lucky dragons by michael demeo
Acid Wash: I caught up with some L.A. RECORD peeps at the Echo’s No Culture show last week, but not before catching up with Lucky Dragons, owners of one of my few whole-souled enthusiasms on the current SoCal scene. The rara avis duo of Luke Fischbeck and Sara Rara don’t so much give performances of their Minkowski Space postrock as collaborate with the audience and they did so tonight, passing out various tone-making apparatus to rapt ones sitting semicircle on the concrete floor. They view the craft of song the same way long-gone late-‘70s postpunk experimentalists the Swell Maps did—as a mere conventional pretext for astonishing ventures into the arrangement of pure skronk. The Luckies go even farther, since “Read About Seymour”, the Maps’ best-known joint, is at least a recognizable freehand caricature of a rock tune. Once this gorgeous directed meditation shut down, the room began to bulge with late-arriving scenesters who visibly dug on Rainbow Arabia. Their goofy little synth-dance tunes are like what might’ve happened to disco had the punk D.I.Y. ethic caught on around 1978 and the roller-boogie set began to manufacture its own thud. It was Hecuba’s night, celebrating release of Paradise, the band’s first full-length slab of minimum R&B. I hadn’t heard Isabelle Albuquerque’s winsome Ono coo since they opened for occultists Ya Ho Wah 13 back in late ’07 at the very Echoplex below our feet. Their new stuff is at once weirder and more commercial than before, putting them in the pocket for this giddy epoch.
Little Willie G. Would Be Proud: Rock ‘n’ roll was long gone from famed Whittier Boulevard by the time I decamped for Boyle Heights three years back, determined to have my Angeleno being physically close to downtown and spiritually far from Hollywood and farther still from Van Nuys. There was a time in the 1960s, legend has it, when bands like Thee Midnighters played stupendous music up and down this SoCal extension of Soul Street. That band’s underplayed swagger is still a fair match for the Yardbirds’ laid-back drooginess, with diminutive Willie Garcia giving Eric Burdon a brief run for mid-decade blues-shouter honors. What happened to shut down East L.A.’s branch office of the Life is a mystery to me, but the venues that supported it are shuttered or open now as charismatic churches, alive with a spirit vastly less playful and devilish. Hunter Thompson cowered behind locked SRO doors in this ‘hood, but I leg it up Whittier free of the monoxide-suffused air, with my only care being the occasional LAPD officer kind enough to inform me with Zagat precision exactly which part of town I’m walking my hillbilly ass around in. I’d noticed the recent uptick in amplified noise and freak traffic in and out of The Blvd., an elegant little bar loitering almost within sight of the art-boho ghetto across the Sixth Street Bridge, but didn’t actually cross its threshold until last Friday night. Onstage, UV Lights was making classic rock noise onstage in the deathless manner of Budgie and Ten Years After and an early evening crowd of neighborhood rockers and Warehouse District artisans milled as familiarly as L.A. locals ever do. I dallied a while and headed across the bridge to the Smell, where a much smaller and tenderer turnout had gathered for the woozy drone of Winifred E. Eye, Oakland cowpokes down here grazing the South Forty before driving on to Stagecoach.
Phild0g Mourned and Shooter Remembered: Burner pals were having a beach party up near Pismo last Saturday, but a noon Sunday interview with Steve Priest of the Sweet kept me no farther away than a frozen desert hillside somewhere past Victorville. This was a private event, but we columnist types have our ways. There, some twenty miles off two-lane blacktop down a twisted, rock-jagged road pitted by erosion lay the Final Roll Call Party, already in progress as Kirsten and I staggered out of her car late in the evening. There were lights, a dance floor, a sprinkling of art, all the accoutrements of the kind of old-school rave put since the late 1990s by Phild0g, a near-legendary underground DJ and promoter who died last December 16th. I didn’t know the deceased and the Stormriders rave crew is but legend to me but the Ninja Skillz DJs were like Old Home. My friend was getting her first taste of rave culture while I helped tend the fire. While Phild0g was hymned between sets, my mind turned to a fellow writer named Caleb Schaber, a reporter I knew from his Burning Man incarnation as a hard-living gonzo journalist named Shooter. Caleb’s self-engineered exit happened two Fridays before, leaving a bigger-than-usual hole in another community of desert hedonists. As the music pulsed and well-bundled sweet ones swayed, I knew a moment of perfect peace as some dozen of us gazed around the fire at faces glowing with that rare contentment of shivering with the quick while chilling with the dead.