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A Smidgin of Underground Music in LA

This July 28th marked our fifth month in LA and I must say that despite the fact that our car battery has been stolen from our car twice and the driving sitch in this city remains indefinitely unruly and unsafe, for the most part, I am really loving it here. It is without a doubt that LA has too much to offer, which is probably why folks get in trouble wildin’ out as they do and there is something real in the meaning of “being overwhelmed with options”, because I feel it just about every damn day. Nonetheless, whatever there is to complain about regarding this City of Angels, because believe you me, everyone who lives here does, it is often overlooked because SoCal life is just so incredibly unique; having the coolest underground music scene and with endless experiences awaiting every corner and stories that infinitely unfold.

To bring in my first five months of LA living, I went to my gal pal’s, Liz’s, super duper funked out band show that was happening the night of the 28th. I met Liz when I worked on the project Peace Art early on in my LA transitionary period – by the way, I jumped ship on that project some time ago now and for a few reasons but mostly it just wasn’t working out – nah’ mean? – But, no hard feelings, because I stayed in contact with the folks and specifically Liz and her rocker boyfriend Christian because they are good people. Not to mention, they sure know how to throw a kickass LA underground music scene party.

To boot, Liz is this super style savvy and new wave pinup kinda gal who has the most kickass spotify playlist in the world. She wears crop bangs, rocks jet black glory wave hair and writes a music blog on Medium because she’s dope AF. Meanwhile, her boyfriend Christian is the rhythm guitarist and lead singer in the Long Beach band Velvet Collide. The band rocks beachy tunes reflective of LA’s freshness (and I mean “freshness” as is “coolness” because LA is totally nothing close to “fresh” as in “new” because it’s pretty old for being situated in the young Westcoast and it’s crusty and dusty with its trash and human feces – I’m just being real with you!). Anyway, their tune is kind of hard to explain with words but mostly if you dig a cross between Weezer and Arctic Monkeys with a dash of psychedelic rock, then you’d dig these beatniks.

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So, Liz and her boy decided to throw an underground rock show of sorts somewhere in the quiet working class suburbs of Commerce, CA. Commerce is about 20 minutes outside of LA but it’s still LA, so what tf do I know? The joint was unsuspecting save for the beatnik dudes with Marborollo reds rolled up in their short sleeve white T’s and who perched out front, stoopin’ for the honeys with just the whites of their eyes and the glistening pomade in their mutton chops, mustaches and ducktail hairdos, visible from smoke clouds yonder that hung in their faces.

Beats by Callate y Escucha softly cooed from the innards of the building’s graffitied walls and a cool toned fluorescent light flickered in the common area situated with a grouping of mismatched, dusty and crusty leather black couches of cheap mid century clad and a 1980’s vending machine with that fake wood paneling that made me oh so nostalgic for 80’s livin’ when life was truly more “real”.

Meanwhile, I’m hanging around the joint, trying to find my way and identity in a city with style and trendiness… it doesn’t help that I’m rocking a freakin’ puritan esque cardigan because I don’t know why, people! Unfortunately, I was not born with the blessed talent of pattern coordination and style knowhow. But all works out for me usually because I am always lugging my only heir and fruit of my loom – my Sony a7RII camera. She turns heads in all of her full frame glory and thankfully distracts the cool passersby from staring questionably at my trying to rock some bitchin’ mom jeans with a slight flare at the bottom – “bootcut” they say – and Dansko sandals, which I don’t know why we can’t still appreciate this lewk but whatever.

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At some point in the night, I meet Daniel with his fuschia hair, floral button up and jeans with ornate rose patches. He rents the cozy little recording joint that smells like dank weed with some music friends. He explains to me that the long winding hallway that is pock faced with wonky doors and numbers that don’t list in any particular order is actually the innards of a warehouse containing many recording studios. Imagine that. Daniel is cool, too; he tells me about how he’s taking a break from making music these days because he just turned the long awaited page of 30 years in his life’s novel and well, he just needs some time to figure his shit out.

My buddy Carl joined me later on and he’s a hoot. I met Carl through Instagram back in March and we’ve been buds ever since. He claims meeting a “stranger” over the internet was the freakiest shit he’s done in a long while- he truly knows how to live on the edge – but I know he knows it was worth every heart attack on account we’ve bonded over laughing our asses off while making fun of one of the others in our glorified nerd posse.

Anyway, Carl is shy and prides himself for being a tad bit anti social but you put a bass guitar in his hands and you’d think he a lying son of a gun. Not too long ago our nerd group attended Carl’s band’s show at another warehouse recording studio somewhere in the Arts District. Apparently, this metal show takes place every once and a blue moon and is organized by the great folks of a local Filipino community who Carl has befriended and who loves metal music. Well, at this show, Carl let his hair down and we watched two meters of its wavy velvety blackness flow with ferocity as he slapped the living hell out of his bass guitar. Honestly, all of us in the nerd gang had our jaws to the ground in awe and amazement because – Carl, dude, that was just unsuspecting and amazing!!

So, back to Liz’s underground show – Carl and I spent half the night laughing our asses off because he’s goofy and I’m goofy and that’s the exact way it should be. He takes a couple of these sweet photos of me that I dig – thanks, Carl!  

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And then we head inside to enjoy the lineup. Within the cozy little 500 sq. ft. studio is a dollop of Angelinos smelling like IPAs and cigarettes and their vibes are PERF! The first band to perform is an indie group named The Caracals, led by a frontman looking like he stepped out from the set of “Almost Famous” c. 2000. He’s dope with his chevron mustache, linen button up that is classically clad and halfway unbuttoned – yeh, the whole lewk was on point. The crowd, meanwhile, really feels it, jammin’ and vibin’ and swayin’ and singin’ along. They finish with an Arctic Monkeys cover, which was perfecto and so the whole lot of us basked in that moment like we were living a real idyllic moment that only exists in 1990’s music videos about summertime love.

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The next band was Velvet Collide and I know their shit cuz I’ve been to two of their shows and – I’ll let you in on a secret – I sometimes jive to their tune and one of my favorites “Tides” as I cruise down Santa Monica Blvd. on my way to my humble KTown abode in my adorable Honda Fit. Chya!  *jazz fingers* 

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Rod, meanwhile, who is the lead guitarist of Velvet Collide, swoons us all with his kickass guitar solo. Twas lovely, Rod, I mean, wowza!

Dudes with long shaggy hair drank warm beer and nodded with rhythm to the tunes that rang loud and clear that night from staticy amps while ladies with red lips and wearing high waisted Levi jeans and solid pastel halter tops hung onto the crooks of their lover’s arms and swayed to the tunes, letting their long and short locks flow to and fro. Everyone jived good, rocked good and enjoyed the night among good people and good underground music. Twas another night in the books to remember and quite frankly, the best way I could have spent my five month anniversary in this big and bad (in more ways than one) City of Angels.

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