2 Nights At Echo Park Rising; 11 Bands In A Barbershop…. ... And Hundred Of Photos! Check 'em Out!
ECHO PARK, CA– For the past year or so, Brian O’Conner (@the6660s on Instagram) has been steadfastly organizing and curating the (almost) monthly “Bands In a Barbershop” concert series in and around Los Angeles. What makes his showcase a perpetual joy to attend is the D.I.Y. nature of it all (I mean, they set up and rock out in barbershops), the all-inclusive vibe of the crowds that attend, and- most importantly- the kick-ass local music that Brian is able to get for each line-up.
While there were plenty of fantastic options to hit up at Echo Park Rising this year, I decided that I’d plant my ass over at American Barbershop in Echo Park where Brian was able to lure 17 bands to play over two rocking nights. While I couldn’t catch all of the acts in the lineup, I did catch most of them. Some of whom are I hadn’t seen perform in a while, some who are perpetual favorites and a handful of acts that I had been keen on catching live for some time now.
The first act that I was able to catch was the band Doctrin. Founded and fronted by the Australian singer/songwriter Dolly Denko, this was my first time catching Doctrin live. Dolly and company set a great benchmark for the evening.
Full of energy and spunk, Dolly’s clean and full vocals over her alternative rock stylings were both rockingly aggressive yet at the same time soothing. Her compositions are very melodic, and while they are definitely rocking, the pop sensibilities imbued in her music made for what I think are very radio or synch friendly tunes. I kind of even got a little bit of a Lady Gaga vibe from her, and I think that’s due in large part to the structure of her songwriting.
Doctrin isn’t performing again until next month, but Dolly has teased on social media that she’s got an “incredibly special release coming up and a show announcement”, so I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for that.
I’m a big fan of Broken Baby. Ever since I saw them open for Dead Sara at the Teragram in October of 2018, I was hooked. The visceral energy that Amber Bollinger brings to each and every performance is a drug that I can’t get enough of, and I guarantee that if you catch Broken Baby live once, you’ll be hooked too. Whether she’s snarling lyrics up in your face, using your body as support to reach out to attendees behind you, or sprawled out on the floor emoting the lyrics of the music, it’s a grand performance that’s part spectacle and completely spectacular.
Broken Baby has been really busy this year, creating and dropping new content, whether in recording or video form, on a consistent basis, and I’ve been really digging the output. The two singles that they’ve released, “Royal Pigs” and “Meat Week”, both of which were performed at this show, are fantastically aggressive songs that not only heighten that visceral energy that I touched on above but also address serious topics (“Meat Week” in particularly which confronts the topic of misogyny/rape).
I can’t get enough of Broken Baby. If you want a swift post-punk kick to the nards, I can’t recommend this band enough.
Bone Acre was a band that I had on my radar for close to a year and based on the buzz from my music peers about this band, I was super excited to catch them for the first time at this Bands In A Barbershop showcase. The hype was all well deserved.
Their 2018 debut album Oll Korrect is an intense experience. Broken dreams, broken hearts, broken souls … sung by the lush alto of Caroline Heerwagen’s voice. Even when the instrumental arrangement isn’t propelled by a heavily distorted dark pulse (i.e. “Home Song”), the yearning in Caroline’s voice fills in those bright spots with shades of gray.
What made their Echo Park Rising performance aces in my books, was how they brought the intensity of the recordings to life on the stage. All of the anguish and depth in the songs performed were channeled through Caroline’s stage presence. Every subtle hand gesture, whether they were cradling her face or reaching out into space, added an indescribable gravity to music, and it was pretty powerful to experience.
I would love to catch Bone Acre in a venue with a moodier atmosphere. Dimly lit. Crowded room. The smell of sweat in the air. It may be harder to get any decent photos, but I think I need to see them again in that kind of setting.
Suzi Moon and her Turbulent Hearts followed Bone Acre with a frenzy of unrelenting punk to slap some adrenaline into Bands In a Barbershop’s system. There’s really not much to say about Turbulent Hearts other than they are about as punk and punk can be. Breaking the “rules” from the outset, Suzy took the mic stand off the stage into the crowd. Turbulent Hearts then ripped through a series of fast tempo ringers, getting the crowd’s juices flowing.
I absolutely loved Suzi’s “give no fucks” attitude, and how she basically used the entire room as her stage. From the middle of the floor to sitting on the stage, to sitting on a monitor on the stage, to climbing on top of a barber’s chair, she was just playing the room the way she wanted to, and her exuberance really came through during the performances.
Hell, she didn’t even end the set from inside the venue! As her bandmates shred away, Suzi took her guitar and meandered into the street, singing to random passersbys, posing for photos at a public telephone booth, and eventually- from what I heard- hopping into a car to get some beers. Now, if that isn’t punk rock, I don’t know what is.
I hardly ever stay at a show to catch a band go on stage at 11:30 pm on a school night. Hell, even if the show was on time, and the set was only half an hour, I still had an hour commute back home, and another couple hours reviewing photos before I hit the hay and catch a few hours of shut-eye before I had to wake up for my 9 to 5. But when the band is as good, and as fun, as The Birth Defects, you gotta make sacrifices.
I was introduced to The Birth Defects when they played a set at Air & Style back in March of 2018, and I had been kicking myself in the ass because it had taken this damn long to see them play again. Their album Everything Is Fine is a glorious barrage of unrelenting noise and punk sonics. The Birth Defects frontman, Jason Finazzo, is a grizzled beast of a man, and when he growls out the melodies, his raspy voice is a legitimate instrument adding to the frenetically glorious cacophony that the band creates.
Towards the end of their set, a couple of attendees started their own mini moshpit, and I was sooooo tempted to take my gear off to join them. Truth be told, I was hoping that there were more people bumping into each other, but I suppose people were already thinking about having to wake up early to get to work in the morning. Next time, mosh pit. For sure.
This concluded Day 1 at Echo Park Rising for me.
On the second day of Echo Park Rising, I wanted to get to the barbershop in time to catch Ugly Sweaters. It had been a couple of years since I saw them perform, so I was eager to hear their upbeat pop-punk/indie rock jams again. They released their EP Sisters in 2018, and while they played a lot of local L.A. gigs in support of it, but for one reason or another, I just wasn’t able to attend any of them. I’m glad I got to see them in action at Bands In A Barbershop.
Alex Pfender, Ian Meltzer, Mandla, and Claire Daley were a lot of fun. If you were having a slow Friday, their fun, carefree music would have been just what the doctor ordered. Mandla’s smile was infectious, especially when he was singing alongside his wife, Claire, and watching him spin around like a whirling dervish on or off stage with his guitar gave the performance an added level of excitement.
Ugly Sweaters are currently working on their fourth EP, which is admirable considering Mandla and Claire are also “working on” their newborn, but I’d keep an eye out for that as well because it will no doubt be another set of amazing fun, kick-ass music.
I had seen Electric Children perform at a different Bands In a Barbershop, but this was a different Electric Children … at least the line-up was different. I should have expected it though as their leader, “Ramblin” Eddie Lopez previously told me that they have over 50 rotating players. I just found out that Eddie is the talent buyer for The Redwood Bar, so it totally makes sense how he’s been able to get so many people on Electric Children’s roster.
The first time I caught Electric Children perform, I viewed them as a garage rock band. And while they definitely still have that rough around the edges vibe of garage rockers, I definitely got an edgier and more alternative/noise vibe with them this go around. Perhaps it was the sheer sound of them being a six-piece as opposed to a four-piece. Either way, it was loud and rocking and glorious. Particularly amazing was the fiendish shredding by Michelle Balderrama that, no exaggerations, was jaw-dropping.
Do you know what would be a ridiculous show? How about an Electric Children gig with 10 … or 15 … or all 50!… players on a stage? Overkill? I dunno… I’d still like to see that.
I mentioned this on my own Instagram account, but perhaps the hardest working man at Echo Park Rising (at least for the first two days) was Charley Tichenor IV. Not only was he working sound, being the hype man/MC, and taking care of the nitty-gritty for the two-day Bands In A Barbershop Echo Park Rising experience, he played with Turbulent Hearts AND his own band Dirty Cakes.
I love Dirty Cakes because I love Charley. That dude always seems to be perpetually filled with joy and excitement and he and his bandmates play like it as well. And that energy makes Charley a rockstar. As I watched him play his music, the air of confidence he possesses and that sheer joy that he plays with gave me some Dave Grohl type vibes.
Another particularly memorable moment of their performance was when their drummer, the badass Becky Wreck. During the performance, she addressed the audience to make sure that everyone remembered that while we were all having fun rocking out, there are tons of social issues that we all need to keep an eye on. I’m down with that, and I’m down with Dirty Cakes.
Another band that I first learned about at a Bands In The Barbershop showcase was the preteen rockers Speed of Light. and I’ve been singing their praises ever since.
The siblings have to deal with real-life now (school), but they made the most of their summer by relentlessly performing gigs whenever, and wherever, they could. They’ve earned some pretty high praise from my peers, and after catching their Bands At A Barbershop set for Echo Park Rising, I have a feeling that these youngsters will be surprising even more people sooner rather than later.
At this gig, they whipped out a bunch of originals and I had to run over to Brian to confirm the same they had written them all by themselves. Apparently, they were. These songs were solid. Real solid. I wasn’t expecting these kids to bust out such polished material and it confirmed my prediction that the sky is truly the limit for this trio. I REALLY can’t wait to hear their original music on wax.
I’ve been preaching the awesomeness of Spare Parts For Broken Hearts for a few years now, and I love love love the fact that some of their latest singles (“Mush” and “Big Win”) have been getting serious spins on digital playlists (Over 200K and 65K plays on Spotify respectively). I still think they should have broken into the masses with their song “Ever”, but that’s neither here nor there.
Spare Parts’ performance at this Bands In A Barbershop was epic. No joke. In this barbershop, their music riled up the crowd to a point that a legit mosh pit, with crowd surfing, erupted. Hell, I even received my first bruises in god knows forever from this performance… and that’s a good thing! So impressed with how this crowd engaged the music at this show, I even went up to the band’s singer afterwards to make sure she knew how awesome they were.
Look. If you are looking for a fantastic, local alternative rock/grunge band to get wild too, I can’t preach Spare Parts For Broken Hearts enough. They played and Emo Night at The Echo recently, so hopefully, their fanbase is, slowly but surely, growing. These guys deserve it.
Another band that I absolutely adore is IRESS’, and they were the last band I saw play at Bands In A Barbershop for Echo Park Rising.
I knew that IRESS” lead singer Michelle Malley had broken her arm, so I was interested to see how they would fare missing the guitar that Michelle typically plays. Well, Michelle’s guitar parts were masterfully covered by the multi-talented, Illuminati Hotties frontwoman Sarah Tudzin (who is also producing Iress’ newest project!).
Personally, I loved seeing Michelle perform without having to play the guitar, even with the arm sling. If you aren’t familiar with IRESS, their music is somber, loud and heavy. The sonics alone are emotionally impactful, so without having to pay attention to her instrument, it really felt like Michelle’s concentration was focused on bringing all of that heaviness to life. I’m not sure whether the group has the bandwidth to add an additional player, but I think it served IRESS fantastically well on this night.
And with that, I decided to leave Echo Park Rising and Bands In A Barbershop. After a long work week, and desperately needing to catch up on some sleep, I decided that I needed to make the hour commute home and dump all my photos on my computer to keep my brain at least partially sane.
Like I said before, I could have opted for one of the hundreds of other options for the two days I had to attend Echo Park Rising, but I decided to spend it with Brian at Bands In A Barbershop because I knew that it was a guaranteed good time. Good vibes. Good people. Great Music. What more could you ask for?
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