Cherry Glazerr
Cherry Glazerr
Pamela Littky

Best of L.A.: Music — Rock and Metal Bands, Venues, a Video and a Record Store

Best Indie Band

In the past couple years, Cherry Glazerr have gone from playing local clubs to appearing at Coachella and touring with bigger bands such as The Breeders, Lord Huron and Portugal. The Man. Singer-guitarist Clementine Creevy can write pretty pop melodies, but she also has a louder, more intense persona. Sometimes those opposing forces collide on the same song, such as "Nuclear War," which shifts from its stark, gently mournful intro into a headier, head-banging storminess as Creevy croons enigmatically, "All the swans are swimming in a bathtub." Fuzzy, laconic garage-rock riffs, Cure–style chords and foamy waves of cotton-candy keyboards wash over Creevy's serenely strange observations ("My room smells like an ashtray") throughout Cherry Glazerr's wonderfully weird 2017 album, Apoca­lipstick. —Falling James

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Ramonda Hammer
Ramonda Hammer
Raquey Strange

Best Hard Rock Band

"I'm pliable like melting vinyl, and I've become learned from books," singer-guitarist Devin Davis discloses almost mournfully at the outset of "If, Then," from Ramonda Hammer's 2016 album, Whatever That Means. "I probably look like someone who's done something, but I haven't amounted to anything," she murmurs apologetically. Within a couple of seconds, the flickering green firefly trails of light that she and lead guitarist Justin Geter have just stitched together will be crushed by an oncoming train of grungy power chords as both guitarists and bassist Andy Hengl slam into the dynamic chorus. At their loudest moments, Ramonda Hammer can melt a lot more than vinyl, but it's their ability to mix Davis' moodily introspective verse melodies with thunderous, anthemic, Nirvana-style choruses that make the local quartet, which now includes resolute drummer Mark Edwards, so special. —Falling James

Best Garage Band

With their primal, fuzzed-out riffs and lead singer Bonnie Bloomgarden’s blasts of circus-y organ, Death Valley Girls definitely have their garage-rock side. But they’re not retro-minded imitators pretending they’re living in 1966. Former Flesh Eaters guitarist Larry Schemel’s succinct power chords and bassist Alana Amram’s agile bass lines give the L.A. quartet a relentless punk-rock drive. “If you’re a man, then I’m a man too!” Bloomgarden declares defiantly amid a rumbling of Laura Harris’ tom-toms on the band’s debut album, Glow in the Dark. Death Valley Girls also like to get trippy, although their idea of psychedelia is more in the amped-up and flat-out rocking fashion of their recent tour mate Roky Erickson than the slower, gentler classic-rock narcosis of Pink Floyd. When you add to the mix Bloomgarden’s endearing onstage personality as she chats with the audience between songs in a Betty Boop lilt, you have a very unusual garage-rock group indeed. —Falling James

Nedda Afsari

Best New Goth Band

As is the case with most goth bands, Glaare will deny that they are a goth band. And sure, there's a lot more going on here. But they certainly tick all of the right boxes. Glaare's gorgeous take on darkwave weaves lush dream-pop elements with moody, '80s-ish electronica and post-punk, without ever sounding dated. Throw in some black-metal influences, a dash of Nick Cave and Kate Bush, and you're just about there. Pure goth or not, they're goth enough. And Glaare kick ass. —Brett Callwood

The Eulogy
The Eulogy
Sam Jameson

Best Hardcore Band

The Eulogy formed about five years ago, when a group of East Coast transplants and hardcore scene veterans found one another on this side of the country. It was some sort of boot-stomping kismet, because these guys have solid chemistry. Vocalist Sergio Chavez is the perfect hardcore frontman — aggressive and believable. Musically, the East Coast/West Coast thing results in a glorious scene blend. Think Agnostic Front meet Black Flag. The Eulogy can be found in dives all over L.A., so check them out ASAP. —Brett Callwood

Glam Skanks
Glam Skanks
Suzanne Alison

Best Glitter Band

Nobody knew that they wanted a glitter-rock revival until Glam Skanks came along — a female-led return to the days of The Sweet, T-Rex, Suzi Quatro and Slade. That means silver outfits, platform boots and over-the-top makeup, as opposed to the leather-and-Lycra '80s take on glam. It's all about the fun — anthemic choruses and stomp-along verses. This year, they even managed to replace seemingly irreplaceable singer Ali Cat with the equally charismatic Vanessa McNiel (aka Vanessa Von Lust). Recent European tours with the great Adam Ant saw them pick up heaps of new fans, too. They simply can't be stopped. —Brett Callwood

Best Hair Metal Revival

Everything about Leather Duchess — that name, the image and, of course the music — suggests that this is a group of '80s also-rans — one of the many Sunset Strip regulars who didn't manage to crack the Billboard charts in the same manner that the likes of Poison, GNR and Crüe did, but who have never stopped performing anyway. In fact, this is a band of bright new things, clearly obsessed with Hollywood's seedy past. So to many people, Leather Duchess will be considered a joke. A novelty. Here's the thing, though — the tunes are fucking magnificent, and these guys really believe in what they're doing. There are few better times to be had in L.A. right now than a Leather Duchess show, so screw the haters. There's nothing wrong with having fun. —Brett Callwood

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Best Black Metal Band

Though it has been a few years since the release of Volahn's last full-length album — 2015's sprawling opus Aq'Ab'Al — band mastermind Eduardo Ramirez has kept pushing the boundaries of his Mayan-influenced black metal with a series of split releases and live appearances that resemble rituals as much as they do music performances. Inspired by his familial lineage, Ramirez cuts his harsh take on the black-metal sound with moments of traditional Mayan musical instrumentation. Volahn embarks on a national tour later this month, followed by an as-yet-untitled full-length later this year, and live performances worldwide over the next year, including a first-time performance/ritual in Guatemala, the country of origin for Ramirez's ancestry and inspiration. —Jason Roche

Best Viking Metal Band

There's a reason that Sapphic Musk are the best metal band in Los Angeles. Yes, I realize that we're tacking on the qualifiers like "Viking." Sapphic Musk transcend all that. In terms of pure power and sterling theatricality, this quartet of hard-rockin' wimmin — led by sonic sorcerer Sarah T. Russell — present heavy metal in the way that, as Lemmy Kilmister, once put it: "People don't want to see the guy next door on the stage; they want to see a being from another planet." While most metal has become either lethally careerist or charmlessly calculated, Sapphic Musk's music is at once imaginative, joyous and hard. And when Russell storms the stage, puts on her crown of antlers, girds her loins in a skintight black catsuit and spreads her massive golden wings wide, you know that she's a star, she's a star, she's a star. —David Cotner

Best New Old-School Metal Band

As a teenage drummer for Fueled By Fire, Carlos Gutierrez had a bird's-eye view of the late-'00s Los Angeles thrash-metal revival. As that band became dormant after a few albums, Gutierrez jumped to the front of the stage in Blade Killer, a ripper of a band that skews toward a melodic metal sound that's heavily influenced by early Iron Maiden. Gutierrez's triumphant vocal shouts — as well as the galloping bass lines of Kelsey Wilson — would not have been out of place on a 1982 Neat Records 7-inch vinyl. Their only recorded output so far is a 2015 self-titled EP, but Blade Killer's live chemistry has made them a favorite among L.A. metal show-goers, who are likely to devour their first full-length record when it is released later this summer. —Jason Roche


Best Synthwave Artist

A wave of new musicians has emerged, taking inspiration from the synth-heavy soundtracks of '80s horror/sci-fi movies and welding them with a modern, heavy electronica touch. FacexHugger is a former L.A. death-metal musician who turned to synths, inspired by the soundtracks to his favorite genre movies. His new record, Sci-Fi Violence, is full of hyper-charged nods to the haunting soundtracks of the past from composers such as John Carpenter and Goblin. Atmospheric keyboards and pulsating beats drive tracks that showcase a versatile songwriting touch. The majority of the record expertly balances the space between heady dark synths and catchy dance-floor electronic drums; one could picture these tracks equally at home on a third-generation VHS dub of an '80s Argento flick and at the nightclub. —Jason Roche

Rituals of Mine
Rituals of Mine
Jeffrey LaTour

Best Hard-Rocking Gender-Benders

The uniquely right-on Bitchwave Records is a queer/person-of-color label/brainchild created by Rituals of Mine's force-of-nature frontwoman, Terra Lopez. Formerly known as Sister Crayon, RoM is a buzzy, nicely melodic and choicely abrasive brand of synth-pop given bigass heft by Lopez's authentically heartfelt lyrical topicality and the charismatic intimacy of her vocal delivery. The band have a few indie releases notched on their studded belts, along with a 2016 set on Warner Bros. called Devoted, all of which kick major butt, to put it mildly, and just sound real right for our times, somehow. While you're scoping out Bitchwave, dig into Terra's labelmate, L.A. queer art-rock/punk artist/Bitchwave co-chief La Louma, a former St. Vincent collaborator who's got a few overlapping calls to arms on her very hooky and quite artfully constructed Let the World Be Flooded Out album of late 2017. —John Payne

Best Rockabilly Artist

Show-stopping rocker Brian Hogan has been plying his trade for a few years throughout the region, and the Hollywood native's engaging presentation of self-penned originals and shrewdly selected classics is a solid mix that defies retro cliché and gleefully drags the genre into a high-voltage present tense. Hogan's show is lively, unpredictable and fraught with spontaneous combustion; he frequently leaps off the bandstand and stalks the dance floor, stirring up feverish audience response with devilish ease. He works with some formidable Tinseltown DNA — his father was the Native American actor Pat Hogan ("The 1950s go-to-guy when they needed an Indian chief to wrestle — Charlton Heston killed him twice!" Hogan said) and his uncle is '60s television wunderkinder Johnny Crawford, but his appealing, natural rockability is Hogan's alone. —Jonny Whiteside

Best Psychedelic Rock Band

With the 2018 release of Dead Meadow's eighth studio album, The Nothing They Need, the neo-psychedelic rock band maintain their sludgy, drone-laced rock reign as one of L.A.'s most active and relevant psych bands. Though Dead Meadow are celebrating their 20th year, they haven't slowed down and consistently tour the globe, melting the minds of their loyal fans. With collaborations from other psych musicians like Imaad Wasif and their ability to reinvent their heavy stoner-rock sound, while seemingly never changing at all, Dead Meadow offer a heavy stoner musical vibration that has shown itself to be far out without ever losing momentum. —Jordannah Elizabeth

Best Comeback

When James Williamson hooked up with Iggy Pop for The Stooges' third album, Raw Power, the band was in a state of transition. Ron and Scott Asheton were brought in late as an afterthought (Ron Asheton, previously the guitarist, played bass on the album), while Bowie made Iggy the focus. All of that said, Williamson's fretwork is impeccable. Years later, after Ron Asheton had died, Williamson returned to The Stooges' ranks for the Ready to Die album. Sadly, when Scott Asheton also died, the possibility of The Stooges carrying on in any authentic form went with him. That left Williamson a little in limbo, but he's assembled an awesome new band, The Pink Hearts, featuring the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs' Frank Meyer (a longtime Stooges aficionado, as his own band's name would suggest), and The Decemberists' Petra Haden (who guested on Ready to Die). That's a stellar lineup and, with the album Behind the Shade about to drop, this could be a big year for Williamson. —Brett Callwood

Emily Elbert
Emily Elbert
Taiga Kunii

Best Jam Musician

Singer-guitarist Emily Elbert cooks up such a funky and engrossing groove of bluesy chords and jazzy accents that you might miss the pointed words she purrs slyly underneath "True Power," an unsparing repudiation of the current president; the single will be on her upcoming, social justice–focused EP, due out in September. "True power can't be bought or stolen/If you build a wall of hatred, prepare to watch it crumble," Elbert warns coolly with a smooth soulfulness even as her hands continue to casually shuffle and dole out quick-moving chords. The local guitarist has toured with Esperanza Spalding and played with Mike Gordon and Dweezil Zappa. It's rare that such an adept vocalist can also make her way around the guitar neck with Elbert's complete dexterity and non-flashy assurance. —Falling James

Best Tribute/Cover Band

Mac Sabbath are the tribute band the world has been waiting for ever since McDonald's turned its back on McDonaldland 15 years ago. The concept is simple: covers of Black Sabbath songs using that abandoned McDonald's mythos, with live actions that are some of the funniest, most entertaining spectacles available today. Hence singer Ronald Osbourne, guitarist Slayer MacCheeze (a cross between Mayor McCheese and Motörhead's mascot Snaggletooth), bassist Grimalice and drummer Catburgler. There's a thread in the lineage of Mac Sabbath that stretches back to the pop consciousness inhabited by GWAR, Rosemary's Billygoat and Green Jellö; last year's claymation video for Mac Sabbath's parody of "Paranoid" — called "Pair-a-Buns" — looks suspiciously like Green Jellö's "Three Little Pigs" video. Since there's a great big Black Sabbath–sized hole in the world, Mac Sabbath — more than ever — are the heavy metal band you never knew you needed until now. —David Cotner

L.A. Witch
L.A. Witch
Mono Photo Studio

Best Rock Album

The self-titled debut full-length album L.A. Witch is like an old desert junkyard filled with hulks of ancient wrecks, broken-down parts of unknown objects and rusting ghost echoes. There's a little bit of Cramps-y reverb guitar here, flashes of Gun Club desolation there. When L.A. Witch put it all together, though, it sounds both familiar and hauntingly otherworldly. People sometimes compare Sade Sanchez's laconically dreamy vocals to Hope Sandoval's, but the L.A. Witch singer-guitarist has her own sullenly moody and coolly restrained variation that makes for an oddly soothing contrast with the local trio's feverish psychedelic garage-punk rambles. Drummer Ellie English breaks down "Kill My Baby Tonight" with a simple but decisive John Bonham finality, whereas Irita Pai influences the swing of "Drive Your Car" with subtle shifts of emphasis in her booming, propulsive bass lines. —Falling James

Allison Wolfe, left, Alice Bag and Kathleen Hanna tie up Seth Bogart in Bag's music video 77, a parody of 9 to 5.
Allison Wolfe, left, Alice Bag and Kathleen Hanna tie up Seth Bogart in Bag's music video 77, a parody of 9 to 5.
Amina Cruz

Best Video

At first glance, the title of this song might seem like a reference to Alice Bag's groundbreaking 1977-era L.A. punk band The Bags, but 77 is actually the estimated number of cents a woman worker gets for every dollar a man makes. The ever-fierce singer and memoirist is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore in this funny video parody of the 1980 film 9 to 5, with Ms. Bag joined by riot-grrl icons Kathleen Hanna (Le Tigre, Bikini Kill) and Allison Wolfe (Ex-Stains) in an homage to Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda that's both playfully campy and deadly serious. In addition to a cameo from Garbage's Shirley Manson, who appears as a stern businesswoman, Hunx & His Punx's Seth Bogart portrays the evil boss who gets a mildly kinky B&D comeuppance. —Falling James

Best Rock Venue

With the rise of upscale bars where live music is often regarded as an afterthought or messy inconvenience, the continued existence of the Hi Hat is a welcome relief. The expansive Highland Park nightclub has a couple pool tables and a long wooden bar in the front half of the room, and a spacious stage area in the other half. Although much of the neighborhood is turning increasingly trendy, the regulars who gather at the Hi Hat tend to be unpretentious and drawn by an open-minded booking policy that centers on indie-rock musicians and occasional punk bands. One drawback is that the room's brick walls and relatively high ceiling sometimes make the amplified sounds of faster and louder groups a bit of a mush, but the Hi Hat remains one of those increasingly rare spaces where anybody can feel welcome. —Falling James

Best New Venue

A lot of new bars, galleries and restaurants are popping up at the edges of Little Tokyo and the seemingly revitalized Arts District. None of these spaces can really replace the anarchistic abandon and artistic frenzy of creativity that was centered around the old Al's Bar, but the Moroccan Lounge — located by the Los Angeles River at the western end of the First Street Bridge — is an appealing bar with a separate performance area with a low stage and a standing-room capacity of only 275 people. Better still, the live room is dark and bare-bones, and it's easy to focus on the music when someone good is onstage. The Moroccan Lounge is nowhere near as architecturally ornate as its distant Moorish cousin, the Shrine Auditorium, but it's a cool new addition to the downtown music scene. —Falling James

Best Venue to Get Caught in a Mosh

There are multiple factors that may encourage what are the rowdiest and most relentless mosh pits in the city when metal takes over the Regent Theater. It could be the venue's location in a busy section of downtown. It could be the fact that most of its shows are 18+ or all ages. It could be that the security staff is educated on the difference between the organized chaos of a mosh pit and something more serious. It could be as simple as promoters booking the most ferocious bands in metal. A common theory posited by show-goers is that the downward slope of the wide-open floor space encourages more frenzied — and less controlled — movement. Whatever the cause is, our favorite spectator sport is standing in the back watching the insanity play out. —Jason Roche

Best Hidden-Gem Venue

From the outside, the Prospector in Long Beach looks like a cross between a suburban Americana haunt where Eagles tributes are put to pasture, and a weird little Wild West novelty bar. In fact, it's neither of those things. Rather, what we have here is a wonderful little punk-rock dive with great sound, awesome staff and a cool corner stage. Bands are basically at eye level with the audience, so there's no hiding. But the regular stream of local musical hooligans embraces that intimacy, creating a super-cool gig environment. —Brett Callwood

Best Record Store to Buy Underground Metal Vinyl

Almost anything can be found on eBay these days, but if you want to see and hold that first pressing of Slayer's Hell Awaits, a rare colored-vinyl pressing of a Mayhem bootleg or the newest release from the next big underground metal favorite, Dark Realm Records, located in an otherwise nondescript Downey neighborhood, is where you need to go. The in-store selection is fairly small, but the curation by store owners/brothers Bay and Rick Cortez — also members of longtime L.A. death-metal favorites Sadistic Intent — emphasizes quality over quantity. There's also a chance that if your favorite underground metal band are touring through Los Angeles, you'll run into them perusing the racks before that night's show. —Jason Roche


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