I Got The Fully Loaded Slugs Experience At Non Plus Ultra
LOS ANGELES, CA- “No excuses”. I’m trying to live by that mantra these days. It’s a way of life that’s only really recently come into focus for me this past year. Covid 19 kinda put life into perspective, right?
When I found out that Slugs was performing at Non Plus Ultra, it was around 4pm… the day of the gig. I messaged them about their set time, and when they DM’d me back, I replied back saying, “I may make it out.”
After I sent the DM, I just kind of stared at that message, and thought to myself, “Why did I already make an excuse for myself?”. I mean, I messaged them asking about their show. Why bother messaging them about their show if I was already making excuses about not heading out? I may have had a lot of work on my plate, but it was a Saturday night… was I going to sit there and edit photos all night from the last two shows I went to? Nope. Pull up your big boy pants, make the drive, and go see a band that you’ve been dying to see perform live as a full band for the past few years.
I arrived at the venue after the evening’s music started, and I got there in the middle Moonfuzz’s set. As I didn’t know who else was on the bill for the evening, seeing them rocking out as I walked in was a pleasant surprise.
I caught this trio a few months ago. I enjoyed their performance then, and I enjoyed what I caught at Non Plus Ultra. I thought the space and the projected visuals really accentuated their performance. Their music has got a bit of that psychedelic edge, so the constantly moving bright colors that illuminated them really fit their sound. My opinion is probably influenced by the fact that I think I started watching their set when they played their song “Flower Power”. Fitting, right?
The next act was a performer that I wasn’t familiar with D.A. Stern. Post-performance, going down the Google rabbit hole, I learned that he’s collaborated with a number of artists like Chris Tomson of Vampire Weekend, Fat Tony & Colleen Green. He cites Weird Al Yankovic as a major influence. It makes sense.
There’s a real sense of eclectic joy in his music, and a fearless approach to musical style. One second you’ll get some of those Vampire Weekend vibes… another second you’ll get some Beach Boys vibes … another second you’ll feel like there’s some Huey Lewis sprinkled in there. Pop vibes. Alt Rock vibes. Samba vibes. The Lost Boys saxophone vibes. It’s the embodiment of joyful noise. Like a juiced-up version of The Free Design.
And to execute that joyful noise, he had one of the largest bands I’ve ever seen play a venue like this. He was accompanied by six players (drummer, keyboardist, bassist, saxophonist, guitarist, and vocalist), and they all executed D.A. Stern’s musical vision, seamlessly morphing from one sound to another. I don’t know whether these were all regular players, but as far as I could tell they seemed to be on the same musical journey, and that made for quite an enjoyable listen.
Since 2018, I’d been getting my fill of a fully-loaded Slugs through Spotify. It took me over 3 years to see and hear what they were like as a full band, and I loved it. With Josh Beavers on guitar and a drummer… whose name I seemed to have forgotten… filling out the sound that Sarsten and Marrisa bring to the table, this was the sound that I’d been cranking up in my Sennheiser headphones for the past several years.
While I love watching Sarsten and Marrisa play as a duet, the additional instruments really… and obviously… transforms the live song experience. I loved all the distorted licks that I could finally hear Josh play! The drums establish a pulse for each of their songs and that alone makes a hell of a difference. Slugs is a rock band, and I finally could hear them rock out.
I also noted that the additional instruments seemed to make Marrisa’s performance a little more intense than the times I had seen her before as a duet. Maybe it’s just me projecting, but I got the sense that Marissa’s eyes were just a bit wider, and her snarls were just a bit nastier. I love the transformation.
It was a pleasure catching Slugs performing as a full band. I’m just glad I didn’t make any excuses not to head out and catch them this time around. It was so worth it.