The Essence of Rock: A Night of Intense Music and Unbreakable Bonds at Redwood Bar Review+Photos: Villain Royale, The Binges, COVIN and Lux Lawless at The Redwood Bar & Grill 1/20/24
LOS ANGELES, CA- On a night where downtown Los Angeles was electric with anticipation, the Redwood Bar and Grill played host to a troupe of rock renegades, headlined by Villain Royale. I was excited to see Villain Royale perform as it had been a minute since I’d seen my friend Guy JediDiah, whose previous alliance with Friendly Bear still echoes in the annals of the venue’s storied past, rock a stage.
In Fuzz We Trust, the heralds of the city’s most raucous rock nights, promised an auditory feast, and the gathered congregation of music aficionados was not to be disappointed. I had also heard through the grapevine that all of the bands would be celebrating a friend’s birthday, so I assumed that the good times would be guaranteed on this night
The evening’s lineup was a cascade of sonic bravado, culminating in the much-anticipated performance of Villain Royale, with Lux Lawless, COVIN, and The Binges stoking the fires before them.
Lux Lawless, created by Lydia Lux McIntosh, set a high bar for the evening with her performance. Her band, featuring Trey Cornish on drums, Victor Vazquez on bass, and Randy Andrade on guitars, delivered a powerful blend of heavy riffs. McIntosh’s controlled vocals beautifully contrasted the band’s intensity. Her seductive cooing and charismatic stage presence captivated the audience, as she moved to the music with unrestrained enthusiasm. Her performance was mesmerizing.
Upon exploring her music on streaming platforms, it became clear that McIntosh has been collaborating with notable musicians, such as Matt McJunkins (A Perfect Circle, Eagles of Death Metal), Jeff Friedl (A Perfect Circle, Puscifer) and my friend Nick Perez (Holy Wars, Poppy). Recalling one of my favorite live experiences — A Perfect Circle’s performance at Maynard James Keenan’s 50th birthday celebration at The Greek Theatre — reinforces my impression of McIntosh’s impressive musical associations. I’m eager to follow her career and see where her considerable talents take her next.
Following Lux Lawless was COVIN, a band shrouded in online mystery with scant information available. What was known, however, was that the group featured Eric Michael Shrader, the evening’s celebrant, and his dedication was evident as he had his Connecticut friends join him on stage. The five-member band delivered a vigorously rock-infused performance that had the audience headbanging in unison.
Midway through their set, an admirer offered Eric a celebratory shot, which he amusingly declined, citing his upcoming performance with Villain Royale and playfully attributing his decision to the wisdom of age. Yet, it was clear Eric was thoroughly enjoying the session with his companions, buoyed by the knowledge that friends from afar were tuning into the live stream, experiencing the energy of ‘Califonicut.’ Every so often, Eric would theatrically flip his guitar, emblazoned with the word “Party,” to rouse the crowd into a frenzy. Regrettably, I missed capturing this memorable moment on camera.
The Binges struck a chord of nostalgia in me; their name rang a bell but the connection was elusive. It clicked later: they had an initial run in the mid-2000s, releasing music in 2007 and 2008, then took a hiatus for roughly ten years. They made a comeback in 2019, releasing a few singles that once again showcased their musical vitality.
Their recent performance left an indelible mark; The Binges were nothing short of electrifying. The Okai sisters, Tsuzumi on bass and Mayuko on guitar, were a force to be reckoned with. Tsuzumi, in particular, captivated me with her unique blend of funk-infused basslines amidst the heavier rock melodies. Post-performance, I felt compelled to compliment her innovative style. Travis on drums played with an intensity that bordered on the supernatural, and Dylan exuded the quintessential rock star’s charm and presence.
The impression they made was profound, and my enthusiasm for their music has been thoroughly rekindled. I eagerly anticipate the next opportunity to experience their dynamic energy and raw, rollicking performances again.
As the night unfurled its sonic tapestry at the Redwood Bar, anticipation crescendoed for the final act — Villain Royale. The air, still buzzing with the echoes of the previous bands’ riffs and howls, was well lubricated. The scene was set; I was ready for Villain Royale.
This wasn’t just another gig; it was a resurrection of sorts for Guy, whose presence on stage I had long missed since the days of Friendly Bear. Villain Royale, a band that crafts a visceral blend of music, seems to be at the precipice of a thrilling journey, armed with their latest opus, “Hellow Skeleton.” The album, a mosaic of audacious melodies and a trenchant rhythm section, plunges deep into the marrow of alternative/garage rock.
Eric and Yanni, who had previously set the stage alight with COVIN, seamlessly transitioned into their roles in Villain Royale. The synergy was palpable as they infused the performance with a double dose of dynamism, the basslines and drum beats melding into a formidable backbone for Guy’s charismatic lead.
Guy JediDiah, grizzled beard and all, was more than just a vocalist; he was a maestro of ceremonies, channeling the spirits of rock. His voice, a blend of gravel and silk, narrated tales of shadow and bone, while his silhouette, bathed in the dim stage lights.
In the glow of the Redwood’s stage, Villain Royale reminded me that rock ‘n’ roll isn’t just about the music; it’s about the experience — the raw, unfiltered connection between artist and audience, the electric charge of live performance, and the shared moment when the outside world falls away, leaving only the beat, the melody, and the night. And seeing your friends rock a stage, unapologetic and louder than ever.