Friday, March 26, 2010
Concert Review: Brains of an Alien
I just got back from a recording gig in Tujunga, a strange methed-out corner of California 20 minutes outside Los Angeles. Me and my cohort arrived at the bombed-out town, a Barstow-esque setting of old muscle cars and rotting storefronts. The venue the concert was to happen at didn't even have a sign, instead the empty metal shell of a an neon billboard. Most of the shops on the street looked like they housed medical marijuana clinics, but without the class one would have on, say, Santa Monica Blvd. Inside was a black-and-white tiled waiting room with blue couches and a cheesy wooden sign that read "FAMILY". The actual venue was a large square room with ugly brown carpet, bass traps nailed to the back wall (which means they don't work) and the main stage flanked by two wide screen TVs. As we entered, the obvious I-run-this-thing-and-I'm-a-jerk type guy walks up: "Hi, who are we?" We tell him that we're there to record Brains of an Alien, and then he goes back to talking with these rock n' roll types who look about as authentic as a piece of tattoo parlor flash. "Yeah, we didn't play places like the Whiskey or the Roxy 'cause they didn't want the punk and hardcore bands back in the day" he muses. Immediately following the rockers departure, he turns to the sound guy and says, "Man, I am full of shit. I sound like I know what I'm talking about, but I don't know shit. I don't know the hell's going on. Do I sound indignant?" "No man, you sound fine". I couldn't believe this, it was something out of a Judd Apatow movie.
We started setting up the mic stands, and chatted a bit with the sound guy: "Yeah, Pastor Bob got the idea that we should have this place for shows, you know, to keeps kids off the street and smoking pot and stuff... Not that that's a bad thing." Oh, ok. To be fair, this guy really did help us out. When the jerk guy would tell us to get out of the way for one reason or another, the sound guy would lead us back in and watch our back. People started milling around outside, and the tweaker vibe was soundly established. Like, the Jesus-freak-meth-head-trailer-trash vibe. One guy was wearing a shirt that was like the Reese's Cups logo, but with "Jesus Cups" or something. One guy was wearing a homemade "Be Kind Rewind" T-shirt like the movie! (Super awesome or lame, I can't decide). So half our stuff is set up, and I'm really hunger. We saw a deli across the turn, so I run over there. Turns out its a Persian Kabob place, and as I'm looking at the menu a guy walks in and starts yelling at the guy behind the counter in Persian, and they're both yelling at each other for 10 seconds, and then the first guy walks out and the guy behind the counter mutters in English, "Fucking (mutter mutter)" then turns to me and says: "I bought $300 worth of spices, I do not need any more spice!" but in a pleasant and enthusiastic manner, and of course I had to agree with him. Seriously, a situation requiring more than $300 worth of spice in an unimaginable one. So I order two cheeseburgers, and as he's making them he painstakingly list for me the ingredients that will be included on the burgers, because he says: "That the way I make them so I need to know if that's what you will like". Once I assure him the listed ingredients will be fine, he asks if I want spice on them, because "that is what I like so I need to know that you will like it!" This guy had to be one of the most enthusiastic people I've ever met, super invested in the food he was preparing for me. He gave me back a full $8 in change even though its was supposed to be $7.95, while saying how much he cares.
Now nourished by the best prepared cheeseburgers in the world, we finally set up all our gear. We were running a Pro Tools rig off of a laptop and an MBox, making a stereo recording with two condenser mics setup at the back of the room. Now for the music. Brains of an Alien was a sort of punk/metal band, with a lot of screaming and not a lot of melody. The first two songs were scream fests, but some songs came off like sloppy Ramones covers, and they covered a Megadeth song. It was a standard 4-piece of drums/guitar/guitar/bass, with the drummer and guitar holding down vocal/screaming duty. Pretty much all the songs consisted of minor-third metaly stuff or poppy 3-chord punk progressions with fast Metallica riffs thrown in. When the drummer said: "This song is about Tujunga and all the tweaker that live here" it cemented any previous notions I had been nursing about the place. The Persian guy from the kabob place even show up and handed someone what looked like a piece of bread, spoke enthusiastically to them, and then left. We successful laid the entire set to disk, the only snafu being someone kicking one of the condenser mic stands during the first song.
The song about Tujunga was like "Welcome to the Jungle" with a location change and basterdized with a Nightmare before Christmas song and the warm, acidy desert vibe of Queens of the Stone Age replaced with the bad-coming-down-off-meth vibe of Tujunga. The "special guest" of the night was a piece of cantaloupe the band had turned into an alien brain, which got its own mic. They also had a banner with their name done up to look like the title of Back to the Future. It seemed like a good time was had by all. Tujunga wants you to pay a visit!