TO LIVE AND SHAVE IN L.A. + Monotract + Double Leopards @ Tonic

By Alex - Losing My Edge - 09/18/2004

This is not where it began, but we'll pick it up at the part where we were sitting down at a Mexican place in the Lower East Side on Saturday, taking refuge from the rain and deciding what to do with ourselves that night. One idea that was tossed around were the words To Live and Shave In L.A. and though it didn't immediately became the front-runner, it's the one that stuck for the next few hours until 9pm came around and we still haven't decided on anything. Seeing a show in New York wouldn't be the worst activity to partake in, but throw in suggestions of "experimental", "The Great Pumpkin Of Noise" (according to the little Village Voice preview) and of course "Andrew WK" and you get quite the molotov cocktail that could translate into either the best show ever, or possibly the worst.

So we made our way to Tonic, with my personal clincher being that Don Fleming (Velvet Monkeys, Gumball, produced Sonic Youth and Teenage Fanclub) was also going to be playing with them. As we entered the venue, one of the openers, Monotract, were ending their set and immediately, we got an instantaneous review from a loudmouth geezer asshole (wearing a shirt that read "What shitty band are you in?"). I'll skip ahead the rant about how the cigarette ban in bars is killing the spirit of this vital city and the other opener, Double Leopards, who played average ambient noise (personally, I need percussions in order to function properly).

Finally, To Live and Shave In L.A. were taking the stage as a real crowd starts to form inside Tonic. Among the new arrivals were Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, not surprising considering at least their connection with Don Fleming. For tonight, the band consisted of Fleming , Mark Morgan from Sightings, Andrew WK on drums and the original trio itself, Ben Wolcott, Tom Smith and holy fuck, there's loudmouth geezer asshole aka Rat Bastard. Immediately, you can sense Smith's presence. He is a big sweaty man with crazy eyes and a crazier smile. He starts whispering distortedly while pounding his chest and before you knew it, it all came crashing down. Usually, noise shows can overwhelm you with sheer intensity and volume, but this was just out of this world because each member, with lead singer Smith and guitarist Morgan in particular, just lost it. They were all individually and collectively as ferocious as they were demented.

What I felt (because this show was no longer about hearing and seeing) was that the traditional roles of the entertainer and the entertainee no longer applied here and consequently, the audience started to adjust accordingly after being frozen into a "holy shit" trance for the first few numbers. The best shows I've ever attended always transcended the usual formula and expectations (banter, encores, reaction to a recognizable riff, counting the songs until the end 'cause you should've fuckin' known better than to leave your house). Those peaks in my personal concert-going experiences were often defined by the lack of structure and clear markers, where a song ended and where another began. This was one moment broken into a million jagged pieces and reconstructed into one unsettling and ugly explosion.

Ultimately, I realized how fleething this moment was. Hell, I forgot about it (the feeling, not the memory) after exiting the venue. There was no "hey, what about that part where the guitarist played that solo" or "did you hear when the frontman made that funny comeback at that heckler" or "holy shit, they played that song off their first EP". Everything was gone, as fast and forceful as it came. Rock plays off nostalgia too often. There would be no buying a CD from the merch table tonight, in vain hopes of recapturing the impossible. The only thing that could be done was to shake Rat Bastard's hand and then go drink ourselves into the night.

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