Some of the best shows in Los Angeles can be found in the San Fernando Valley. Not that the crowds are huge or the acts are world renowned. It’s more about intimacy and the quality of the performances. The smaller shows in bars and pubs aren’t usually things to highlight unless you’re in a large city like LA or New York. Places where the talent pool is so deep that loads of promising young artists (and even some well known acts) hone their craft at tiny venues on a consistent basis in their time off between touring. A few weeks back, we were invited to attend one of these inconspicuous events on the ‘wrong side of the hills’. So, to prove our point, we dragged LA based staffer, AnarchoPunk out of his gutter, scrubbed him up a bit and sent him over to The Surly Goat in Encino to check out some of the biggest names in up and coming punk acts at this cozy concert in the 818. Check out his full review (and some shitty pictures) below!
Living in LA sucks a lot of the time. If the crime doesn’t get you, the cops will, or the traffic, or the excessive parking tickets. It’s definitely a city that fights back. Of course, there’s plenty of good shit that comes along with it too. For example: all of the burgeoning punk acts. So many, drawn like moths, to the bright lights and abundant fan potential that accompanies a city of this size. They say the scene here is dead. I disagree (all the time), so, when I heard about this show, I knew it would be a great way to prove that there is no shortage of a scene here on two fronts. One: The acts themselves are all top notch. No shit, all four are legit contenders in different categories. You will be hearing from all of them if they stick to it and tough it out. But secondly, and this is a local thing, I know that Adam Mays Music puts on the best shows in the Valley and some of the best shows in LA period, for the cost. So, I headed south to Ventura Boulevard, to Encino, the home of Micro-brews to see a few of those incredible fledgling acts at the Surly Goat (which, other than the mouth breathing, monosyllabic bouncer, was an awesome place.)
Opening things up around 9:30 was the phenomenal four piece, Born Rivals from Victorville, California (home of legendary punk act, Face to Face). Although these hooligans from the High Valley play simple, three chord pop punk, the guitars really set them apart. They play extremely well off of one another, adding intricate, overlapping chords. For only being around for about a year, it shows a higher level of mastery than I assumed they would have, given their youth. Shame on me. The transitions were tight, never missing a beat building off of each other in an almost constant barrage of blazing guitar riffs. They told me after the show that all the credit was to go to”pint sized” lead guitarist Westley Newell’s amp. Supposedly, it’s some sort of mythical amplifier, which that particular company only builds a few of every year. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure they’re just that good, with or without the equipment. Taking only a few breaks between songs, once to thank the headliners, Spanish Love Songs and once to tell a bad joke, the set was just as fast as it was flawless. Now that they have a Station ID under their belts, you’ll be hearing more of them soon!
Next up was Rayner from Las Vegas. This quartet has only been around since 2014 but have garnered quite a rabid fan base in that short time, which was evidenced in the surge in attendance as their set time approached. The tiny stage couldn’t contain everyone so a few of the guys had to take a spot on the floor which was pretty dense with fans. Even before the set kicked off the lead singer, Dany Henrriquez couldn’t stand still, pacing back and forth, white knuckling the mic, full of energy just waiting to be unleashed. It didn’t take long for that bottled energy to be discharged as the set opened abruptly with the crash of the drums and screeching punk power chords. While the sound is assuredly pop, there’s a different energy to it than some of their contemporaries. It’s more mature and thoughtful, with intelligent lyrics which almost explode from the vocalist, dripping with emotion. The performance overall was smooth and flowed effortlessly with the members all looking natural on stage, sliding between the simple verses and the more complex, layered choruses with precision. It’s easy to see why these youngsters were added to the closing day lineup for this year’s PRB.
With the quickest turn around time of the night, Melted from Corona, California took the stage with alacrity and started up without delay. This tremendous trio has been a part of the SoCal Scene for a few years now but they were still the most foreign to me, so I was eager to check them out. I was not disappointed! Staying true to every three piece punk act ever, they were by far the loudest of all of the acts. Blistering was the word I kept scribbling in my notes while watching. It’s pop punk, but just barely, the beats are way more rapid and there’s a really cool, lo-fi, garage punk vibe to them. The drummer, Sam Mankinen is utterly explosive. It’s been many a moon since I’ve seen such insanity behind the skins. He bounced, violently on his stool, like it was attached to a piston that propelled his ass skyward as soon as it came crashing back down as he laid waste to his simple, seven piece kit. Songs would start suddenly, without much, if any crowd banter, they obviously came to work. Speaking of which, Thomas Jones on bass was in a button up shirt and slacks, looking like he just got off work and rushed to the bar. The juxtaposition between his attire and the orchestrated chaos on stage was amusing.
Spanish Love Songs‘ debut album Giant Sings the Blues, was a highlight among many punk/indie releases last year, getting high marks from just about everyone, from fans, to media, to critics. I had listened through the album a few times prior to seeing this and remarked on how tangible the emotion was but those same, raw, palpable feelings were magnified when watching lead man, Dylan Slocum perform in person. This four piece from right here in the City of Angeles stepped on stage around 11:15 and the crowd had swollen to fill most of the performance area as the vocalist took the mic. He started with a quick intro and then set in with a story about living up the Valley for a few months before getting divorced (a theme which inspires almost of his songwriting). That continued on throughout the set, which I think is what added to the magnification of those concrete feelings. The stories created a depth that the LP, logistically just doesn’t allow. The band, from start to finish, perfectly matched the emotional peaks and valleys of the lamenting lead man. Through the forty minute set, they covered the entire album (and the few extra tracks from the extended version released on Wiretap Records, if memory serves). Despite their overall tone being a little grey, Dylan would lighten the depressing stories up with little flecks of humor and was engaging and affable the entire set. The clip at which the music is played also kept the mood from getting too down. It’s aggressive and it provides an edge that keeps them from falling into the indie category. This is the kind of band that you need to see live to fully appreciate. The atmosphere and the attitude is really what puts the emotions into context and those are cues that you just can’t get through an album.