THEE COMMONS @ LEVITT PAVILION
Photos by Eduardo Luis Words by Chris Kissel
Props to the summer concert series at Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park. So far, the shows this year — booked by Spaceland Presents, AKA the force behind the Echo and Echoplex, L.A.’s premiere mid-sized venue(s) — have managed to bring in acts as varied as the punky Regrettes, the jazzy Ethio Cali, and the cool and funky Mndsn for shows edgy enough to bring out music fans but subtle enough for the setting. If you wanted a primer on the most creative and exciting acts in L.A., you could do worse than hang at Levitt Pavilion all summer.
But no Levitt concert we’ve seen so far this year had a bigger or livelier turnout than last night’s Thee Commons show, in which the L.A. psychedelic-cumbia-punk trio’s 100-minute set further amplified the vitality of the series. And that road goes both ways — Thee Commons are no strangers to the live stage in L.A. (they’ve played Coachella, Echo Park Rising, and half the venues in the city) but they took special advantage of the friendly stage, stretching out on long, hazy jams and catering amiably to a younger audience than what’s typically allowed at their 21+ gigs.
The band, clad in matching white cowboy suits and hats, dug deep into their new material — their new record Paleta Sonora is now out — which sees them expanding into funk and disco rhythms and shifting the focus from canny covers to their own off-kilter compositions. New songs like the groovy “Work It Out” and the giddy “Sopa Cruda,” delivered with swagger and precision, see the band branching out without shedding the unhinged energy that defines their top-shelf live shows. Dust kicked up from the ground floated skyward through the stage lights; teenagers, surreptitious beers tucked under their arms, howled at the moon.
And the band certainly stretched out, elongating usually punchy cumbia-punk numbers into gritty psychedelic workouts. Singer David Pacheco’s Wolfman growl was in very fine form — a proper singing voice, in fact, that just happens to sound as if it rose up from a corroded sewer pipe. Just as laudable was his heavily-reverbed guitar, rockabilly lines inching up and down the neck of his blue Strat, solos ricocheting out to the cars on Park View Street. Bassist Jose Rojas’ lines were so airtight they might as well have been welded to the floor, though his feet certainly weren’t, as he strutted across the stage, swinging his instrument from his shoulders. Drummer Rene Pacheco banged forth with a big, goofy smile, occasionally leaning into the microphone to say what’s up to someone named Hector, or his abuelita, or some other friendly face out in the audience.
These are signs of a band that is very much in practice — it was more so the special things, the things that make Thee Commons an L.A. treasure, that really shined in the congenial, all-ages environment. There was the moment where everyone rushes the stage, as they always do, during the band’s ritual closer, a raucous cover of Los Saicos’ “Demolición,” or the couples who danced old-fashioned during the band’s rewrite of Juaneco Y Su Combo’s “Ya Se a Muerto Mi Abuelo.”
But it was even smaller things, too — like when David Pacheco dedicated “Elotero Spaceman” to the street vendors of L.A., one of whom was notoriously attacked this week; or when the Pachecos brought up their abuelita and serenaded her, as she bopped adorably, wearing David’s white (and, probably, very sweaty) cowboy hat. These are the moments particular to this East L.A. band — a connection between Thee Commons and their fans, and this city, that runs deep, a connection that includes the music but that moves beyond it, too. It’s encouraging to see that as the band gets better, the connection is only becoming more nuanced, just like their sound. And what better setting to witness it than L.A.’s liveliest city park, on a cool summer night?