May 28, 2015
In 1992, L7 were at the height of their powers. Before that, they were the only L.A. band signed to Sub Pop. Some said they were the hardest rocking band in the L.A. underground. Others saw them as hype mongers in the era of busted-knee jeans and fucked-up false idols. Spin put them on the cover in 1993. L7 was grunge as fuck.
Four girls, no dudes, and not a single clichéd song about getting ditched on prom night — L7's sheer existence was ballsy in the pre-riot grrrl, pre-Hole MTV era. But when singer-guitarist Donita Sparks threw a bloody tampon at a festival crowd in 1992, L7 became notoriously trashy, and probably created the filthiest fan souvenir in rock & roll history. They never really got over it and in 1998, L7 broke up. Earlier this year, a Kickstarter campaign for an upcoming documentary brought them back together.
This was their first show, with the original lineup, in 18 years.
When L7 took the stage at the Echo with all the
original members from the '88-'96 era — which includes Sparks, bassist Jennifer Finch, guitarist Suzi Gardner and drummer Dee Plakas — they made sure the night felt special: “Ready to have your tits and dicks melted off?” screamed a dirty-blonde Brody Dalle, formerly of the L.A. punk band The Distillers, who introduced L7 by injecting some comedy into the drama.
In what was being described as a “warm up” show before their big European tour, the fierce foursome came off like a cross between brain-bleeding Motörhead, the hardest parts of Mötley Crüe, and quasi-Sex Pistols trash. Sparks even rolled her “r's” like Johnny Rotten.
In other words, they still got it, especially Finch, who whipped her bright red hair around and dropped to the ground, humping her bass as her stockings tore apart from all the grinding. Sparks looked equally mad, with a gold tooth and wide-eyed stare that made her resemble a Cash Money rapper doing Iggy Pop. While it took them about three songs to fully come out of hibernation, the lung-busting vocals of both Sparks and Gardner sounded vicious for 18 songs.
Loud-as-fuck, hyper-shredding guitars, no long speeches about feminism or Nirvana — L7 was sweaty rock & roll with not an ounce of pretentious bullshit. Just headbanging and yelling like animals, on especially filthy performances of “Fuel My Fire,” “Fast and Frightening,” and of course, their accidental paean to apathy, “Pretend We're Dead.”
Fuel My Fire
Right on Thru
One More Thing
Pretend We're Dead
Fast and Frightening
Note: This article originally referred to this as L7's “original” lineup, which is not accurate. The group briefly played and recorded with a different drummer, Roy Koutsky, before Dee Plakas joined in 1988. We regret the error.