Night had unfurled it’s inky tendrils across the Central Basin and to no surprise, the rain had still ceased to fall on the desperately dry City of Angels when last we left our plastered, punk rock protagonists. The backyard was almost at capacity as the main acts of the night, John Underwood and Chris Fox, were nearing their performances. Everything was going according to plan, but one of the drawbacks to hanging with a schlub like AnarchoPunk is the constant, looming presence of Murphy and his stupid Law that seems to follow him around. So, if you’re a fan of disappointment in general, disgruntled neighbors who obviously don’t appreciate good music or ‘Nilla Wafers, join us for the infuriating finale below!
When the crowd had finished lauding the sheepish solo artist, she sincerely thanked them for their attention and the MC, Julio took the stage once again to introduce the next act who were already set up and ready to go, standing patiently behind him. As soon as his brief introduction was complete, The Rifleman, a folk/bluegrass act from Las Vegas immediately started in with a cover of “Oo-De-Lally” from the Disney version of Robin Hood, which as far as I’m concerned is the only Disney movie worth watching (along with The Fox and the Hound. But that’s it. Bluth Films, FTW!). Although they normally play as a quartet, only two members made the trek to the Southland for this show. To be honest, I’m not sure anyone noticed the missing pieces as the duo held their own and made enough noise to fill the void. The overwhelming majority of the bands on the card were decidedly punk. Loud, brash, sloppy and a little immature and angsty, musically speaking. These troubadours from Sin City took a more measured, deliberate approach and definitely fell more on the bluegrass side of the fence than the punk side. They had a more mature air about them and it showed in the performance.
As the set continued, I noticed that a young lady had posted up near the merch tables. Obviously tanked, she sat with her eyes closed, swaying slowly and arrhythmic to the music. She was doing an adequate job of keeping her shit together for a little while, still semi-lucid as she exuberantly cheering after each song, although you could tell that she wasn’t fully aware of her surroundings. It wasn’t more than five minutes after this observation that her faculties finally gave up on her and she slid off off of her perch on the corner of the stage like a precariously placed sack of potatoes on a counter. There she laid, motionless in front of the milk crates of commerce, without miraculously taking them down with her somehow.
“Well, only a matter of time until that happened.” I said nudging Chris and pointing to the pile of passed out partier at the foot of his table. “At least she was considerate enough not to fuck your shit up on her way down! You should get a picture of that. That would make a great gig poster.”
“Oh no! Hope it doesn’t hurt my sales!” he exclaimed dryly, acknowledging the fact that no one had patronized his table yet.
“Speaking of sales, I need to get some shit. John, you got any buttons?” I asked turning my attention to Mr. Underwood.
“Oh man, I’m not sure. I think I only had about two or three left after the last show. Let’s see.” he said while making his way over to the tables, cautiously circumventing the girl on the ground. He shuffled through a couple small cardboard boxes and lifted a few posters, but his search yielded nothing and he returned buttonless. “Nope! It looks like they’re all gone. Guess I need to order some more.”
“When you do, I got dibs on one.” I said, turning back as I approached the stage to take a few pictures. (Note: This has no bearing on the outcome of this story. It merely serves as a memorialization that John Underwood still owes me a button.)
While the fifth act of the night was finishing up their set, I decided to take another lap around the yard now that there were more people milling about. I grew up in bad neighborhoods most my life, so I feel the need to constantly surveil my surroundings, especially in large groups, keeping good tabs on everything around me. I also find that whenever choosing a spot to hang out at for a show or when I enter I room, I tend to stand in a back corner, giving me the best view of the area while also keeping my back safe. Weird, I know but I’ve earned it having gotten my ass kicked on multiple occasions, so it’s more self preservation than it is paranoia. On my recon mission, I finally came across the “Pot Luck” table. It was tucked back in a dark, lonely part of the yard away from most of the action, most likely in an effort to maximize it’s survival. I noticed that it was filled, not with the typical Pot Luck fare like Deviled Eggs or casserole dishes filled with home baked goods, but instead with opened boxes of ‘Nilla Wafers, Oreos, Doritos and 99¢ Store tortilla chips and salsa along with a few bottles of cheap wine and even cheaper malt liquor, still sheathed in their brown paper vestments. The entire table had basically become just another trash receptacle by this time.
I heard the next act, Birote The Musical start warming up on stage so I headed back to the stage area to spectate. Another truncated band, this trio from San Dimas was sans their percussionist and could probably be best described as experimental folk. It was mainly very frantic spoken word over the music but front man Neil Gross mixed in some good ole belligerent, gravelly punk rock vocals as well. The most energetic performance of the night had to go to the upright bass player. He absolutely destroyed the bass, his long jet black hair flailing around furiously as he laid waste to his instrument. I looked next to me and noticed that John had silently, crept up next to me and was mesmerized by the duo. “These guys are so fucking rad!” he said in awe, with what one could imagine was a large grin under his woolly beard. His smile wouldn’t last long as it was only about twenty minutes later that murmurings started going around that neighbors had lodged a noise complaint. Fucking LA…
Word had completely spread throughout the “venue” that the show had been compromised. Despite that, after Birote finished their set, another band stepped up to the stage to perform. This time, it was Los Angeles natives Chenco, a superb folk act (Folkloriko) from The San Fernando Valley but honestly, I was certain that this would be the last act of the night for me and disappointment set in, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to see the two acts I was anticipating the most. Luckily, I write articles about up and coming, young bands, so they will get some coverage in the future for sure, because these guys are local folk royalty worthy of some recognition. I figured it was time to head back to the gang to see if anyone had heard any further details.
“So, what’s the game plan? Are they shutting us down?” I inquired, hoping someone was more in the know than me.
“Yea, they’re trying to figure something out now. Apparently, the neighbors complained and said we have to shut it down. Julio said something about moving the show to a bridge or something.” Mr. Fox explained.
“Are you guys going to head over there if they go?”
“I don’t know yet. I gotta see what John wants to do.”
Earl chimed in to offer up his solution, “We can always move the party back to my place. Do a private show in the living room. I don’t give a fuck.”
“We might have to.” Chris said with a sigh, shrugging his shoulders, almost like he was leveling with us. Just as he finished his sentence, John sauntered up with a scowl on his face. “Hey John, what’s the plan?”
“So fucked up… I guess they’re moving us down to a bridge.” he dejectedly replied.
“Are we going to go?”
“I came to LA to play a show. That’s what I’m going to do, even if it means playing under a fucking bridge.”
About this time, Julio took the stage again and officially broke the news to the disappointed throng. “Hey guys, can I get everyone’s attention? The neighbors have complained about the noise, so we have to leave. We’re going to move it over to the Clara Street Bridge for anyone that wants to come. It’s only about two miles away. If you need directions, let us know. But, everyone needs to start getting their stuff together and heading out now. Sorry guys.”
“That suuuucks.” I said making sure to exhibit my flare for stating the obvious. “So, you guys going then?”
After a few seconds mulling it over, John spoke up “What time is it? 11:30? Yea, OK, fuck it. Let’s just load up and head over there.” and with that, he made a bee line for his instruments which were still fastidiously covered in their thick plastic, precautionary tarp.
While I was disheartened that I didn’t get to attend a private show in Earl’s living room, I could understand the decision to migrate to the bridge. Now I was presented with a new dilemma. I’m old. Most nights, I’m in bed by 11 at the latest. I can usually hang on the rare occasion that I have to but I was worn out from the events of the day leading up to the show. Happy now, sad later? Or will I take the more responsible approach and call it a night? This is an argument I’ve started to have more and more often with myself as I get older. I’ve learned over those many years, the painful consequences of choosing poorly, so I decided it best to cash in my chips and get whilst the gettin’ was good. “Alright boys, I don’t think I can make it over to the bridge show. By the time we get everything packed up and moved and set back up, it’ll be 12:30. I think I need to just head on home. I’m sorry man.” I said, making peace with my regrettable decision. It was official now. It was in the ether.
“No, dude I understand.” Chris said reassuringly “You gotta adult! At least you came out.”
“Fuck yea. I wouldn’t have missed it. Even if I don’t get to hear our set or check out John’s performance, I had a blast hanging out and partying a little.”
From about ten feet away Earl shouted pointing to the Pot Luck table “Hey guys! There’s some ‘Nilla Wafers left over here! You want in on this?”
Chris and I looked at each as if to say fuck it, and both just started walking over to the table instinctively. We proceeded to eat anything that was left which wasn’t much. It really was just a half a box of wafers, a few bags of the dusty remnants of what chips used to be (anyone?) and empty bottles of various kinds of alcohol. As the wafers got passed around, we smoked a couple bowls while we let the other bands clear their equipment out. I’m not much into ‘Nilla Wafers so I declined every time the box made it’s way around but as Earl reached in the box and pulled out the last surviving golden wafer, he insisted I imbibe, “You know you want it. Just eat it. Go ahead.” he said like a pusher to a junkie. I made the decision that it would be rude not to accept his offer so I grabbed it from him and tossed it ceremoniously, into my mouth, much to everyone’s delight.
After about fifteen minutes, everyone else’s stuff had been removed from the stage and most of the folks had cleared out except for the compulsory belligerent few who lingered, wanting to start a kerfuffle. So we commenced our load up. John had already gotten a few of his things, but there was still plenty of stuff to pack up like the merch…”MERCH” I screamed “Gotta get a CD before we pack it up!”
“Yea, actually you guys can start packing up both of the tables if you want.” Chris said to Earl and I, to which both agreed and complied. I made sure snag a CD and drop whatever cash I had in my wallet into the glass bait jar which, despite the Utopian idea of the honor system that was chosen for a payment method, looked lighter than when it was set up. We then started making trips to the van like the brooms from Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a guitar stand here, a guitar case there. Every once in awhile, Chris would vociferously and sarcastically say “Next, I’ll be performing one of my new songs…” or “Thanks for coming out. This next one is called…” to his imaginary audience. After about ten trips, winding through the minor scuffles that were pouring out into the street, we were done loading the van. Chris followed behind us with the last remaining item, his acoustic guitar which he proceeded to toss carelessly onto the damp front lawn before glumly saying, “This next song is called ‘I just wanna play some fucking music'”. The guitar made an awful sound as it hit the earth and I couldn’t help but laugh to myself, thinking that it would be the only music I heard from him that evening. “You headed out then?” he asked tuning to me.
“Yea, I need to go. I would hate myself tomorrow if I stayed much later. I’m already getting pretty tired.” I sullenly replied. “I’m sorry I can’t stick around.”
“No worries man. It happens. At least you showed up to support us. That’s really the important thing. Thanks for coming out. We’ll do it again next time we roll through.”
“For sure. You boys be careful out there and drive safe.” I said shaking everyone’s hand as I departed.
As I got into my car for my return journey home, I saw their van pull off on their way to to the soon to be swollen banks of the concrete encrusted Los Angeles River. “Safe travels boys. Knock ’em dead.” I said to myself as they rounded the corner out of my view. Before shoving off, I popped in my newly acquired copy of Songs Are Songs, rolled down the windows, cranked up the volume and carried my old ass back up to the Valley.