9 – Los Angeles Part 1

Palm Springs has been a golden nugget found in a field of treasure, even if we’d only spent about fifteen hours or so there….but what a fifteen hours they were. We were back on the road bright and early, properly falling into the groove of travelling now, roaming from town to town, leaving a trial of memories in our wake across the land we explored. Much more to see! Much more to do! And LA up next! This was the longest leg of our trip where four nights will be spent just off Sunset Boulevard, primly located opposite The Viper Room and a two minute walk to the famous Whisky a Go Go. I’m excited to hit LA, but one final treat was in store before we fully departed Palm Springs borders.

Our fantastic host at the hotel recommended we stop at a shopping outlet located a few miles up the Interstate called Desert Springs. He said it’s full of several outlets selling stock at a discounted price, a bit like Cheshire Oaks. However, this was Cheshire Oaks Xtreme as Gucci, Jimmy Choo, G Star Raw, Ugg and scores of other premium brands had outlets located there. Not only that, it was the most beautiful setting for a shopping centre imaginable. Everything was outside and the place was pristine. The buildings glowed in the same light brown, resembling its own little village resort. We didn’t buy anything (aside from breakfast), but walking around the complex, experiencing the tranquil shopping atmosphere in such surroundings was a free gift better than any materialistic purchase.

Los Angeles

LA is meant to be two hours away according to the Sat Nav, but it clearly doesn’t take into consideration the traffic! I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The freeways are completely packed, and even when we come off one to join another, we hit five lines of backed up traffic. I have this idea that I want to speed into LA listening to LA Woman by The Doors. I still play the song when we’re ten minutes out, but stuck in nose to tail traffic doesn’t quite have the same effect.

Sunset Boulevard is crazy once we finally exit the freeway. We get a feel for LA when we hit this iconic road. Billboards advertising all the latest films and TV shows tower above and there’s a different one every fifty metres or so. The nature of film, TV and music that has dominated LA for decades is apparent in the shops and bars. Everything looks so big, and it’s a little intimidating on arrival! It’s not long before we turn onto Larrabee St and trundle up the Hollywood Hill to where we’re staying, literally a stone’s throw from Sunset Boulevard, a tremendous location for those corrupted by the essence of rock n roll.

Our hosts, Kristen and Juan, aren’t home when we arrive. This is another airbnb jaunt. It wasn’t just the location that attracted me to the property, but the fact that our hosts were theatre directors, with Juan being in a band too, made the decision far easier. They sound really interesting people and I couldn’t wait to meet them.

We enter the spacious apartment and are immediately struck by the creative’s living environment. It was ace! Guitars and other instruments were in one corner, several pictures and posters around movies and theatre shows glossed the walls, and books around entertainment were dotted around everywhere. Incense candles burnt on our arrival so the aromas were relaxing as we entered.

We also find out that the view from the backyard of our room looks into the car park at Tower Records where only two weeks earlier Elton John hosted an Oscar After Party, which saw the likes of Leonardo Di Caprio and Lady Gaga attend. Apparently a past guest watched the whole show from this view. Imagine if we landed in LA to see that. Now that would’ve been something spectacular.

We took our time getting ready as we had an intriguing night ahead of us, one that I’d been looking forward to for a very long time. Whilst in LA, I thought it’d be a good idea to try and see a band out here. The disappointment of the Mohawk Radio gig on the 21st at The Whisky a Go Go being cancelled before we departed left a void I needed to fill. I wanted to see a band play in LA. Pre departure date I remembered that one of my favourite underground bands, Electric Parlor, were from Los Angeles. I’d played them a couple of times on the show over the past twelve months and had actually put them in my top 10 albums of 2015.

I contacted the band in the weeks leading up to the trip on the very slim chance they had a gig planned during the narrow date range of 18th – 22nd March. Lo and behold, they were playing a gig at Five Star in Downtown LA the night of our arrival with two other bands, Warchief and Lords of Beacon House. The prospect of seeing Electric Parlor play in their hometown was a very exciting proposition, and would just be another thing to make our trip unique on this already mind bending tour!

Just before we left, our hosts Kristen and Juan returned, so we got the chance to introduce ourselves and make an impression whilst sober. I would’ve hated to turn up later on a little worse for wear and make my introduction then.

We took an uber down to the bar, and were amazed by the amount of traffic on the freeways at 9pm. The legend of the infamous LA traffic was making itself known. Being driven for a change was a chance to take in the surroundings of the different parts of LA. Considering the venue was about thirty minutes away, we managed to pass through several areas that highlighted the diverse nature of the city. Elements of depravity and seediness dominated most of the drive. Whenever we passed under a bridge we were met with a wall of homeless tents on the sidewalk. It was sad to see the obviousness of poverty in the city. I’d never seen it so clear in one place before.

Electric Parlor

We arrive at Five Star, which is a cool little venue with a bohemian type vibe that’s a little like Manchester’s very own Night n Day, but a bit bigger and not as hot and sweaty. Above the door inside are pictures of famous rock stars including Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Tom Waits. A lot of the clientele are Latino, a representation due to the Latino influences in each of the bands playing tonight, which makes me more excited to hear the music that’s coming up. I’m anticipating electric performances and I wasn’t disappointed!

Electric Parlor are on first and their brand of bluesy, psychedelic rock n roll creates an immediate buzz around the venue, harking back to a golden time of rock n roll. The band is made up of three male musicians and a female vocalist; Kris Farr on guitar, Josh Fell on bass, Zachary Huling on drums and Monique Alvarez on vocals. They sound almost garage like and edgy in parts when they’re rocking out in songs such as ‘Reckless’, but they’re equally as captivating when they slow down to the psychedelic, dreamier tracks like ‘Young Blood’ and ‘Last Battle’. There’s a tremendous amount of chemistry and professionalism between them which is evident throughout their set. Monique Alvarez’s vocals shine and are spell binding, gritty and raw, whether she’s wailing the rock songs out, or slowing it down to let the emotion ooze out. She’s very Janis Joplin-esque in her approach, and with a band as psychedelic and rock orientated as these guys behind her, it’s very reminiscent of Big Brother & The Holding Company, and for the trip we’re on at the moment, that’s great for us to see. Electric Parlor pride themselves as being an evolution of 60s and 70s rock n roll, and they don’t half do an incredible job of capturing that time. To see them live made me love them a little bit more, and this was a set that excluded my favourite song, ‘Hazy Daisy’ too!

They are followed by Warchief, who are an all guns blazing heavy rock n roll band. The two guitarists are high octane and fantastic in their own right, but they have a secret weapon in the shape of their enigmatic drummer, Mucho, a drummer unearthed by Satan himself who commands the stage and the tempo of the music. When I watch bands, I usually have an ear for vocals and lead guitars, but with Mucho, it’s all about watching him, and with Sue having an ear for drums and bass, she was already stood from her seat before I even mentioned anything to her about this unbelievable talent. You can’t take your eyes off him! He looks the part; long hair, bare chested, tattoos, sunglasses, a picture of complete coolness rolled into one. He resembles Santana, and has a talent that equals Santana’s genius guitar. He really is that good! So good in fact that he even has a ten minute drum solo where everyone, including his band, watch on in awe. I’ve never seen anything like that at this level. It should be captured in a stadium it’s so exceptional. I’ve seen the likes of Mick Fleetwood live, and others on TV, and I have to honestly say that Mucho is up there with the very best of them.

The final band to play and round off the fantastic music that had graced us all night are Lords of Beacon House, who are another fine rock n roll band. They carry a great technical ability, with big heavy riffs that threaten to bring the roof down. The energy and rawness of their approach was very captivating and a fitting way to round off a night of brilliant music all born out of the streets of LA.

I have to say, all the bands that played tonight really looked the part too, carrying an effortless rock n roll essence about them that is sometimes lost in the UK. Long hair, tattoos, bare chests, bandanas, jewellery, beads, beards, cowboy hats, and good looking, rugged individuals! We had the full shebang, and it added to the atmosphere! The music, appearances and fashion were all brilliant and it felt like we were thrust back into the classic era of rock n roll, which makes these bands playing tonight, and bands like Mohawk Radio stand out. Our American counterparts have it right. I think on some level the British are too hung up on trying to push something different, and maybe that’s where our harmony and synchronicity gets lost, and why the moguls who push different versions of the same ‘pop’ shit always win. An extension of the music of a celebrated age is timeless, and if done right, can still sound fresh today. It’s no coincidence that the greats are still played today. Their music is still relevant, so why can’t an underground band put their own slant on it and be a success? Rival Sons do it and they are an extension of Led Zeppelin, and they are an unbelievable band….from LA funnily enough. It makes me think of Mohawk Radio. They would have been an ideal fourth band to play tonight’s gig, and I think I realise at that moment why they have to do this US tour, to be amongst the best and play to crowds who are more appreciative of their sound. Up to now, it sounds and looks like that is very much the case after playing North Carolina, Tucson and Strange Brew in Texas for SXSW the previous night, which was another fine performance and serves to aid their growing star after being given an hour and a half time slot.

We spoke to Electric Parlor, and the ingenious drummer, Mucho, afterwards, who were all really grounded and cool people. We spoke about music and shared how the scene works in our respective countries, which was interesting to hear. Electric Parlor were humbled that we’d come to see them, but after listening to their debut album several times, the pleasure was all mine. They gave us free t-shirts to commemorate the occasion too which was a nice touch. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get to see them in Manchester at some point and show them a night in our city, but I’d be hard pressed to top the LA night they showed us!