Clorox Girls, Cigarette Bums, Midnight Snaxxx, Mermaid Bones
February 19, 2011
@ Hemlock Tavern
Getting knifed in Echo Park.
Punk rock presents a certain physical hazard, or so I keep telling the pretty lady who takes the pics. Tales of witnessing steel-toed madness like riots, stompings, knife-fights, and the occasional rental-cop frenzy were less effective than having a noted frontman totter from the stage and go splat at her feet to fully illustrate this point Saturday night. To her credit, she was flinchless, but we race ahead of ourselves.
was already loaded with young hipsters on the first giddy stages of a Saturday night bender. Once inside, the wait was short for Mermaid Bone
s, with guitarist Dave Gill bellowing "This is for all the English majors in the motherfuckin' house!" as the band charged into doomy psych-blues and slinky blonde Sophia Anita minced daintily to the keyboards, face half-obscured by a skull mask. Her vocals were little better than a series of Yokoesque boudoir howls, but she fiddled with props like monkey-gloves and a Theremin during extendo jam-boogie instrumentals good enough to make the crowd surge and shout.
It was 9:30 or thereabouts and the bar at
L.A.'s Cigarette Bums
were just beginning to shoulder their way through the Silverlake horde when I decamped for the Bay last summer. This band's distinctive maximum R&B postpunk packs fans into the arty venues still dotting the increasingly blighted downtown end of Sunset Boulevard. They bounced the audience in this Tenderloin squeezebox around like so many Nerf balls. The whole room morphed into some 1966 segment of American Bandstand, as close to fifty whey faced Millennials began to bop without sense of care of cool. Gouts of PBR suds splattered the low ceiling and the Bums slipped and slid without missing a note.
were next; a power trio of hard-charging Oakland punkettes who carry off the three-chix-do-The-Ramones thing with cocky assurance. This kind of sugar rush was just what the party needed, with the girls taking over the dancefloor while the boys got down to some serious drinking. Outside, Polk Street was in an advanced state of alcoholic decay. The young and the stylish of a half-dozen daft subcultures mingled cackling, while a security guy chased some mouthy panhandler up the block.
These rites of mock-spring rolled on until Clorox Girls finally weaved onstage well past the midnight hour. The all-boy Girls capered through the West Coast pop-punk scene for almost a decade and are now back from a longish hiatus. After 2007's J'Aime Les Filles won breakthrough raves, mainman Justin Maurer wound up stranded in Europe after the post-album tour dissolved, but this reformed act shows him picking up exactly where this old band left off. "When we started, we had all that pent-up aggression of youth," Maurer told The Oregonian last year, "Now, it's the pent-up aggression of working 60 hours a week."
The guitarist's amp was the next casualty, but another was found and they plowed on for two more songs. "Thank you, motherfucker," Jason crooned, "We're Clorox Girls!"
Drunk guy #1: "Keep your arms and hands inside the ride at all times!"
Drunk guy # 2: "Smile, Sophia!" Sophia: "Shut up!"
Drunk guy # 3: "Somebody please take the brown acid!"
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As much was on display all night and The Girls expertly whipped it up to its raucous terminus over the next forty minutes. Like that venerable brew-dog Ray Davies, Maurer likes to cadge beers between songs, at one point taunting "We want like four beers or we're not playing bupkes!" By this time, many in attendance were well past annihilated and at least one began bawling for Twisted Sister. This input went for nothing as another Blue Ribbon flood cleaved the air and Jason shortly toppled offstage onto the broad of his back in front of my girlfriend. He bounded back on stage before my startled girlfriend could do much more than snap a pic of the incriminating beer can.