Life, Sex & Death is a startling new band from Los Angeles that played the Doll Hut here recently and seemed primed at peak moments to burst the little roadhouse’s rickety red clapboard walls.
The transplanted Chicago foursome left fans reeling from a performance that was searingly visual and physical. It was also, for some onlookers, all too vividly olfactory.
“You guys were great,” a willowy young woman visiting from North Carolina said to band members Alex Kayne and Bill E. Gar 1after the show last Friday. “I just wish your singer would take a bath.”
LSD’s singer is named Stanley. In appearance and manner, there was little to distinguish him from the lowliest, grimiest outcast sleeping at a rescue mission or living in the shadow of a freeway. Stanley’s filthy, black, spittle-stained suit was hopelessly torn, as if he had been wearing it for months. His tongue lolled and his mouth contorted as if he were suffering from palsy. His back hunched. If you met him on the street you would immediately peg him as the most broken sort of street person. Then you’d begin calculating whether to stop and give him change, or walk on by as if he didn’t exist.
“I can’t figure out if it’s a show, or if he’s really that (messed) up,” Doll Hut staffer Jesse James said after the concert. “The only thing that’s real, I think, is the smell.”
The power and abandon that went into LSD’s performance wasn’t the sort of thing that can be faked. True derelict or convincing actor, Stanley was without a doubt a passionate, instinctive rocker. With his three mates cranking out lean, brutal, metal-tinged riff-rock that recalled such Midwestern sources as the Stooges and early Alice Cooper, Stanley cut loose in a trenchant bellow, repeating mantras that conjured urgent sexuality or deep, inner dread.
At one point he climbed on the bar and began poking through the ceiling particleboard, as if trying to uncover hidden demons. At other times, he would launch into wild, celebratory dancing worthy of a Michael Stipe or a Mick Jagger. It was as if we were witnessing the aftermath of a brain transplant: Iggy Pop’s lobes in Tom Waits’ body.
There was a rare element of unpredictability and near-danger in Stanley’s performance (especially for anyone who stood near the front while he smashed a microphone stand against the floor until it was bent scrap metal), but it also was stamped with a surprising current of tenderness.
Near the end of the set, he knelt and pleaded in an abashed voice for a moment of silence for “some people out there who ain’t doing so good. Send them some good vibes; not a nickel or a dime or a quarter, just some good vibes.”
Was this a true sufferer from society’s fringe, imploring mercy for his brethren? Or was it just a convincing imitation?
“Actually, we do wish it was an act, because it would be easier to communicate with him,” guitarist Kayne said after the show.
Gar, the bassist, said he has known Stanley for 13 or 14 years. “There’s always the person who gets pushed around and shoved around. He was the one who gets pushed in the corner,” Gar said, noting that Stanley had a knack for provoking bullies. “He always had his music, so he made it through.
“We take care of him,” Gar continued, in a tone of voice that suggested Stanley would be adrift in the streets if he didn’t have a band to belong to. “He’s a wonderful human being, and we wouldn’t ask him to change for anything. He just chooses to live his life that way. If he were endangering his health, we’d say something.”
Stanley doesn’t do interviews, Kayne said, because “it’s sort of an indirect form of communication. Maybe in the future he’ll change his perspective.”
Gar said that he, Stanley, Kayne and drummer Brian Horak have been playing together in various formations for eight years, with the current lineup solidifying as Life, Sex & Death three years ago. They came to Southern California in mid-1990, making their first stop in Fullerton to stay with a friend of a friend.
Unable to scrounge gigs elsewhere, LSD landed on the Doll Hut’s doorstep about a year ago and got one of its first chances to play. But the band, now based in Burbank, eventually broke into the Hollywood club scene, generated a buzz, and signed with Warner Bros. After an upcoming tour of the East Coast, Life, Sex & Death will return to begin work on its debut album.
“Tell everyone they’re the next big thing,” said John Mello, co-owner of the Doll Hut, who has booked the band several times.
Actually, a band fronted by a singer who could be the living incarnation of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung may be too much for the mainstream. Most people would hurry past an agitated homeless man on the streets, so why would they want one in their living rooms, on MTV? But LSD seems a sure bet to cause a stir in alternative-rock circles. Next to Stanley, the likes of Axl Rose and Perry Farrell may come to seem as staid as a couple of bankers checking in at the office.