Friday night my girlfriend and I went downtown to The Smell to catch The Babies show. This was our first time at the venue, and at first we couldn’t even find the place. Then one of us had the bright idea to follow behind some punk rock kids and sure enough they led us to the front door! As we walked in, I loved seeing all the original artwork and graffiti on the walls. Plus they have all kinds of books on shelves that you could sit down to read, board games to play, and a snack bar with tons of different treats, including vegan tamales! Nice!!
Oh, and I must point out that the bathroom was super clean! Even though it was covered in graffiti and the sink was thrown onto the floor, there was no grime, the toilet paper was abundant and neatly displayed, and the paper towel holder was fully stocked! So awesome!! (NYC punk club CBGB’s with their infamously horrid bathrooms coulda taken a lesson from this place!! Even punk rock clubs called THE SMELL can keep a tidy restroom!!)
Once inside you walk the somewhat narrow space into the back area where the bands play. The first band up was DJ Yasmine Kittles (AKA Tearist). I recognized the sax player as one of the girls from (the now defunct but SUPER awesome band) Mika Miko. They played on the floor right in front of the crowd and did some crazy punk rock quick n’ dirty ditties. At one point they all fell on the floor together and played the rest of their song laying down. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I love a good nap, but I quite appreciated the avant-garde laziness of their prone positions.
The second band was Dunes, also ex members of Mika Miko, as well as Finally Punk. They were really great, but unfortunately we got mashed up against a wall as an intense mosh pit formed and we were swallowed whole. Neither one of us could see the band at all in the melee, but what we heard we liked a lot. They also played an awesome cover of the song “Goodbye Horses” that Buffalo Bill dances to in (oneofthebestmoviesever!!) Silence of the Lambs.
After Dunes, NAR played their debut show. They were very rockabilly with the singer looking like a female Ritchie Valens! Well actually, as my girlfriend pointed out, she looked like “La Bamba” star Lou Diamond Phillips playing Ritchie Valens. NAR rocked the house with their ’50s rock n’ roll style, and we learned that they are also making a documentary about LA’s art-punk youth.
NAR finished their set, and White Fence started getting their gear out while everyone caught their breath. They set up on the floor in front of the stage, mere inches from the tips of our noses. I felt my anxiety mount, because although I like to dance, I’m not into moshing. So I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a bad spot to be in. However, they started playing and the people surrounding us kept it chill, while those behind and to the side went absolutely bananas. With the band’s wild energy and the crazy slam dancing breaking out, I felt like I was caught between a speeding train and a hurricane.
The Babies were the final band to play. They took to the stage, and the crowd pulled up close and tight. The Babies are a new incarnation made up of Kevin Morby from The Woods and Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls with Justin Sullivan on drums and Nathan Stark from Bent Outta Shape on bass. They played songs from their eponymously titled full-length album due out on Shrimper February 8th. Cassie and Justin took turns on vocals, and each song sounded like lo-fi retro pop mixed with a classic rock sound.
Cassie and Kevin decided to join forces as a band so they could go back to playing smaller venues and sweaty spaces, which made The Smell with its DIY ethics, community spirit, and heavy deodorant requirements (it gets HOT in there!!) a perfect spot to catch them in. The Babies also announced during the show that they just recently moved to Echo Park, so hopefully we will be seeing more of them around!
*Photos courtesy of Coleen Barr