I half anticipated the show to get raided by cops. When I entered, the heavy wooden door snapped back into place like a rat trap. It was smaller than it appeared from the outside. In the reception area, a sturdy staircase lead upstairs. Drum loops and female vocals leaked from behind the main doors. Inside, I looked for an empty seat in one of the pews. L.A. natives, Tearist, were already one song into their set. Yeah, pews. This was a church: high ceilings and alcoves filled with kids back from Coachella. I took my seat in the next to last pew, which was still less than fifteen feet away from the stage, the pulpit.
Substituted for William Strangeland-Manchaca, an Asian dude in knit cap, track jacket, and jeans sat with drum sticks in hand. Yasmine, wire hanger thin, heaved burning angel vocals into the mic, bent at the waist as if she were punched in the gut. A floor fan she always brings to gigs blew her long brown hair over her head. Without warning, she darted into the crowd, turned and knelt as if in prayer, her back facing the audience. Iranian born, Yasmine rocked on her knees as if grieving for someone, something, before returning abruptly to the cramped stage. Pulling from their material from 2010 and fresh tracks, one song bled into the next; their short set lasting less than a half hour.
Classic Depeche Mode and Morrissey filled the space between acts, buoying the post punk, cold wave theme. Kraftwerk’s “Radioactivity” bleeped and blooped from the overhead acoustics as Kid 606 set up his laptops. As soon as the last notes of Kraftwerk dissipated, he faded into a hazy, early morning instrumental, hitting stride with Aphex Twin—if only my alarm clock could wake me up this gently. Punching keys and nodding his head, he restored a sense of hopefulness. Playing tracks off Going Back to Cali Yuga and Happiness both released last year, this was less IDM (intelligent dance music) than his previous work. Not competing with vocals or heavy-handed mechanics, kids were able to conversate, bobbing their heads to the pulsing bass that grew more persistent with each track.
Xiu Xiu took the stage. This was the seventh line-up with Jamie Stewart at the helm. Angela Seo picked up sticks in 2010, lending percussion on the electro tagged Dear God, I Hate Myself. Jamie, a double for Chris Isaak, cried, “Meow,” sound checking as Angela set up her drums kits. Clad in complete black the duo from San Jose went right into tracks off Nina, an album of Nina Simone covers and Angel Guts: Red Classroom, a full-length of new material released in January.
The audience crowded around, being respectful of us in the pews—until the telltale machine gun drums of “Stupid in the Dark.” Kids bounced on their heels as Jaime leaned out of the mic, then back in twitching awkwardly like Robert Smith. Angela, in a little black dress, was all precision hitting the drums like a tempered taiko player. At the chorus of “Black Dick,” the entire pew in front of me evacuated. The song title repeated four times in Jamie’s desperate Nina Simone vibrato rattled some. Tired of sitting tamely, someone shouted, “We should stand up and dance.” Angela smiled and nodded as Jaime twisted knobs and adjusted cymbals. Like a domino effect, kids stood up one by one and swayed to “Botanica de Los Angeles” and “New Life Immigration” closing out the somber set. Jaime waved nervously, avoiding looking into the small crowd and quickly exited.
Kristen K. has been a contributing writer to Razorcake for six years. She’s a post punk, garage hippie out of East Los with a keen interest in weird fiction, DIY culture, and anatomical models of human organs. Dislikes traffic and getting up before dawn. http://www.alleycatbrawl.com/