THE BUTTERTONES + GUANTANAMO BAYWATCH + WILD WING @ THE BOOTLEG THEATRE
If you drove down Beverly Boulevard last night, you may have seen a massive line of hip, sharp-looking kids lined up around the block of The Bootleg Theatre. If you live within a five-mile vicinity of said venue, you definitely heard the atomic bomb of surf-rock goodness set off by local outfit The Buttertones, whose hybrid, punk-spiked, mid-century sound is a throwback to when rock and roll was all about danger, lust, and cigarettes.
“I thought y’all were waiting in line for Beyonce or something, I couldn’t believe it,” lead singer Richard Araiza said to the sold-out crowd. It was quite the occassion. The group’s record release show in honor of Gravedigging, their third album and first on the hip, indie label Innovative Leisure, meaning the setlist provided a generous helping of killer new tunes. First came “Pistol Whip,” with its anxious beat and talk of hot .45s which Araiza tossed off coolly with his hand in his pocket, then “Sadie’s A Sadist,” the album’s first single and an absolute scorcher that turned the entire room into a swirling, churning pit.
The slink of “Geisha’s Gaze” sounded like it should be soundtracking a secret agent movie – a scene where our anti-hero PI is meeting a client in a seedy Chinatown bar filled with cheap paper-lanterns and cheaper women—and the “Apache”-esque “Neon Cowboy” nearly blew the roof off the place with its crazed, galloping beat and an onslaught of churning guitars that hit like a punch in the gut, as Araiza wailed, “Use that fire you carry around/Don’t back down.”
The unhinged, go-go madness of “Two-Headed Shark” kicked off with Araiza telling a lady in red silk that crashed the stage, “Alright, let’s see how good you can dance.” She put on a show, but quickly overstayed her welcome. Ironic, considering the song is about a girl that can’t take a hint. After an insane version of “Dak’s Back,” which is already lightening, fast but got rocketed off into outer-space, there was a quick break due to a broken string during which Dak himself, guitarist Dakota Boettcher quipped, “It’s hard to keep up with you fuckin’ guys!”
Stylish music needs a stylish band, and these dudes don’t disappoint. All collared shirts, suit jackets, and ID bracelets, seeing a band that thrashes this hard but show up in something other than beer-stained t-shirts and pants held up with a shoelace is worth the price of admission. As is seeing a sax player up on stage, especially one as slick as London Guzman, honking away. But before you think it’s a gimmick, these guys can really play, masterfully handling the on-a-dime stops and time changes in “Matador” and “Bad Girl,” their recent stint on the road getting them in top fighting shape.
Old favorites like “Luna Estupenda,” “Dionysus,” “Baby Doll” and “Orpheus Under The Influence” rounded out the setlist as the temperature rose and turned The Bootleg into a tropical destination, the floor shaking with a mixture of kids moshing, crowd-surfing, or trying to dance like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.
After a two-song encore, the walls were practically dripping with moisture and it was time to call it a night. For all involved, it felt like a homecoming – local heroes returning from the road, playing to hundreds of their closest friends, their true-blue fans, a collective of stylish Butterheads that’s been germinating since 2014, all packed together into a steamy warehouse. Needless to say, the merch line was long immediately after the show. Til next time.