MRR #389

Pasión es la única cosa que importa

Pfwaaaar, what a couple months! I think I may have started my last column like that but I’ve had one hell of a time since then. Very quickly thought, the update on Greece is we’ve now had two elections and a referendum in one year; so how’s that for democracy? Ha ha ha ha ha ha! OK, what else is new? Well, let me backtrack for a minute.

In June I went to LA for the very first time—crazy I know. People back home are going “wait, don’t you go all the time..?” If you consider, though, that it took me the better part of 2.5 years to cross the bloody Golden Gate bridge (yeah, the big red one that gets blown up in movies), then it’s no surprise it took me this long to get to LA. I had a fucking great time, and here’s why.

My good friend Jay Bay Rigas, whom you may have come across in these pages, was flying down to LA for the Solo Para Punx festival. We had discussed it way back in March, but kinda didn’t think I was going to make it, what with then being rather broke and still not knowing where I would be living etc. The months went by, I managed to not blow all my money on beer and drugs and records, and bought a ticket for not one but two festivals!

I knew Berserktown fest was happening in August, and really wanted to see No Hope for the Kids and Total Control (and Dead Moon but alas it didn’t work out for us) but I knew that Solo Para Punx was really not be missed! The LA sound and scene have been strong for some time and if anything, they’re a reason for me to still be stoked on punk. Now, I’m not really a “festie” but I felt a bit like one this year and yes, for a fest newb like me, it was hella fun!

On Friday a carload of us headed out, Ben New Flesh / A Priori and at the wheel. Ben has—or shall I say had?—an his epically beaten up Toyota Corolla, one of those ’90s models that are built like tanks, which had one back seat window completely smashed out—it was the purest form of air conditioning. As we rode through hills and hills of nothing but golden fields, the racing wind outside drowning out any of the sounds coming from the radio, me trying to think of one song that referenced those fields but failing, I thought to myself, “I really need to figure out where the hell I’m going…” Who gives a shit, right? I know. Maybe it was the sun glaring on the back of my head and neck, slowly frying my cells to a breakable crisp. Maybe it was the heat slowing my thoughts down, or the repetitive scenery messing with the concept of time. Something shifted and in the back of that sun-drenched I traced my trajectory, studied my patterns and tried to calculate velocity and direction. Sometimes we go in circles chasing our own tales. Perhaps I finally needed to slow down to catch up with myself.

As we started the up-hill climb of the Grapevine, we laughed at the various horror stories we’d heard about people getting stuck on it, breaking down, having to get towed… As we approached the top—close enough to the tipping point we could almost see the road go downhill—the car started making funny noises. Ben says the gearbox is acting funny, so we pull into a shoulder that was thankfully just up ahead and, as we do so, we drive over a giant rock. Thunck! Yikes, that didn’t sound too good. We stop the car, get out, doors all open, hands on hips, and we inspect the damage. Ben hops back in, starts it up, puts it into Drive; nothing. Reverse, nothing. He puts it back into Park, hops out. Fuck! What are we going to do? We call a pick-up truck, pee and shuffle our feet in the dusty gravel. What if the car doesn’t make it? We’re still about two hours from LA proper! The show has probably already started and…fuck the car is rolling backwards! We all freeze for a second, then I run to the driver’s seat, slide in and yank the hand break up as hard as I can. The car skids on the dirt for a second, then halts. Behind me, no more than five feet away, giant FedEx Freight trucks are storming by at 80 mph, the ground rumbling every time one careers on up the hill.

Eventually the pick-up truck came, scooped us all up and took us a few miles down the road to the tire shop. The car was shot; it would be cheaper to scrap it than get it repaired. So, after Ben decided it had had a good run, and mounting the Grapevine was a fine enough final voyage, we sat in its open windows guzzling beer, waiting for our savior to arrive as the stars and a thin, bright moon rose steadily above the trucker stop, somewhere 60 miles outside of LA.

The first night of the fest took place at a tire shop in Compton—wicked! I can’t remember the last time I went to an outdoor show; I like outdoor shows! We had some difficulty finding it at first, but fully appreciated this element of the space and when inside, famished and thirsty, we jumped with joy at the sight of $1 tacos and $1 beers—smart thinking! The bands were set up on the ground and the energy or beat never let up the whole night. The people were dancing, singing along, hugging, making out, everyone was really friendly and chatty… I felt a bit like I was a teenager again. It was like being welcomed into a big party or reunion where everyone seems hella happy to be there. And I think they were; not because for them it was the festival of the year, as it was for me, but because for them it’s their home, their hommies. And that, to me is really cool.

Later that night, after the show, my usually-pretty-damn-sober friend Jason requested I get him drunk and high on our hotel balcony which overlooked LA’s Chinatown… As a veteran degenerate since my teens, I was more than happy to oblige and we stayed up talking and giggling until the sun crept over the hills at dawn. To everyone’s surprise, all four beers and both joints (you gotta build the tolerance) did not affect him at all! Blimey what a first day!

My friend and old MRR roommate Danny lives in LA now. She is a most excellent chef and wonderful human being, so we made plans to visit her at the restaurant she works at, called Status Kuo; a place frequented by people who take their shoes off while eating and who speak of threesomes, power yoga, plastic surgery and chia seeds all in one fucking breath. Right, this is LA after all.

Hippie lizards aside, it was lovely to see Danny again, a woman after my own heart, and have some of her delicious food! Green salad with pear, finger-lickin’ good fried chicken and iced coffee suitable for direct intravenous consumption. Also, she hooked us up with croissants and blueberries—how fantastic! Afterwards we popped round the corner to a cozy-looking record store (I swear I can’t remember the name or find my receipt), which was musty smelling, with new and used selections of all kinds, but not so much punk. Fine with me, because I scored something purely based on how cool it looked: Hello Baby by Ruth Etting “the Recording Sweetheart,” with recordings from 1926 to 1931. Charming soft pink cover with the sweetheart posing mischievously in the centre.

The beach was our next destination and damn if it wasn’t a quintessential SoCal beach: palm trees, people roller-blading, fit families who looked like Tommy Hilfiger models (belch!), surfers with their wild beach hair and freckled noses… A beautiful beach but not my crowd really, not as buff or self-important as I like my stereotypes.

After the first day, which was a thrill for both me, who’d never been to LA, and Jason, who’s just in love with California, we didn’t think the second venue could top the experience. Boy, were we happy to be proven wrong! We drove through and under the LA skyline, heading northeast to the Poor Kid’s Mansion, which is exactly what it sounds like and it’s awesome! You drive up a cul-de-sac, then walk down a driveway that leads to a giant backyard / natural balcony. To your right looms the house, surrounded by apple and palm trees, the LA skyline hovering in the near distance. Well stuffed on a side-road burrito and slightly sun-stuck, I lay down on the grassy slope and absorbed the sights, sounds and smells. Humming birds darting around above our heads, a barbecue going strong, groups of punx laughing, waving at friends, teasing each other, all of them looking very stylish I must add. Something about the intimacy among the members of the crowd and bands just put me at ease. For Ausencia I sat to the side of the small stage and the sight was just magical. Everyone was up front, singing along passionately, the shivers almost visible as they rippled through the crowd. Catchy riffs, sing-along choruses, melancholic vocals and infectious hooks—best band; their EP is already on my Year End Top Ten list! I was humbled and inspired, and very glad that this was my introduction to LA. Props to the punx who organized it, I look forward to next year! Other highlights include Tozcos, Fundamental, Sadicos, Drapetomania, Damages, Fumigados, Mutant Itch.

I had heard so many things about LA, and been exposed to so many of its images via the media growing up, that I was actually prepared to hate it. I still don’t think I could live there (car central yo) but I liked it so much I was already ecstatic to be going back in August. But more on that next month…

On our last day there we visited Amoeba Records (loved the themed 7” boxes, had to resist emptying a couple of those) and then did what is probably the most LA thing you could do: we took a stroll down the walk of fame! It spans like fifteen fucking blocks; it’s no joke how many mediocre people get their names onto those pavements! I kept my eyes to the ground while trying not to bump into Samuel Jackson from Pulp Fiction or Spiderman or pirate Johnny Depp, and hunted for a good star to pose next to. I found Ella Fitzgerald, Dolly Parton, Mahalia Jackson, Ingrid Bergman and Jean Harlow, all ladies I love!

After that I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely people from Generacion Suicida! They treated us to 40oz’s and we hung out in their back yard jamming Pura Manía and playing with their two friendly pit bulls. They were all extremely nice, which made it extra hard to leave when we had to move on with our night. We met Danny for drinks after she got off work and, as a food service / fine dining industry insider, Danny knows where the good drinks are at! We took an elevator to the thirteenth floor, then another elevator to the fifteenth floor (not before posing for a cheeky pic with plush flowers on posh furniture in the lobby) and then we got to the main rooftop bar, called Perch. Dark wooden surfaces and stained glass, big leather couches and soft lighting. Super. Outside was equally dreamy, with fairy lights and lots of big, leafy plants. The night was too warm to sit inside but outside was packed. “Why not walk to the rooftop bar?” I thought this was the rooftop bar. No, in LA you have a rooftop bar on top of another rooftop bar. What the fuck yes we wanna go up there! And lo and behold, on my last night in LA I was sitting right inside the city skyline, kind of stunned by this flashy concept, this glitzy experience that so eluded me in Greece where such sights (and heights) are only seen in movies and on postcards. “What can I say, living it up in LA…” as Jay Bay would say.

The next morning we said our goodbyes to Jason and got the Bolt bus back home. For the record, they are air-conditioned, have free wi-fi and power outlets at every seat and there’s more leg space than an airplane—if you book one early they can be as cheap as $5! Excellent! I downloaded two free “Introduction to Spanish” classes and stared out the window, piecing together sentences that somehow summed up how I felt. “Pasión es la única cosa que importa.”

Since starting and finishing this column, I went and bought a plane ticket to Toronto for Not Dead Yet… Baby’s first time in Canada, yay! I’ll be super broke for a little while longer, but who can resist a trinity as fine as Rixe, Una Bèstia Incontrolable and Orden Mundial? Not this fucker! Next month I’ll report back on Berserktown fest. Spoiler alert, it was a blast! I would tell you all about it now but I’m well over the mark already. Story of my life.

Ta! lydia@maximumrocknroll.com

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