Allah-Las And Mapache At The Cactus Lounge At The Standard Hotel, Wednesday July 19th 2017
I don’t like the way they treat music at the Cactus Lounge located inside the trendy Standard Hotel on Sunset boulevard, the place has been hosting free shows of indie bands for years but I had never tried to go there for several reasons. First, it’s on the Sunset Strip, a high-fashionable location where it’s a pain to find a place for free parking, then it’s far away from my usual DIY venues. Yesterday the Cactus Lounge had one of their free Desert Nights at the Standard with two bands Mapache and Allah-Las and it was a tempting evening of music, but it didn’t turn to be so idyllic as it first appeared.
I have to admit it, LA people are spoiled, they can listen to great music for free in this splendid environment, surrounded by palm trees, inside a hotel on the Sunset Strip, they can enjoy cocktails and appetizers on the hotel pool deck and all they do is talk, chat and talk and chat. Why organizing this series of acoustic music if the musicians have to play in this constant brouhaha and frivolous chatting? A couple in front of me didn’t stop chatting for even a second during the performance of both bands, and if I could have heard the sound of my voice I would have asked them if they were there for socializing or listening to the music? Obviously it was a rhetorical question, as it was obvious they didn’t care at all for the music, so I got very surprised when the woman nevertheless waved and cheered up when the Allah-Las played one of her favorite songs? But poor Mapache, they are a folk acoustic duo with close harmonies and a poignant Crosby, Stills and Nash style, often reaching some Beatlesque levels, and I could barely hear their beautiful voices and their Laurel Canyon vibe couldn’t pierce above the incessant chatting of these people.
And I was not far in the back, I was seating on the third row, but the setting was strange and unpractical. The organizers had reserved the lounge, which is filled with large bamboo armchairs and sofas, for guests, but miraculously we were admitted as guests as not every seat had filled up when the show was about to start. However, the rest of the audience had to watch the show from the pool deck, behind all these seats filled by people who apparently didn’t give a shit of what was happening on the small stage, too busy talking about their exciting day over a glass of white wine…. What a mess, and what a waste! Real fans, as I could see there were many of them standing in the back, were not allowed to fully enjoy the show, while these rude people were talking?
Allah-Las were louder, for the good reason they were 5 on stage with electric guitars, percussions and drums, so they partially covered the noise, but believe me the talking didn’t stop much. Despite any of this, the band played as if nothing too out of the ordinary was happening, although it’s possible they were not able to hear the chatting from the stage. One thing is certain, the Allah-Las have grooves, gentle melodious psych grooves that you don’t want them to stop playing once they start, but they also have instrumentals, but when they sing, all of them do sing, one by one, and this necessarily makes the term of frontman a bit outdated. When I say grooves, they really get good ones like the one during ‘Busman’s Holiday’, whose first notes were enthusiastically received by the crowd, and whose melody seemed to come from some desert trip movie soundtrack inspired by the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The tone and rhythm barely accelerated during the ha-ha-ha-haaas of the song ‘Sandy’ and the cool grooves dominated their set with harmonies that were reminiscent of the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and other bands from the 70s. There were a real innocence and delicateness in many songs like the very locally-named ‘200 South La Brea
The band’s name is a nod to the All-girl American pop band The Shangri-Las, although the Allah-Las are all men of course, I guess they are probably very tired of this retro-revivalist label that has been stuck to their work, but I couldn’t get rid of this 60s nostalgia idea all set long, as the music was really close sometimes, in particular during these instrumentals filled with psych-surf guitars.
The audience was enthusiastic, at least the ones standing in the back, who couldn’t get closer to the stage, and when the band reached some of their most famous songs such as ‘Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind)’ the singalong was unavoidable.
The Allah-Las are a pure LA product – some of them were working at Amoeba music store during their humble beginning – they have released ‘Calico Review’ last year, two years after their successful LP ‘Worship The Sun’ in 2014, and their music is equally nostalgic and soothing. One of the last songs they performed ‘Had It All’ with its catchy-breezy-jangly chorus may perfectly sum up their life philosophy: ‘Didn’t really try cause I had it all/(I had it all)/Never questioned why I had it all/(I had it all)’ The Allah-Las just want to enjoy life, make it more beautiful with their cool tunes, without asking themselves too many questions, such as ‘why are all these people still talking when they could listen to the music?’ Because that would be a waste of time when you worship the sun on a nice summer night, in one of the most beautiful venues in town.