The most prominent cause in the Los Angeles underground music scene these days seems to be Rock for Choice, an abortion-rights movement organized by members of the group L7 among others, and a list of the musicians who have performed at its benefits reads like a who's who of new rock 'n' roll: Fugazi, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth. On Sunday, at a packed and equatorial Palladium, Rock for Choice put on its best benefit yet.
Exene Cervenka, backed only by a folk guitarist, performed a short acoustic set, still on the detuned Patsy Cline groove she's been riding for the last few years, and oddly affecting.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, clean and tight and funky as usual, had the sweaty Palladium crowd dancing as one, but the heart of the evening was a trio of apostate bands from the Seattle independent label Sub Pop, all gone on to the stables of multinational conglomerates but still rocking the underground.
The Fluid, from Denver, came out lean and loud and rocking hard, shed of most of their Stooges baby fat and poised to make a Pearl Jam-style crossover. The Fluid may be two-chord wonders, but they're two good chords.
Mudhoney, which is rapidly becoming one of the world's great live bands, was pumped-up and sloppy, a virtual thesaurus of fuzzy guitar squeals, teetering on the brink of chaos.
And L7, an all-woman band to whom politics is the mother's milk of rock 'n' roll, just rocked its first hometown show in months, dedicating its most scatological song to "George Bush and the buttheads from Operation Rescue," pushing its chunky, spare, power-chord riffs as hard as they can go.
Halfway through the L7 set, Joan Jett, in a slinky black dress and a Louise Brooks do, showed up to play some rhythm guitar before fronting the band in a long, incandescent version of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog," a couple of Blackhearts tunes . . . and the Runaways' classic "Cherry Bomb"--decidedly not politics as usual.