One of the perks of living in a high priced, high stress, high-octane city like LA or New York is The Warm Up Show. Often limited to friends and uber fans, or kept a secret until the last minute, the warm up show allows a bigger act to play in a small intimate setting and perform new material or just get the lead out of their rusty performance. As the summer ramps up for the onslaught of music festival mania, warm up shows start popping up in unexected places.
Last Saturday I joined Mia and her posse to head over to the Swinghouse party. Swinghouse Recording Studios throws these events once in a while which allows people to come down, have a few drinks and a few laughs and watch the bands that record and practice there either showcase or warm up for a tour.
The nice thing about Phil’s Swinghouse bashes is that they’re like a house party. The downer is that they are like a house party…whose address was posted on Facebook. Call me jadey, but there were way too many brown lipsticked lookieloos who were pushing their way in to see the bands, and triple fisting the free cocktails…if we were going to rate them on a groupie scale, well they would be the ones who eat all the steak. Getting trampled while trying to get an interview is so not filed under fun. And for what, valley girls? If you’re five inches closer is he really gonna sleep with you? Sigh, one of the hazards of an embedded music journalist.
I plowed my way to the middle of a small recording room for Electric Touch, a band I interviewed at Coachella. Far from a warm up show, ET weren’t exactly ‘cooling down’, though this was the finale of their week of LA dates. Their energetic poppy set which included covers of American Girl and Come Together. Now, it’s a rite of passage for a band to cover the Beatles, but I’m surprised by all the bands I’ve met lately that site Tom Petty as a big influence. It’s like the kids are finally listening to rock again. It’s encouraging to me, especially now that LA is drowning in robot music…and impressive, considering Petty’s rather disappointing Superbowl half time show.
As I sat on an amp and listened to Voxhaul Broadcast and Astra Heights, I spied Adam 12 making his way through the clammy crowd. She Wants Revenge practices at Swinghouse. And not only do they have a new EP about to drop on some very happy Suicide Girl heads, but they’re moments away from going out on the Nylon Tour. The secret guest revealed.
For a band that has over-inked girls with Sailor Moon haircuts losing their freaking minds, Adam is sweet and decidedly low key. His fedora belies his down to earth and thoughtful cadence. (No offense to a man who accessorizes – normally I applaud – but so many LA douche bags wear fedoras) It’s good to see Adam taking back the hat.
Anyhow, no matter how much Adam tried to find a quiet place to prep, the crowd seemed to swell his way.In fact, on a rather chilly night, the room was moist with the scent of humid human in the air. Sure, an intimate secret show is something many girls dream about, but if I get jostled and trampled by the Shes who want She Wants Revenge, then the music portion of the night becomes a casualty.
Mia and her lingerie modeling friend and I decided to slip out of the Soylent Green smelling studios and take off early. Not something I would have been caught dead doing in the past, but as a retired hipster, I often get home before last call. As we tried to exit, Mia’s friend took an exaggerated pause by the door and scanned the smokers in a last ditch effort. I noted to her that many of them couldn’t afford to take her for dinner, let alone pay for Plan B. She wrinkled her nose. For her, this warm up show was more like luke warm.
Speaking of Luke…I had been remiss in making it out to see Luke, play. He’d invited me several times but I work most nights (and days too). Now, I’m not an industry prick tease. So I don’t say I’ll show up and then flake. If I’m due to cover another show or I’m overwhelmed and exhausted, I say ‘I probably wont make it’ or ‘I’ll try but I don’t know if it’s gonna happen’.
Note: This is how all industry types should conduct themselves, no matter what industry they work in. I don’t want to get all miss rock n roll manners on your asses, but for fuck’s sake! If you say you’ll do something, do it. Don’t lie. Don’t flake. If you can’t or don’t want to, just excuse yourself from the event.
Why lie about it? It’s like the agent that used to promise to read my scripts just so he could try to cop a feel. We both knew that no matter how much of my c cups I let him juggle, he was never going to read past the title page. Damn, I probably would’ve let him juggle if he had just been honest.
Anyways, back to your regularly scheduled blog…
When Luke invited me to see his band Hot Hot Heat play at The Grove, I was willing to make the 45 minute drive to Anaheim. It’s a known truth that I don’t dance very often at clubs. Justice just doesn’t move me. But if you drop something from Make Up The Breakdown, I’ll be on the dance floor like a shot. But then Luke explained that it wasn’t the venue, The Grove in Anaheim. No. It was the Grove at Third and Fairfax. Hot Hot Heat was playing at a MALL. Yes, they’re poppy. Yes, Steve Bays is cute in a kitten way…but a MALL? That seems a purgatory reserved for the Ace Young idol rejects of the world, not a well to do indie rock band.
If you haven’t been to The Grove mall in Los Angeles, it can best be described as why Al Quaeda hates us. Not only does the mall feature a train trolley that gives rides to weary shoppers walking the 500 yard length of the mall, but in the middle of this Disney-Dali shopping experience, there is a six million dollar water fountain. Why did it cost six million dollars? I’m glad you asked. The fountain spurts water in time to the musak, which is a list of barely bearable songs like ‘That’s Amore’. Money well spent.
When I arrived, I noticed that they had constructed a bit stage…right over the water fountain. Because when you’re sending enough volts of energy to power a rock band with lots of amps, the best place to ground the entire stage is in a pool of water. Is the Grove trying to kill off Canadians one by one?
Surprisingly, the place wasn’t as much of a indie zoo as I thought. Though there were a lot of Gen-Wii, Forever 21 tweens buzzing with excitement. But a far cry form the tat queens at Swinghouse…though I couldn’t help thinking…were these little Hello Kitty Heat lovers the sweaty Swinghouse girls of tomorrow?
Finally, Luke sauntered out on stage with Dustin and Paul and Le Petit Prince himself, Steve Bays. Despite the crazy kiddie pool, the warm up show was relaxed and the guys looked like they were having a lot of fun. The aftermath of a mall show? Lots and lots of homemade cupcakes and hot pink and purple bags filled with fuzzy things piled in the green room. A nice juxtaposition to the rows of bottles of whisky and beer. Which made for much more colorful fun.
And at the end of the day, fun is what it’s supposed to be about. Los Angeles often treats music like a competitive sport, so it’s nice when a show is just a show. Ironing out the kinks, playing some songs and having fun…even if it is at a mall. With cupcakes.
Tis the season of the warm up show. Let the fun begin.