the air and offered shout outs that were rendered inaudible over the sheer volume of the backing tracks.

It was a performance that shouldn’t have worked with two strangely dressed guys creating a computerized racket on the edge of a gentrified, corporate hell. But a mismatched crowd had gathered and were entertained for a brief half-hour. Whether or not the bulk of the audience appreciated this as more than another “only in L.A.” moment was irrelevant. People were paying attention.

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