I hadn’t seen the punk icons L7 since way back in the mid-90’s, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I saw them at the Warsaw in Greenpoint on Wednesday, or if they and the music would have aged as well as I hoped. It all almost felt like going through time in reverse, as I started cynical, was as eager and energetic as I was back in those glorious 90’s days skipping my way into the show, wild and crazed as a wild teenager during the debautchery of the mosh pit, and I came out the other end feeling reborn in the glow of one of the finest and rowdiest rock shows I had experienced in ages.
Opening the show was Brooklyn’s own smooth sprawling rockers Fort Lean, who mixed a 90’s Weezer quirky vibe with more of a synthy 80’s new wave Simple Minds smoothness. They’ve been playing and releasing material since 2011 but only just released their first LP Quiet Day earlier this year, and they have already released another EP since, so they are clearly building quite the arsenal of melodic art pop themselves.
When L7 hit the scene in the late 80’s, the music industry clearly had no idea what to make of this all-female punkish hard rock outfit from L.A., as they defied all conventions, definitions, and rules of what was acceptable for a band of any genre. Apart from rocking as hard and aggressively as congruent male punk bands like Black Flag and Circle Jerks, they also sang about abuse, sexuality, racism, patriarchy, and female empowerment just as much as partying hard and living the rock n’ roll lifestyle. As they roared into the 90’s, they ended up influencing so many of the exploding numbers of alt-rock scenes, especially those of the ultra-huge grunge eruption, but also the seriously aggressive riot grrrl movement of feminist revolt against society’s anti-female stigmata. They’ve sadly been inactive as a unit since the late 90’s, but thankfully they just started playing again last year, and I could not have been more happy and satisfied that I caught them this time.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the scream heard around the World,” exclaimed bassist Jennifer Finch while making the L7 hand sign before launching into the power chord rocker “One More Thing,” showing exactly how bad-ass they would be as the floor erupted and the crush of sweaty bodies leaped and shoved forward with rejoicing excitement. They seemed to center their song selection from around their initial 90’s emergence, with lots of 1990’s seminal LP Smell the Magic and 1992’s Bricks Are Heavy being played, as they blasted through classics like “Shove,” “Deathwish,” their classic “American Society” cover, “Pretend We’re Dead,” and during “Shitlist” I thought the packed moshing pit might actual explode. I was especially surprised to see lots of younger fans getting all hot, sweaty, and crazy in the mound of bodies, showing their influence is far more cross-generation than one would initially think.
The line-up is still propelled full forward by founding guitarists Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner, and the drummer Demetra Plakas has been expertly pounding those skins since way back in ’88. However, I was particularly bewitched and entranced by the return of the fiery redhead bassist Jennifer Finch, who had dipped out of the band in the mid 90’s but was now back in all of her mystifying barefoot and US flag bra wearing glory.
As the ladies took the stage, trading fronting duties as they had since the beginning, it really felt like a reunion in the truest sense. They really embraced the idea of nostalgia while also mocking it constantly, making fun of generational conceptions with many ridiculous and funny observations, like when Suzi said “Who needs fucking yoga!” as she whipped the sweat from her forehead, to which Finch replied “Back in my day they didn’t have yoga, nor did they have squirting, we just called it peeing,” and to which Sparks chimed in with “how many people out there are ‘sexting’? How many are twerking and sexting at the same time?” They proved to me you can be nostalgic if you want, but you better bring the power and vitality or else it isn’t worth anything. Mostly though, they just made me feel better about getting older, as they showed how kick-ass you can grow up to be.
Article: Dean Keim