Dirty Penni Fest At The Echo/Echoplex, Sunday July 2nd 2017
I am blessed and absolutely spoiled because I live in Los Angeles, I am constantly surrounded by venues organizing festivals and events of all sizes and the latest on date was this Dirty Penni Fest, the child of Dirty Laundry TV and Penni Records, a wild afternoon/evening of bands on three stages at the Echo and Echoplex. Sure, it was impossible to see the 25/30 bands which played there – I have lost count – but I tried to navigate my way up and down the stairs, inside and outside, without even resting for a minute, during a full day of fun. Where else can you have such a mouthful of live music in such a condensed way? It sounded too much for the same day, and it was, but I got to see some familiar faces as well as new ones, I missed a lot of bands (almost all of them to be honest) playing on the outside patio because there was a lot going on inside, and it often got so crowded that I could not even get close to the stage… Each one of these mini festivals looks like a fight and an endurance test, because I want to go everywhere and see as many bands as possible but I usually ends up staying for the whole set of a few acts that truly captivate me. This was the case for Starcrawler – a young band I have already seen a ridiculous amount of times – Plague Vendor, whose frontman Brandon Blaine looks like the second incarnation of Iggy Pop, and Mike Watt and the Jom and Terry Show, since, when you have an ex-Stooges in front of you, you are glued to the stage like Starcrawler’s Henri Cash who didn’t lose a second of Watt’s performance… this kind of mini festival is also an occasion for musicians to watch other bands and I spotted a lot of them in the audience.
Every time they perform, Starcrawler gain the full attention of everyone, and they keep on getting better and better each time I see them! I said it before, but they cover all the grounds of a raw rock ‘n’ roll performance, they launched the festival at 3 pm with a firing set and Arrow de Wilde doing her blood-spitting mad-angry girl over their earthshaking heavy riffs. They are working so hard these days, playing everywhere and Dirty Penni fest did well in reserving the large stage of the Echoplex for them. I believe they are definitively here to stay, like the new generation a rock ‘n’ believers and a dream come true for photographers. Watch out, they may headline their own festival, one of these days.
At the Echo, Espresso, another very young band I have already seen around a few times, played a very bouncy dance-y and quite poppy music with hook galore turning funkier and funkier as the set progressed… But the festival had a few surprises, I had never heard of the band Enjoy and I don’t think anyone had for a good reason… it was in fact The Garden twins going incognito. They probably did not want to attract a huge crowd so they cleverly used this trite moniker and showed up on stage at everyone surprise. They have their own genre and don’t follow any rules, with disconcerting noises and rhythms begging for rap verses, their songs often sound more like Ariel Pink’s collages… they played a fast paced set, whipped by a violent drum beat, a mix of rap and punk, certainly puzzling but just as the kids like it, and they obviously started a mean mosh pit.
Now a festival like this one doesn’t allow you to stay very long at the same place, and I saw a bit of Here Lies Man a band which was producing a fuzzy chaos, with psychedelic tribal jazz and wobbling loud keys… they describe themselves as Black Sabbath playing Afrobeat, and this sounds about right from memory. Meanwhile, whoever was playing on the patio at that time (and I checked later, it was Sketch Orchestra) had made people mosh like mad men into a sweaty and aggressive distortion.
The festival had booked bands from all ages, and we went from the teenagers of Starcrawler to the punk veterans of Mike Watt and Jom and Terry Show, a band led by punk legend Mike Watt (The Minutemen, Firehose) on bass, Tom Watson (Slovenly, Red Krayola) on guitar and Jerry Trebotic on drums,… as for the vocals, it was a shared effort during their mostly bass-driven music. They started with the Stooges and ended with the Stooges, and in between, it was a long succession of abrupt and raw jazz chords with Mike Watt’s furious faces and Black Flag-esque stop-and-starts. They sounded like the masters of chaos and it was cool to see a young kid with his father enjoying the music together and even making Tom Watson sign the setlist.
Plague Vendor had already played at Punk Rock Bowling and they were honestly a highlight of the day but seeing them once again perform under this icy then bloody light confirmed my idea that Brandon Blaine is the second coming of Iggy Pop. He certainly took all the pauses and beyond, crawled and climbed, threatened and fell, and did everything with the swagger of a true punk rock star. He acted, looked and sounded dangerous but vulnerable at the same time, completely sexy and decadent. The band was a blast and definitively an act to see live, especially because of Blaine’s possessed scream and mad antics, but also because their songs seemed to bring much more diversity than you would expect from a new sweaty punk band… hey it’s not that often you get excited by a new band and I am.
While checking out the immense fuzz and the pedal-galore distortion of Flat Worms – they truly destroyed my eardrums on both sides while I was trying to take pictures – I realized there was a sort of krautrock-y thing behind all that fuzz, but it was time for the Shrine at the Echoplex… and the Shrine was quite a scene, with an ambitious metal-meets-acid-hard rock virtuosity, whipped by banging hair and riffs piling at the top of each other. They sounded so badass with their studded leather jackets that I imagined them playing at the top of the truck in that crazy Mad Max movie, and this idea was kind of confirmed when the woman in the group suddenly got off stage, a bottle of alcohol in one hand, a stick of fire in the other, and began to spit fire in the middle of the audience, before getting back to her bass… that was such a crazy thing to do, and I still feels the heat of the flame on the side of my arm.
On the patio, rap duo Crimewave 5150 sent me some Odd Future vibe, as these guys sounded as dangerous as they looked charming, while throwing a series of obscenities through their verses.
Jurassic Shark made the kids crowd surf till they dropped with their fast-paced bouncy surfy punk pop, they have the funny-smart name and the hooks and their popularity among youths, their upbeat chaos-creating music made me think about the beginning of FIDLAR, when the band was starting to make a name for themselves at this same place
I ended up my night at the fest with Deap Valley’s loud bluesy Black Keys-inspired headbanging. These two women always sound so badass, Lindsey Troy could teach any man how to treat a guitar with a few pedals while Julie Edwards’ drums gallop with the same offensive statement. Plus they certainly know how to dress for the occasion. There were still a few bands playing when I left, but how many hours of live music can you handle in the dame day… 6? 7? It was 8 for me.