See also: Our cover story on Tearist.

Tearist, MEN, The Younger Lovers

at The Smell

October 8, 2011

Better than… being rich from a job you hate.

MEN's JD Samson got a bunch of attention last week — positive and negative — for an article she wrote on Huffington Post called “I Love My Job, But It Made Me Poorer.” While some thought she was complaining, it was an honest expression of the plight many revered artists face; thousands of adoring fans doesn't necessarily equal money in the bank. After MEN's packed performance at The Smell Saturday night, let's just say that JD is rich in the way that counts.

MEN are currently on tour with CSS, who headlined Saturday night's Culture Collide fest at the Echoplex (both bands also played CC's Antics block party Sunday). It's somewhat telling that they chose to play The Smell, the all ages downtown underground venue known for its $5 shows. It sucks to struggle financially, yes, but playing in spaces that allow you to do whatever you want is important for a band like MEN.

JD rocks a tampon string hat at The Smell; Credit: Lina Lecaro

JD rocks a tampon string hat at The Smell; Credit: Lina Lecaro

It was important for the two acts before them too. Tearist continue to be one of the most compelling acts in Los Angeles. The hypnotic electro-noise duo offer ragged yet infectious rhythms and raging, strangely sexy freakouts.

Singer Yasmine Kittles and William Strangeland-Machaca have a chemistry somewhere between Suicide and The Kills, but more unpredictable. When Kittles banged on the stage and the club's brick walls with a metal pipe — and then tripped over one of them onto the floor and shrieked — we couldn't tell what was intentional and what wasn't. It didn't matter. They tore it up.

The Younger Lovers and MEN reviews below.

Brontez beats.; Credit: Lina Lecaro

Brontez beats.; Credit: Lina Lecaro

A big portion of the under-21, maybe half-gay crowd were there for The Younger Lovers, featuring Brontez from naughty Northern Cali electro-punx Gravy Train. The band has moved far away from the trashy rap and raunch of Train. Brontez, known for wild antics and skimpy attire with his former act, didn't show his “Junx” once from behind the drum kit.

His vocals may be on the scanty side but they work with the band's raw and catchy, punky dance rock. Not sure the music was aggressive enough for a pit, but the kids in the audience didn't agree. The Smell was swirling.

MEN had some set-up issues which delayed their show, but the group's loyal followers waited patiently, telling knock-knock jokes with Samson and reminiscing about her former project with Kathleen Hanna. “The last time I played here with Le Tigre, people were literally hanging from the rafters, then the power went out and we performed from blowhorns,” she recalled. “Who was at that show?” About a third of the crowd raised their hands.

MEN's lyrics have the queer thrust of Le Tigre, but in some ways the music itself is lighter and more celebratory feeling. Samson really has fun on stage — with her crazy hats, zigzag-print track suits that matched those of the cardboard cutouts they placed on stage, and while singing and dancing. She holds back nothing, and the freedom she brings to the stage can be felt throughout the crowd. The discrimination and financial struggles Samson wrote about on Huff Po are very real, and many of us can relate. But as MEN's music and performances prove, hard times still make for the best art.

The crowd: Cute lesbian punk couples and arty boys. Lost of nerdy black rimmed glasses. Hats and tats.

Random Notebook Dump: During The Younger Lover's cover of The Go-Go's “How Much More,” nobody sang along except us. Travesty.

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