Downtown Boys With Generacion Suicida And Ex Stains At The Echoplex, Thursday November 30th 2017
Downtown Boys was headlining the Echoplex on Thursday night and it was a promise of a night of rebellion with 2 punk bands opening. I had already seen Generacion Suicida once, as they had opened for Alice Bag’s release record party last year, and the quartet was back at the Echo(plex) with their furious sound and fast songs, shouted by the ferocious-looking Tony Abarca on guitar… When he sings, this guy gives the impression he could bite the mic at each one of his yells, and with such high cheek bones and a true rocker look, he may actually just do that. With their skinny jeans, sunglasses and leather jackets they looked like the Ramones, but they sounded more aggressive with a wave of frustration building up at each one of their bullet-like tunes. The set was sent to the stratosphere in a few minutes, and if the tempo of their song was sped up like old school punk, they always stayed on the melodic side of the music, with real hooks and a catchiness not even touched by distortion, as it is often the case when there is such anger in the delivery. You could even note some Latin music influences on a few songs. Coming from the predominantly Latino area of South Downtown Los Angeles, the band started in January 2010, and even though all their songs were sung in Spanish, they looked like one of the most visceral expressions of our city, conveying rage, anger and rebellion with a rare rawness and a desire to keep the idea of punk as pure as possible… And sometimes it is not necessary to understand the lyrics to get the feeling. The 3 guys and the girl (on drums) of Generacion Suicida still believe into the power of a straightforward punk rock song and nothing else, at the sole condition it is delivered with passion, animosity and a fire not ready to die.
Ex Stains is the new outfit of Sex Stains, still fronted by the fearless Allison Wolfe but minus her bandmate Mecca Vazie Andrews… so there is no more of this exchange between the two, this talk back to each other, as Allison is doing all the work by herself, with her very distinctive half-spoken half-screamed rap talk. Beside the leading Riot Grrrl, the current line up includes guitarist Gregg Foreman (Cat Power, Delta 72), Pachy Garcia (Sex Stains, Prettiest Eyes) on bass, and David Orlando (formerly of Warpaint and Sex Stains) on drums. The result is weird and fun, with chaos assured with the always-entertaining Allison Wolfe, who had brought up her sister on stage for the occasion. They juggled between art rock, experimental punk and acrobatics, thanks to the dynamic and jumpy Gregg Foreman and the very flexible Wolfe, who can still do the split with an amazing ease at the end of the set, after bouncing around in her long puffy dress, so creatively out-of synch for a punk show. It was weird and audacious, as they have obviously traded catchy melodies for adventures in deconstruction, but above everything they were a riot and a party, more like a Birthday Party.
The Rhode Island punk band Downtown Boys took the stage with full assault and never looked back. Singer and frontgirl Victoria Ruiz was in full attack throughout their entire set, alternating between hardcore aggression during the songs and political speeches between songs, delivered (or should I say preached?) with emotion and solemnity as if they were Shakespeare sonnets, while covering every subject from social injustice to racism, gentrification, capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, fascism, mass incarceration, and white supremacy, a recurrent theme during the night,… so much for white guilt! She was constantly screaming ‘white supremacy’ in my face, me, a white person standing front row, but I should have know what to expect, this is a band which released an album entitled ‘Full Communism’ in 2015, and their new ones, ‘Cost of Living’, which was produced by Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto, certainly carries the same far-left and revolutionary convictions. Ruiz delivered the lyrics in long dragging howls, as if she was throwing new material to the crowd to trigger a reaction while the furious guitar and the rhythmic bass-drums section were punked out by a saxophone played by Joey La Neve DeFrancesco. And just when I was thinking there was a sort of E-Street band flavor in the mix, in spite of the hardcore chaos, they surprisingly covered ‘Dancing in The Dark’, which had become an anti-racism anthem. This was not the only cover of the night, as they also did an amazing Spanish version of the Pretenders’ ‘Back on the Chain Gang’.
After a few broken strings on guitar and bass (bad luck), Ruiz was still at the center of the show, in a constant confrontational mode during the songs, and she carried the night with a flower crown on her head and a few trips in the crowd. She sometimes sounded like a Screaming Female – they once were on the same label (Don Giovanni Records) then the New Jersey band – and never escaped from her socially conscious discourse, she was delivering with a real urgency and powerful slogans.
It’s clear they are a band on a mission, it’s clear that the message transcends the music, she even continued talking for a few minutes about immigration and the justice and prison systems after their last song. The band believes their music could be the vehicle to dismantle the system, and Ruiz is so convincing she could succeed, I am not talking about this tsunami of kids she invited on stage in a very Iggy Pop move at the end of the show, I am talking about everyone, me included, ready to quit everything, my job and my white gentrified neighborhood, to join the socialist army led by Ruiz and her revolutionary ideals. However, I am well aware it’s too late for that, even spotting Alice Bag dancing in the crowd among this multi-colored crowd didn’t give me enough hope, and I know that not even a protest song called ‘A Wall’ during the Trump era can change the course of history. We are doomed and doomed, but Downtown Boys will fight for a better world till the end of the apocalypse
Wave of History
I’m Enough (I Want More)
100% Inheritance Tax
Lips That Bite
Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)
Dancing In The Dark