Under a shroud of red haze on The Satellite stage, The Janks began the second show of their month-long residency on Monday with a deafening cacophony of wailing strings and crashing drums. The brothers Zmed’s brand of folk-tinged rock was jolted to life this Monday evening with the same amount of wattage harnessed by Dr. Frankenstein to awaken his monster. A wispy, coddled musical turn this was not — this was a barnstorming bacchanalia. And like a patchwork monster themselves, with 50% new membership, The Janks are a machination of much turmoil and turnover.
Brothers Zachary and Dylan Zmed front one of Los Angeles’ hardest working bands. With over 250 shows throughout the city this year alone, no one can accuse The Janks of being a weekend band. This jankiness that they’ve created is, in fact, a way of life. And as the pool of sweat quickly gathered in the “V” of Zack’s exposed chest, I realized his unbuttoned flannel shirt was not so much a swoon-worthy treat for the ladies as a necessity for ventilation.
With numerous personnel changes over the years, it’s a testament to the Zmed brothers’ leadership that the band and its sound have nevertheless triumphed. They’ve even embraced the change. Their newest EP, Meet The Janks, is an overt acknowledgment that, frankly, you might not know all of the band members despite the group’s previous albums. Now with Leon Le Doux on drums and Paul Kilmister on bass, there is an additional layer of characters added to the motley crew of janks. If that’s ever in doubt, just check out Le Doux’s up-to-no-good smirks behind the kick drum. With looks like his, you know there’s always something a-brewing.
As a brother-fronted band, The Janks possess an innate opportunity for coordination and interplay that cannot be manufactured. Monday night their intricate harmonies danced over the hushed drums of their new track “Every Man for Himself.” As if taking the song quite literally, the elder Zmed retreated to a corner of solitude from which he systematically convulsed over his guitar. Every song break possessed the fluidity and timing of a 1960s variety show. With Dylan’s Carson to Zack’s McMahon, you couldn’t help but wish you were cool enough to be in on the joke. Even their mandolin and guitar were in matching color schemes.
The coup of the night, though, was the group’s take on Led Zeppelin’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” Dylan took over on vocals this time around, and his vivid and articulated body language bared out his more gregarious tendencies. Zack violently picked his guitar, and Dylan matched his play in a brilliant harmony between those strings and his vocals. Knowing exactly what buttons to push in order to play up their ‘70s vibe, the show was fraught with some powerful solo guitar work by Zack Zmed, including his tour-de-force solo at the song’s close.
The Zmed brothers knew exactly what they were doing when naming their band. A membership slapped together with Elmer’s glue and a compilation of personalities that run the gamut, The Janks’ fabric is somehow stronger than ever. The packed house on Monday night was certainly proof positive of that.
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