Better than … Eddy Grant.
If you thought all screaming, sweaty, hip-swiveling rock and roll frontmen were motivated purely by narcissism, Outernational's Miles Solay might make you think again.
Solay and his NYC-based Spanglish rockers played a super high-energy set Tuesday night after spending much of the day — and much of their current tour — at political protests. Tuesday marked International Worker's Day (a.k.a. May Day) and the Outernational show was touted as L.A.'s unofficial “May Day Afterparty.”
Promoting their December 2011 album Todos Somos Illegales (“We Are All Illegals”), Outernational's tour has taken them across southern Texas, Arizona, Nevada, over the border to Tijuana and up through Southern California.
“We went to places that rock and roll bands never go to,” Solay hollered as the weeknight audience at the Echo cheered.
“Friday was a motherfuckin' historical night for us,” he went on. “We played in Tijuana … We crossed the border that way!”
At each stop on tour the band members have made daytime appearances with local protest movements and workers' rights groups. In L.A. Monday they performed three acoustic songs at a recycling plant protest in the morning, then joined in a gathering for immigrants' and workers' rights at Pershing Square downtown in the afternoon.
So seeing Solay, guitarist Leo Mintek and bass player Jesse Williams Massa jump around the stage Tuesday night, shredding their axes while the drummer Nate Hassan smashed and crashed like crazy, it was only natural to wonder where all that energy was coming from. The answer — at least according to their manager, who we caught up with after the show — is that it comes from the heart.
“This new revolutionary culture feels pretty fucking exciting,” Solay yelled between songs. Then, to get the crowd going, “I've never been in a room with so many badasses that felt so prim and proper!”
At a brief moment of relative calm mid-show the band played its well-loved cover of Woody Guthrie's “Deportee,” which they recorded for the album with former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello. Then Latin Grammy nominee and local favorite Ceci Bastida joined them on stage for “Canta El Río” and stayed on to play keys during “Que Queremos,” one of the band's best-known protest songs.
They rounded out the set — appropriately — with a hand-clapper and left the stage to loud, competing chants of “Otra! Otra!” and “One more song! One more song!” They answered with a five-song encore including a cover of Eddy Grant's “Electric Avenue.” (Did you know that song was about 1981 riots in London? Well, now you do.)
A sweaty Solay pulled some fancy moves on the last number, winding the microphone chord around his neck and arm, grabbing the stand and pointing it up and out like it was a telescope. He stepped up on top of the bass drum and jumped off. Then, beaming, he high fived fans from the stage as the lights came up.
On our way out, an older guy in a plaid shirt and a gambler hat — the type who probably knows a thing or two about old-school protest music — stopped us. “Did you like the show?” he asked, all serious. “Because those kids are the real thing.”
The crowd: Jumping, moshing boys and swaying, hippie-dancing girls
Random notebook dump: We bumped into Daniel French from Las Cafeteras, who described Solay's forceful yet poetic on-stage banter as “preacher style.” We couldn't disagree.
Set list below.
Woman on the Edge
The Beginning is Here
In Their Sights
For it All Now
Whirlwinds of Danger
Where Will You Go
Welcome To The Revolution
Ladies of The Night
Canta el Rio w/ Ceci Bastida
Sir No Sir
New York Parasite
One For the Airwaves