An easy way to guess the kind of music a band plays without listening to it, is to see how the musicians get dressed.
If this is generally true, it becomes a certainty when the band comes from California.
The place where you expect to see any kind of frills to go along with the substance, sometimes even without any substance, is Los Angeles.
Plain clothes, t-shirts, denim, or a cheap cotton shirt from a LA band are an unambiguous example of California indie-rock. Pavement anyone?
Indie-music dress code doesn’t accept any concession to draw attention towards aside from music.
That is why the occurrence of Los Angeles alternative rock scene his historically as frequent as Jamaican Olympic skiing squads. Wendy Fonarow, knows it at her expenses. She is a UCLA anthropologist but to write Empire of Dirt, her essay about indie-music rituals and my favourite book about this argument, she had to travel to UK countless times.
We travelled to California just once. Driving up through the curvy slopes of Mulholland drive to follow David Lynch dream, we parked midway through for a quick hike on a dusty city park pathway that led to the top of a hill.
At the car park, a charming owner of a cabriolet BMW stopped next to us. A dog was sitting next to him. The animal, dressed and looked after as a blonde Hollywood star, glanced at us as if we were two exotic aliens polluting his area. “People are strange, when you are a stranger…”, Jim Morrison jingle reverberated into my head.
We walked to the top of the hill. The view from there is at the same time breathtaking and scary.
On the left the “Hollywood” sign with its huge white letters is blurred by a grey smog that arises from millions of cars swimming in an bondless sea of reinforced concrete, asphalt and sporadic green spots. You stare up at the sky and it is blue, on the horizon it is dark grey.
A very young couple dressed as if they were just out of the Beverly Hills TV series, was flirting on a bench paying no attention to us.
We were just few hundreds meters from that celebrity heaven glorified as Beverly Hills. So close to the villas of the greatest rockstars that the risk to stumble upon Madonna or Bon Jovi and be devastated acknowledging their real existence was genuine.
Facing that intimidating, overwhelming, uninviting view, impossible to choose as a place to settle, I wondered why Morrissey took so much to move to Rome. L.A. confidential.
No Age did not exist at that time. No Age music would have been my perfect soundtrack to that experience.
No Age is a L.A. pair of vegan friends in love with rock music. They formed at the end of 2005. Randy Randall, guitarist, and Dean Spunt drummer and singer.
In few months they have quickly become from Los Angeles one of the most talked about bands of the whole underground scene.
Coming from an hardcore background, quite inevitable from a place that gave birth to the best hardcore bands, No Age don’t play hardcore but pick from it the most peculiar aptitude: to put together trashing noise without being disturbing.
Truth is that behind that noise, produced just by a guitar and rumbling drums, there are in fact several layers of American music.
Signed by Sub Pop after few EPs, it is not surprising that some Seattle sound, as Mudhoney adoration for the Black Flag, permeates their music.
Randy Randall studied well his heroes.
Thurston Moore bouncing strums are mixed with the constant use of strident, coarse feedback kindly offered by Kevin Shields. A rich starter to remind everyone that alternative music wouldn’t exist without Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine.
Then abrupt jangly guitar riffs of Stephen Malkmus heritage are served on a contemporary plate to give the songs a Pavement restyling to adapt modern California.
A sound that seem designed to make Pitchfork cry (92 out of 100) of joy.
Dean Spunt maltreats his simple drum kit and, in the mess of the beat that he produces, he surprisingly finds a space to sing. What he sings is beyond my English understanding but the “melodic lines” of his voice naturally match the reckless clamour they generate.
Nouns, their debut album made of 12 songs running just over thirty minutes, is absolutely essential. No space for useless decorations.
An outstanding album that explains several points. Noise-punk can be very catchy, Los Angeles exists beyond glamour and plastic, a duo can go beyond garage-blues or electro-dance and outlive the absence of a bass guitar.
Live their set last longer than the CD and expands the songs beyond the recorded version without losing charm. Noise arrows flashe out of the Marshalls to show how abrasive modern rock can be. A very young audience physically appreciates, dances and surf-crowd along the protracted choruses.
They have found a Sub Pop record to love. Beyond the erudite folk produced at their Seattle headquarter, Sub Pop offices in California clearly spot a band that is ready to lead a sonic wave from the Pacific Ocean to the world.
With Radiohead’s Colin Grenwood touring with a No Age T-shirt on, you can be sure they won’t lack support and success.
If you are after some clever noise-rock, get used to No Age on-line. Their music is on [myspace] their life on this [blog]
High stages in small venues are best for the fans. They can see well even from the back. They are a bit of a problem for photographers standing in the pit.
At festivals (those are very high stages) you see photographers bringing together with their cameras a ladder to step up and a long telephoto to step back.
On a small venue the situation is quite different. With a stage about 150cm tall and the performer less than a meter from you the conditions are not straightforward. You are too low and prone to point the camera up.
Telephoto lenses help to compress the perspective minimizing the effect you get shooting from a lower position.
They are a solution but often you are so close that close-up portraits are the only kind of image you can get, especially if using a not-full-frame camera.
The use of a wideangle helps to include more action but emphasizes the perspective. It is good if you want to magnify a performance, as a musician soloing, but is not right if your idea is to portray a star down to earth.
One handy and forgotten option, which works better on auto focus cameras, is to raise your gear above your head. Put a wideangle on and try to shoot without pointing through the viewfinder.
If you are digital (I know you bloody are!) you can’t go wrong with the burst mode and the live-view option that allows you to see the frame from the screen.
A very useful tool to avoid the main problem you encounter, cropping the subject involuntarily.
Another option, if it is there and security is not picky, is to step on the barrier that divide the pit from the audience. Usually there is space to stand on and it is high enough to minimize the difference in height. Your balance won’t be great and fans won’t be happy. Be quick and ready to be pushed down to the pit by the front row!