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Pop Music Review : A Hot, Hip L7 Throbs at Palace

Right now, L7 is the hippest rock band in Los Angeles, as popular with the slam crowd as Bad Religion, clicking with the alternative dudes surely as Nirvana, embraced for its coolness by MTV.

Its new album “Bricks Are Heavy” is pounding up the charts, and on Friday the band played its biggest headlining date so far, a sold-out and throbbing show at the Palace.

L7 is probably also the only band whose T-shirts are worn both by fluff-rockers Faster Pussycat and PC paragons Fugazi; Fugazi’s Ian McKaye likes the band so much he even lugged its equipment on and off stage at a few shows last year. It’s the only L.A. band to have put out an album on Seattle’s too-cool Sub Pop label. L7 may be the most important band to come out of the L.A. underground scene since Jane’s Addiction.

The four women of L7 are famous for attracting underground stars to play in huge political benefits its members help organize, for laying the groundwork for the slew of female-led bands that are currently rocking the nation’s stages, for causing delirium in its hard-dancing audiences.

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L7 doesn’t pose, doesn’t preach--although as longtime key members of L.A. pro-choice and anti-war movements, its PC credentials are impeccable--as much as lead by positive example.

At the Palace concert, L7’s music was less about politics than about the overweening desire to shake your long hair in your eyes, less about attitude than about music. After a nervous start, L7 rocked, hard. The band came out uncharacteristically dressed in bathing-suit tops--guitarist Donita Sparks, wearing swim goggles, called it the Sports Illustrated swimsuit-issue reject look. Sparks also suggested that everybody register to vote.

Guitarist Suzi Gardner (everybody but drummer Dee Plakas takes turns as the frontwoman) has developed a dark and commanding presence, a riveting death-howl voice, an intensity that is hard to tear your eyes from, an ultra-mega-cool guitar fuzz sound that drives the band’s songs. Sparks was bouncy and charismatic, L7’s pop star; bassist Jennifer Finch was calm and focused.

L7 tipped its hat to the Fiends, one of the founding bands of the L.A. post-post-punk thing, by playing the classic “Packing a Rod”; L7 played a corrosive version of the Cosmic Psychos’ anthem “She’s a Lost Cause”; L7 played the intro to a Metallica song and broke up into laughter. L7 played most of its old set plus all of the new stuff--a rushed version of the current hit “Pretend That We’re Dead” sounded rougher, better, more vital than on the album. The slam pit was roiling, but somehow almost polite--perhaps a side effect of L7’s moral suasion.

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