The genre called indie rock has something of a self-contradicting name these days. With bands like the Strokes, the Killers and Interpool selling enough records to compete with some of mainstream radio’s biggest artists, it’s obvious that “indie” no longer has any correlation to “independent.”
It’s true that every underground music scene is eventually exploited by corporate labels, but that doesn’t mean the underground goes away.
However, indie rock in the independent sense is still alive and well right here in Los Angeles, a scene kept alive by bands whose talent rivals anything being pushed by the major labels.
These bands aren’t about selling more records or getting their pictures on the most magazine covers; they’re all about their live performance. These are five of the best indie bands in L.A., recommended picks for anyone who wants to familiarize themselves with the local scene and see a great performance of great music.
Drawing equally from ’60s mod influences and ’80s new wave, the Adored’s fashionably hyperactive indie rock anthems are an L.A. hipster’s wet dream. And while they probably spend more time on their hair each morning than your 13-year-old sister, they aren’t just another collection of trendy part-time models trying to form a band for the sake of being cool.
Sure, their songs are centered around the trebly guitars, dancey disco-punk rhythms and deliberately sloppy vocals that seem to be so in vogue these days, but the Adored are also skilled songwriters and energetic live performers.
True gems of the L.A. underground, the band mostly sticks to the small club circuit, far and away from the reaches of KROQ and MTV. They do, however, have the potential to have their popularity explode any minute now, so catch one of their electrifying live shows around L.A. while they’re still keeping in tune with the meaning of “indie” true to its roots.
Look for their new EP coming out in November, to be followed with extensive local gigging. For more information visit www.rocktheadored.com.
The Waking Hours
Staples of the L.A. music scene for some years now, power pop veterans the Waking Hours know how to entertain.
“Their albums aren’t really all that exciting, but live, they’re really fun,” said Chloe Hunt, an L.A. native who has seen many of their shows.
They do indeed inject a jubilant energy into their live performances that their records seem to lack but that isn’t all that makes the Waking Hours one of L.A.’s best live bands.
The trio’s impressively tight musicianship and three-part harmonies, paired with their tendencies to switch off on the instruments and their ridiculous stage antics, more than make up for their fairly generic songs.
Lead singer/guitarist Tom Richards has been known to destroy equipment and break guitar strings with his teeth during their sets of sunny, melodic guitar-pop and no Waking Hours show ever ends without eliciting some kind of crowd involvement.
They’re a little tacky in their over-the-top performances and they know it, but that’s all part of the fun. Catch them at the Troubadour on Tuesday and experience them for yourself. For more information visit www.wakinghours.com.
Dance Disaster Movement
Dance Disaster Movement is a band that people either love or absolutely despise. First time audience member Mike Morrisette was nearly at a loss for words after their set.
“Wow … that was crazy,” was all he could get out of his mouth. There’s no denying that Dance Disaster Movement wages a full-scale blitzkrieg assault on the ears, especially for a first time listener.
The band consists of only two men, who always wear white. The drummer plays a spastic blend of hardcore blast-beats, jazz intricacy and trashy dance-punk rhythms, his set replete with a mic’ed trashcan and electronic pads, in addition to traditional acoustic drums.
The vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist runs his gritty, post-apocalyptic riffs through a looping device, creating hypnotic textures of harshly distorted instrumentation, while singing in percussive, feverish screams punctuated by quiet melodies.
Few bands take hold of a crowd like Dance Disaster Movement because half of the crowd stands there with their jaws dropped, unsure of what to think, and the other half dances with reckless abandon to their fractured but groove-based avalanche of sonic chaos.
For additional information visit www.dimmak.com/ddm.
Midnight Movies are a psychodelic pop outfit
fronted by female drummer/vocalist Gena Olivier, who are often compared to such diverse acts as the Velvet Underground and Stereolab.
Their sound combines dark, shimmering guitar, eerie atmospheric keyboards and drumming that is an unlikely hybrid of straight rock beats and primal tribal energy.
While their spacey instrumentation, ethereal vocals and overall mellow vibe might not seem like they would translate into the best live performance, Midnight Movies still find a way to captivate their audience, though in a different way than a band like Dance Disaster Movement or the Waking Hours.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll find many people dancing at their shows, it’s not unusual to see most of the audience in a hypnotized daze, completely enveloped in the band’s otherworldly sounds.
Midnight Movies’ mesmerizing performance is a completely different experience than most shows, and that makes it all the more refreshing and enjoyable. They are currently on a national tour supporting Clinic and promoting their new self-title debut album.
For more information, visit www.midnightmovies.net.
Two years ago, Moving Units was playing at Downtown L.A.’s the Smell, a seedy concrete hole in the bad part of the city. The show was packed to capacity.
Hardly a year later, the band nearly sold out Pomona’s Glass House, a venue nearly ten times larger than the Smell.
Now, less than a year after that, they have released their debut full-length album and are nearing the end of a U.S. tour.
It’s no wonder this band’s popularity has multiplied so fast, considering they become a favorite live act of nearly everyone who sees them.
The trio’s dark, dancey groove-based post-punk sleaze is worlds apart from the now-trendy dance-rock set and not even the comatose L.A. crowds can stand still for long at one of their shows.
Audience members routinely turn the clubs into dance-floors and stage diving from random fans is not at all uncommon.
In addition to their rare ability to liven up the audience the way they do, Moving Units never fails to deliver an explosive performance that people will talk about for days after the show.
Expect local shows to start being booked at the end of their current tour. For more information visit www.movingunits.net.