L7 AND DEATH VALLEY GIRLS PACK THE RAVE IN MILWAUKEE, WI ON 04/16/18
A lot of our readers are probably too young to remember, or weren’t even born to know about the punk movement- some would say the TRUE punk movement- in the 80’s and early 90’s. Bands came out of the woodwork, dirty, high, horny, and pissed off. You had all these kickass people like Hilly Kristal (the legend who owned CBGB in New York City’s Bowery), opening shitty, hole- in- the- wall venues, and opening their doors to this genre of music that, on the outside, did NOT seem to have a future at all. But there it was, on every major marquee, bands like Black Flag, Iggy and the Stooges, and newly resurrected grrl punk icons L7!
Back in the day, L7 was to punk what Pink is to pop – they really just turned it on its ass and told the world that nothing had to be done a certain way. They weren’t fast, they weren’t picking fights with the audience(very much), and they were pretty (really pretty). Where Wendy O’Williams was yelling “Butcher Baby”(yes that’s where the band got their name and initial look from) in her sort of deep throated way, L7 were, and are to this day, sort of a precursor to bands like Nirvana, though I would NOT stoop so low as to call them grunge.
They fizzled out in the 90’s, so it came as no small amount shock when I saw they were back together, AND on tour.
Had to be there, and I got my wish.
The first band on this dreary night was a band I hadn’t heard of but really got a kick out of; Death Valley Girls. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re a new school punk band with a VERY old school sound. Some say they sound a little like Bikini Kill, and the whole psychedelia thing would work for that comparison, but I think they have sort of an Iggy Pop feel to them. The singer is this teeny tiny little thing named Bonnie, and you wouldn’t know it from looking at her, but she puts on a hell of a performance, especially since she managed to sing, play guitar, and piano all throughout the set. Her voice sort of reminded me, in a peripheral sense, of Debbie Harry from Blondie (who, by the way, are still touring). Not in timbre, but in the ethereal sense she has in her singing.
So, kudos to her for pulling that off.
The drummer and bassist both did a really good job too, in fact (and sadly) completely overshadowing the other guitar player Larry Schemel, whom I know I’m supposed to know because of his soundtrack work, and the fact that his sister was in Hole, but frankly, compared to the rest of the band, he was a wet blanket.
I hate having to say this about a band that I like, but I run into this a lot; if you’re going to be in a stage band whose majority performs the hell out of their shows, you can’t just stand there doing the math in your head. You have to get in the game and make everyone else look good too.
Still, I really did enjoy their set, short as it was. I wound up picking up a disk and I dug it.
About an hour later, L7‘s intro song played, which happened to be some old 90’s R&B song. I actually knew the words because I’m old, so I was chuckling while singing along in the barricade with my camera, as I watched the band dancing to it behind the stage while they waiting to walk on-stage. It was pretty cool to watch this band of balls out, go nuts punkers, singing along to Montell Jordan.
They took the stage and immediately went into “Deathwish“. In true L7 fashion, Donita and Jennifer were rocking the fuck out (Jennifer’s head banging is a thing of beauty), Suzi was playing with her sunglasses on a la Johnny Ramone, and Demetra was kicking some tail on the drums. It was really nice to see that they hadn’t lost their touch, especially given that Jennifer and Donita revealed to me in an interview that they have to ice pack themselves and “soak” after every show.
I like that. Bands today will cancel a show if they break a nail, but L7 went on and kicked some ass despite being in their 40’s and in constant pain. That’s class. Jennifer even joked about it after the song “Drama“, when they were talking about their head banging. Donita was saying “you know, a lot of people are saying, you know ‘why’d you come back? that’s weird, that’s bonkers,” to which Jennifer added “that’s what sciatica feels like!”
Many laughs from a crowd that definitely knew what she was talking about, and that’s another thing I noticed!
With a band like this, who come from a different generation, you’d expect that there’d be a bunch of middle aged people there remembering their roots- and there were. But what surprised me was the HUGE number of YOUNG kids there who were getting into it as much as us old fogies. It was a very pleasant surprise.
Anyway, after the joking, L7 went into “Came Back to Bitch“, and rolled right through their new single “Dispatch from Mar A Lago“(which you could accurately glean, is a scathing tear at our current president), all the while still kicking ass, 70 minutes into their 90 minute set!
By the time they finished “Fast and Frightening“, all the adults there probably felt like the band; tired, sore, and itching for a nap.
Twas a very, very good show.
Written by Hobbes Caltous for Bloodrock Media on April 24, 2018.