I squeezed in with just an inch or two between my bumper and the red paint on the curb. Score. Finding parking in Los Angeles is usually like a bad game of Russian Roulette, after a while you just wish that bullet was yours. So I get out of the car and grimace at the sight of the church that I had parked outside of. In a similar situation this past summer, I was driving around Echo Park searching for a place to park when I pulled into a conspicuously empty parking structure only steps away from the Echoplex, where I was heading for The Power of the Riff Festival. Little did I know, that parking structure was not public, but in fact belonged to the church next door. After catching a few bands, I decided to head back to my car to grab some snacks when the gate to the structure was closed and I had no way of getting in. After about an hour of pleading with Echoplex security and banging on the windows of the locked church to find someone to help me, I was finally allowed in to save my car from the depths of the concrete beast that had gobbled it up. I then settled for the overpriced Echoplex valet, but vowed I would never settle for that again. This particular night I fended off the temptations of the valet and found a great spot about a block away from The Echo (the Echoplex’s little brother upstairs).
“Have an extra ticket to the show?” a precarious-looking dude wearing a bandana and homemade tank-top asked as I walked down the rather “sketchy” street towards Sunset Boulevard.
I turned the corner onto Sunset and walked down the sidewalk, swam through a swarm of hipsters crowded outside Origami Vinyl for a Tijuana Panthers in-store, and hastily got in line outside The Echo. For once, I was actually on time to a show in LA (early, in fact). While in line, an older gentleman walked up and asked me who was playing that night, and I told him “Forgetters.”
“Oh that’s Blake Schwarzenbach’s new band huh? They got any music out yet?”
“Yeah, they put out a double seven inch last-“
“Eh!” he said as he waved his hand and cut me off. The nice couple in front of me were impressed the man even knew who the band was, but even more surprised a double seven inch wasn’t good enough for him.
Last Saturday, Blake Schwarzenbach of the legendary Jawbreaker and almighty Jets to Brazil brought his new band, Forgetters, to the West Coast for their first tour. The sold-out show was their second in the Los Angeles-area in as many days, the first being at the Center for the Arts in Eagle Rock, which also sold out.
Sitting nearby the merch table waiting for the show to start, Schwarzenbach walked past me wearing an overstuffed black backpack and sporting a strikingly curly afro. The moment of excitement to encounter such an influential musician was tamed by the suprising haircut. Not that I care about people’s hairstyles, but it just came out of nowhere.
For those of you familiar with Jawbreaker, Forgetters takes the direction of that band’s final (and arguably best) album “Dear You” (1995) and strays from a more linear continuation, taking a slightly more complex songwriting approach while roughing it up with a dirtier recording. Its noticeably more mature, ditching the high school and adolescent themes now relegated to the stereotypical pop-punk Jawbreaker laid the groundwork for. Schwarzenbach’s vocals are much cleaner now too. Whether that was a conscious decision or a sign of aging I’m not sure, but it fits Forgetters well. You still get the familiar songs of love and break-ups, but they balance youth and experience in a way that’s neither stale nor boring. 15 years later, Schwarzenbach returned with what is likely the closest thing to a “Dear You” follow-up with Forgetters. Better late than never, I suppose.
The Hunting Accident and Street Eaters opened the show and really lowered my expectations for the whole night. Nothing like two terrible performances to prime you for one of your most anticipated shows so far this year. If anything, they helped prop up Forgetters performance even more so. Its like the attractive girl hanging out with a group of less-striking women to make herself look even better. Although it wasn’t necessary, in this case, it totally worked.
Forgetters, who also feature the former drummer of Against Me!, opened their set with “Vampire Lessons,” the opener to their aforementioned self-titled double seven-inch record released last year. At first listen, especially with the Twilight nonsense taking popular culture by storm, I couldn’t help but create a connection between the two, and that’s continued to bug me despite the fact the song is rather good. Its upbeat and shows signs of the Schwarzenbach’s past in punk, post-hardcore and classic emo while embracing some modern indie elements.
In total, they played 12 songs, only two of which anyone had heard before. Granted they’ve only released four songs to date, judging by the length of their setlist, a full-length should be on the way. It was a blunder on my part to not ask about it when I had the chance, but I’ll take my chances to assume some sort of release is on the way.
Aside from the length of the show and extensive song selection, the songs felt much more alive than they do recorded. My first impression with “Forgetters” raised some concerns about the weakness of the guitar in the recording, and I felt the songs deserved a stronger tone. It could have very well been the way they were mixed, but the songs suffered regardless. Nothing is more frustrating than when a song doesn’t connect with a listener as it should for reasons more or less out the band’s hands. Live, there was no such issue. After the show on my routine approach of the band to talk and retrieve the set-list, I noticed Blake’s impressive pedal collection. On stage, the strength of the guitar couldn’t be denied, and he knows how to put those pedals to use. I just hope on future recordings they are better incorporated.
After the show I noticed the man with the tank-top amongst the crowd leaving the venue. Walking back down the street from the venue, I saw a tow-truck parked in front of my car. I was sure I had enough space! I ran up, heart pounding and fuming out the ears at the thought of another car-related incident at the hands of this church. The tow-truck driver was standing outside and he asked me if I was leaving. Out of breath, not asking any questions, I told him I’m as good as gone. He moved the truck out of the way and I once again narrowly avoided the claws of that church from claiming my only means of getting home. I think next time I’ll just go with the valet.