On Thursday night, the intimate Bootleg Bar showcased Lovedrug’s triumphant return to Los Angeles after a four year break. Diehard fans came to Westlake in full force, packing the limited space between the stage and the rows of tables accommodating lovers of PBR and Tecate.
Opener Lakes brought their brand of melodic rock complete with electric mandolin and accordion. They playfully bantered with the receptive audience between songs, and their final, uproarious number left the crowd excited for more.
The multitude of guitar pedals that were then loaded on stage signaled that Lovedrug, a band fond of artistically modulating their instruments, was approaching. Fans cheered as lead vocalist Michael Shepard announced, “What’s up LA? It’s been far too long!” before launching into the radio-friendly “Pink Champagne.”
Shepard’s signature smooth, high-pitched voice sounded as strong as it did when Lovedrug first burst on the scene over a decade ago, and the crowd welcomed the band with open arms and raised glasses. “It’s been four years, and we are so excited to be back,” Shepard told the audience beginning the title track from the group’s recent release, Wild Blood.
The past four years have been difficult for Lovedrug – the band’s record label The Militia Group went bankrupt in 2008, a week after the release of their third studio album, The Sucker Punch Show. That didn’t stop the band from releasing two EPs, touring nationwide, and funding the release of their fourth LP through Kickstarter.
Watching that evening’s show, you would never know there were so many roadblocks in the talented band’s career. Their performance was so in-synch, every soaring guitar riff and instrumental crescendo perfectly placed as the band played through “Blood Like,” “Ghost By Your Side,” and “Pushing the Shine.”
The charismatic Shepard connected with the audience, and James Freshwater was one of the most engaging drummer I’ve seen in years, standing while slamming the cymbals and singing along to most songs with a broad smile. Shepard asked, “Is everyone having a good time? Because we are and it’d be unfair if you weren’t,” before the band played their cover of Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind.”
Lovedrug continued to play newer songs such as “Great Divide” and “Ladders” before Shepard announced, “We got a couple old ones for you from our first record,” and the audience cheered in response. Tracks like “Blackout” and “In Red” off Pretend You’re Alive sounded as full and electrifying as ever.
Prior to the encore, Shepard sincerely spoke to Lovedrug’s fans: “We’ve been doing this for a while so it means a lot that you came out to see us. We really appreciate it.” The band closed with “Anodyne” and the young-love anthem “We Were Owls,” and as the house lights came up, fans lingered. Some waited to see if a second encore was in store while others finished their drinks, but everyone basked in the glow of an incredible rock show that was long overdue.
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