Monday, March 7, 2011
Category: Arts & Entertainment > Music > Concerts
At the risk of sounding parochial, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that from 2006 to 2008, Los Angeles was the site of the most exciting underground music scene of the past decade. For a few short years, a host of young punk/noise/art-rock bands was playing all-ages shows at the Smell almost every weekend. One of the scene's most crucial players was the tropical punk (yes, that's a real thing) outfit Abe Vigoda. Back then, they dealt in a mellower, more playful version of the deliberate aggression proffered by luminaries like No Age. Like many of their compatriots, Vigoda has spent the last few years creeping slowly into the indie mainstream as evinced by their Thursday night double bill at the Rickshaw Stop with shoegazers Wild Nothing.
To an enthusiast of Vigoda's early, less polished output, this might seem like an incongruous pairing, but the band has matured (though some might say they've degenerated) since their rough-and-tumble period at the Smell. Their recent output's more contemplative, significantly slower, and more reliant on synthesizer and semi-gimmicky guitar effects. They've now got more in common with the heartfelt broodiness of a band like Wild Nothing than the fierce pugnacity of their predecessors No Age and Mika Miko.
Thursday's show unfurled much like any other small venue indie rock event. The bands bantered wryly and bluffed their way through a couple of technical hitches. The ugly specter of NorCal/SoCal tension reared its head during Vigoda's set, when keyboardist/guitarist Juan Velazquez mentioned how anxious he was to return to L.A. and the crowd responded with indignant silence.
Other than that, everything shook out smoothly, if uninspiringly. Wild Nothing's shimmering arpeggios and synths are nothing new, but they do it well enough. Vigoda's set was tight and well-constructed, but it exuded a definite lethargy. If Vigoda want to pursue a new sound, that's fair enough, but one hopes they'd be able to do so without losing the energy and sense of fun that fueled their tenure at the Smell.
Vigoda used to be a band people would mosh to, but Thursday's set didn't inspire anything more kinetic than nodding and swaying. Both bands played competently, but at no point did either of them demonstrate any real tendency towards unabashed rocking. They took up their spots behind the mikes and plugged away professionally for 40-odd minutes. Technically, a band is at work when it plays a show, but it sure as hell shouldn't seem that way.
This is what people are talking about when they say things like, "I was there from the beginning, man! I knew about them before they were cool!" Abe Vigoda is going places, and nobody should begrudge them their success or their right to evolve creatively. Still, for some of us, they'll never be as awesome as they were during those few glorious years at the Smell.
Wax nostalgic with Zachary at [email protected]
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