L.A. Punk Has a Sense of Humor, Too

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


the-smell180.gif

The New Yorker has a great piece this week about how punk rock is again flourishing in Los Angeles, which in the early 80s was home base for a slew of Southern California’s influential punk and hardcore bands like Black Flag, X, and the Weirdos.

Sasha Frere-Jones describes a vibrant new scene that resides primarily in a small, dingy, downtown Los Angeles space called The Smell, where a close-knit group of friends hang out, play punk-influenced music, make T-shirts, and release one another’s records. I know the space well. While living in L.A. in the early 2000s, I saw a handful of shows there, including some extremely noisy and exciting performances by Nels Cline, before he joined the ranks of Wilco.

But to truly expose L.A.’s current punk scene, I’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention an equally important venue in the Highland Park area (sort of between Hollywood and Pasadena) called Mr. T’s Bowl, a former bowling alley that is now home to a funny, dorky, and quirky L.A. punk contingent.

Mr. T’s Bowl is where I’ve seen bands like the Mormons, who wear short-sleeved, white, button-up shirts with black ties, bicycle helmets and backpacks, and go berserk on stage while playing a hybrid of punk and hardcore. The band recently performed at Coachella (Southern California’s annual music festival) by meandering through the crowd with a bullhorn and portable amplifiers on wheels.

Mr. T’s Bowl also introduced me to Third Grade Teacher, a band made up of two men and two women who dress up in Catholic school garb and pretty much go wild on stage while playing loud, fast music. The club’s endorsement of hyper, nonsensical, punk-influenced music continues in 2007. This month, the club’s calendar includes Stab City, whose wry MySpace tagline is “You’re nobody ’till somebody kills you,” and who claims to play an oddball mix of grime, blues and crunk. Also billed this month is Artichoke (tagline: “cool locally, warm globally”), who do a happy, acoustic cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK.”

The best part about these and other punk clubs in the area? From what I’ve seen, a lot of people who show up to watch the shows come prepared to participate, whether that means dancing, heckling (in a friendly sort of way), or jumping on stage with the band, which to me is a good sign of a scene flourishing.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest