Review & photos by Andrew Bansal
November 21st 2016, The Echoplex, Los Angeles CA: Los Angeles based all-female hard rock/punk/grunge group L7 started out in 1985 and were prominent in the ’90s as they thrived in a musical environment that very much embraced them. In 2001, they went on indefinite hiatus, but announced a reunion in 2014 with original bassist Jennifer Finch also returning to the fold for the first time since ’96. They started touring again, and a Kickstarter-funded documentary ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ was completed (with an as yet unknown release date). Back with a bang, L7 set out to rekindle the spark between their members on stages in Europe and North America, and last Monday November 21st, they played a sold-out hometown show at the Echoplex for a gathering of eager, excited fans.
Doors opened at 9 to let in the long queue of ticket holders waiting outside, and shortly after, sole opening act Sex Stains took the stage for what was certainly an entertaining performance in all its weirdness and eccentricity. One of the two female lead singers looked like she came straight from an anti-Trump rally, wearing a ‘Fuck Donald Trump’ shirt and placing a sign that said the same in front of the drum kit. Prancing and spazzing out all over the stage and at times diving into the crowd, the girls created what could only be described as motion blur, so much so that a clear photo of them could not be taken despite countless attempts. With this engaging visual element and a weird experimental punk sound, inspired in part by L7 themselves as clear from the tampon joke, Sex Stains were fun to witness and served as an apt precursor to the main act. In the bigger picture, their politically charged demeanor also indicates that just as expected, the era under the new president elect is already fueling a revolution in music-based art.
At around 10 PM, L7 arrived on stage amidst tremendous excitement, and visibly seemed thrilled to be back performing together in front of a packed house full of fans in their hometown. Vocalist/guitarist Donita Sparks was effortlessly great in all her efforts as the frontwoman, but bassist/vocalist Jennifer Finch was the real livewire on stage with her bass play, vocal delivery, stage presence and wide range of facial expressions. The two interacted excellently with each other as well as with the fans, Sparks surfing atop the crowd on a few occasions. Guitarist/vocalist Suzi Gardner and drummer Demetra Plakas also played their respective roles to perfection. Their songs are as simple as they are full of attitude, and this aspect was quite evident through this set. The four members combined so well, they continued straight from where they left almost 15 years ago, almost as if they never went away. The band played a comprehensive career-spanning set, much to the delight of fans that knew every word of just about every song, and the energy level in the crowd did not drop at any moment as L7 swiftly moved from one song to the next, keeping the talking to a minimum and playing as much music as they could.
Both in attitude and musicianship, L7 offered something much more subversive than the run-of-the-mill bands in the glory days of grunge. They’re clearly not forgotten, as they continue to enjoy a fan-base that can pack a 500-capacity club on a Monday night in 2016. Whether they keep playing the old songs as a nostalgia act or write a new album is as of yet unclear, but there’s no doubt that L7 has a place and relevance in modern-day music, and can surely stay alive as long as they want.
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More L7 photos:
L7 set list:
06. Fuel My Fire
07. One More Thing
08. I Need
10. Crackpot Baby
11. Must Have More
13. Freak Magnet
16. Shit List
17. American Society
18. Pretend We’re Dead
19. Fast and Frightening