Plague Vendor, Blivet, Band Aparte, Wild Wing At The Hi Hat, Saturday December 23rd 2017
Nothing much is going on show-wise around Christmas time, but if you wanted a punk Christmas, the Hi Hat was the place to be on Saturday night. Four wild bands played there, in an ascending punk rebellion, which culminated around 11 pm with one of my favorite punk bands of the moment, Plague Vendor.
And since there are new bands to discover every day in Los Angeles, Blivet, a four-piece band from Orange County, started the festive night in the loudest fuzz ever. Their songs were all pedal-distortion and it may have been because of their plaid shirts, their grungy look, or their frontman’s (Nick Alfonso) vocals which were alternating between visceral screams and monochord despair, but they sounded a bit like a lost loud track of Nirvana on steroids. Bliver certainly had a very muscular sound, flirting with metal at times, getting bigger and bigger at each song with tough guitar solos,… and did they sound angry! There was a release of anger blending with fear in their visceral eardrum-bleeding music, they sounded like hunted animals, and they were trying to escape through violence and determination. With monster riffs and without saying too much during their 20-minute set, they played head first, and hair flying through a fuzzy tunnel of speed-up hard rock.
I already had the pleasure to see Band Aparte before, and each time, frontman Brian Mendoza came up with some weird stage antics which spiced things up in a funny way. It was also the case this time. The band has released a debut album ‘Memory on Trial’ on Manifesto Records last year, and their music is a blend of dark new-wave and sad dance floors, sometimes reminiscent of the Cure or the Smiths, shaken by Mendoza’s frenetic and abrupt dance. While playing with a mirror and a skeleton, two perfect items to reflect the depressed goth side of the music, Mendoza crooned over a dead bouquet attached to the mic and the band’s manic soundscape, before ‘attacking’ the crowd during one of his unpredictable moves. Inspired by the post-punk scene and the underground, and dressed accordingly, there is something dark and gloomy in their punk attitude, while the comical derision right in the middle is ready to seduce you.
Wild Wing made us forget about this sophisticated goth scene for plain rock ‘n’ roll fun, as the garage band brought a hillbilly energy inside the venue, starting a mosh pit which barely stopped till the end of the night. They had a sort of Black Lips laidback attitude with fast accelerations and wild escapes into a crazy backyard party. Punk to the core, they were loud and unruly, and they brought a restless chaos into poppy hooks, so what else is needed for some good times? As it was progressing, their set increased in ‘violence’ and intensity for the greatest pleasure of all the kids around, pushing and moshing, and one of their last songs had all the wild fury of something from Fidlar, which is always a good sign.
Then it was time for Plague Vendor and their unapologetic punk number. This is a band who remarkably knows how to install chaos in a few seconds and they never fail. Without any doubt, frontman Brandon Blaine can channel the greatest punk frontmen of the past — did I compare him to Iggy Pop before? — he has this sort of stage fire, and a fearless attitude, played with aggression and passion. Plague Vendor’s live shows are really something to experience, a collective push in anger and mayhem, shaking all the ghosts of the past, from the Cramps to the Gun Club, with violent guitar riffs, screams, sweat and blood. Their reverb-heavy riffs, mean bass lines and aggressive drumming, far from building hooks rather created a wall of cacophony with sinister grooves, which soon become a dream playground for Brandon Blaine. He was restless, in constant assault over the crowd, screaming his possessed shrieks at the face of the front rows (for their greatest pleasure) like a hardcore frontman, never giving up on his manic garage-punk theatrics. As expected, they slayed the place, and the crowd pushed me on the side of the stage where I had a chance to survive the chaos. Punk Christmas isn’t dead, actually it has never been so alive in Los Angeles.