Oh that wonderful Smell. As I headed up the alley with that ever present l'odeur de pisse and not present Danny the doorman,(?), there were already a fair amount of people milling about, chatting up a storm, all wearing grins because they possessed tickets to the sold out Vivian Girls show. Inside things felt equally festive, amidst the art murals, the cutest little girl DJ spun awesome sounds and I partook in a scrumptious cinnamon bagel.
One of the bands you think of when you think of the Smell is Mika Miko who left their frenetic energy etched within it's walls. Former members have popped up playing with Cold Cave and Strange Boys and now Jessica Clavin has traded in her bass for guitar, producing dirty bright rhythm and leads in Cold Showers. Their sound, with the Farfisa-ish organ, ever present bass lines, tom tom beats, husky vocals and sparkly lead lines is more slow burn than fire but the "too cool to care" sound works providing a dark alluring sound scape for the movie in my mind. Cold Showers is now on my radar screen.
Catwalk, a 3 piece band from Oxnard, California fully embraces the 60's merseybeat sound infused with a dose of garage rock feel. Full of heavy melodic bass lines, pretty and potent guitar lines, (love the minor chords), solid drum work, lush vocals and sweet lyrics, Catwalk makes you want to fall in love, break up and fall in love again. In "Please Don't Break Me" he sings "I just wanna be the one for you... won't you let me love you"- in "No Room for Love" he sings "and there's nothing left to give and it kills me to live"- You get the picture, Catwalk's songs embody youthful love and loss and even stripped away my cynicism. Other standout songs were "All Around You" and "Angel".
Katie Selmanis aka Austra makes heavy synth based music that features her beautiful classical sounding vocals. At age 10 she was already performing in the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus and this is quite evident by her tonal quality and body language that allows her to push that evocative voice from all the right places. Austra's sound with the almost military marchy feel, heavy synths, bass, bottom end drumming and evocative vocals could be Trent Reznor's and Kate Bush's love child. Songs like "Beat Pulse" and "Darken Your Horse" are almost hypnotic and with the trip-hop feel I could actually see a paring of Katie and Eminem or Kanye, (producers take note).
As the Vivian Girls took the stage to play their first set in LA in a year, the audience swelled and I was firmly pressed between the brick wall and bodies so tightly that, at one point, I could not raise my arms to applaud. It was so packed that I was inadvertently groped and I could not defend my honor...eh. But in the end it was worth it. The sheer mass of bodies in that space was a testament to guitarist/vocalist Cassie Ramone, bassist/vocalist Katy Goodman and new drummer Fiona Campbell's popularity. In fact, the Smell show kicked off VG's North American tour to promote their 3rd CD and first Polyvinyl debut, "Share the Joy" and share the joy they did playing a 13 song set to an over enthusiastic often times moshing crowd. The new songs were stellar and they performed 6 of them, "The Other Girls"- (wonderful long lead guitar strains), "Lake House", "Death"- ( (like a 50's teen tear jerker), "Sixteen Ways", "I Heard You Say", and "Dance, If you wanna". Cassie's some times dissonant vocals sounded exquisitely punk, Katy's lovely backing vox filled out the sparse powerful arrangements and Fiona fit the bottom end like a glove. They ended their set to raucous applause and people started filtering out pretty quickly but the large amount of stragglers demanded more. Vivian Girls obliged and the encore instilled more moshing and crowd surfing. It was a fitting ending to a wonderful night of music at a wonderful venue. Thanks Mike for letting me crash the party.