Times may be tough, but this past weekend in L.A. was a great one for life-affirming punk rock
This was a great weekend for punk rock in Los Angeles, and it couldn’t have come at a more necessary time. With so much bad news in America right now, any occasion to howl into some kind of communal void can be cathartic.
On Friday, the longtime L.A. post-hardcore band Touche Amore played the thousandth show in its career. That’s a milestone for any band, and the act issued cute commemorative tickets at the door for completists. But the night seemed especially salient given what its latest record, “Stage Four,” was all about. The album is a painfully intimate document of familial grief, written in the wake of singer Jeremy Bolm losing his mother to cancer.
Other genres have tackled this sort of material before (there’s practically a whole tradition of “cancer country” songwriting), but it’s the rare punk record that tries to make sense of grief, death and affection while also living up to the band’s ferocious sound.
On Friday, Touche played it less as document of loss and more of a celebration of life. Songs like “Displacement” made plain statements of confusion and absence: “You died at 69 with a body full of cancer / I asked your god ‘how could you?’ but never got an answer.”
Somehow, everyone moshed and sang along, a small miracle given the weight of those words. Even “Palm Dreams,” which imagined his mom’s move to L.A. as well as Bolm’s attempt to find what she was looking for here, felt something like a new entry in the come-to-California canon.
On a weekend when everyone was thinking about how loss can claim a family without warning or reason, it was one of the most powerful rock shows in months.
Sunday night, by contrast, Long Islander Jeff Rosenstock went full escapist at the Teragram. Starting with a funny, tongue-in-cheek looped edit of the Foo Fighters’ “Best of You” (which he’d revisit on various instruments), Rosenstock laughed at stereotypical rock gestures while he and his backing band sincerely used all of them to rile the crowd.
His new album “Post-” is one of the most unbridled, exuberant guitar records of the young year, and in an era when so much music is about depression — either glamorizing it or struggling against it — it’s a joy to watch a performer so focused on vanquishing it altogether. To judge by the sheer velocity of crowd-surfing that night, a lot of fans were in need of it.
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