Last Night: Crystal Antlers at The Smell

BY NATE JACKSON

Last Night:
Crystal Antlers, Ancestors, Slang Chickens and Magic Lantern at The Smell, Los Angeles.

Better Than: Missing Obama's inaugural address because you were stuck at your crappy job. Good thing there's TiVo.

If you could choose one place to celebrate the inauguration of the 44th (well it's actually the 43rd but we won't go there) president of the United States, where would it be? Did anyone say "a dark, rat-infested LA alleyway?" No? How strange. Well, if you knew the unabashed sonic fervor that awaited you inside the walls of The Smell, downtown LA's famed hipster haven, then maybe you would have been walking down that dark alley with me last night.

Before they pack their bags for Europe, Long Beach's Crystal Antlers graced their fans with one last hurrah alongside a slew of noisy up-and-comers that included Ancestors, Slang Chickens and fellow Long Beach rockers Magic Lantern.
If anyone has bothered to flip to the music section of the Weekly over the past year or so, then you've already aware that we've showered so much praise on Magic Lantern that it's amazing that the flame hasn't been doused yet. Be that as it may, it's worth noting that this five-piece jam band did what they normally do: They showed up. They kicked ass. And they left.

By the time Slang Chickens took the stage, it was about 10 p.m. and the crowd was in full force, attendance-wise. But if we're talking energy, I have to say it was kind of a limp dick bunch. Even the rowdy, Social D-esque styling of Slang Chicken did little to rev up the flurry of flannel shirts, skin-tight jeans and ironic mustaches, despite the band giving a spirited, half-hour display of rockabilly abandon sullied with sweat. Plus, it was kinda of nice to have one straight-ahead band that decided to forgo all the effect-driven bells and whistles--not to mention the fact that the lead singer plays banjo.

But of course, nothing rings of freedom quite like the brutal dissonance of art rock rogues beating the crap put of their instruments with boomerangs of heavy delay bouncing off weathered brick walls. Enter LA instrumental experimentalists Ancestors. Actually, for the sake of full disclosure, I'm going to give them a new name: LOUD RUMBLING SOUND EFFECTS THAT FUCK YOUR EARS MERCILESSLY UNTIL THEY BLEED. (That was my take anyway.) Fronted by thick-bearded guitarist Justin Maranga, this band takes the droning sonic build-ups of Mogwai and fuses it with the doom and destruction of a band like Neurosis. In other words, fucking loud.

But you gotta hand it to Crystal Antlers for stringing together some of the most echo-effect-based rock bands in the most echo-friendly concrete concert venue in L.A. It was like they wanted to make SURE we were all deaf by the end of it. And as the band assembled on stage in the dim light, it was clear that they were going to add the finishing touches to my hearing impairment.

They opened their whirlwind set with "Until the Sun Dies Part 2", a long-standing crowd favorite. In fact, it's pretty safe to say that most of their songs seemed pretty familiar to a faithful audience of 20somethings, who finally perked up as the band raged nonstop through songs off their latest EP. Animated and unabashed as they are, it's hard to ignore the presence this Long Beach outfit of noisy musicians, even if you can't stand their music. After 45 minutes of writhing and sweating on stage, I'm pretty convinced that these guys could win just about anybody over.

Critics Notebook:

Personal Bias: Being able to hear is severely overrated.

Random Detail: As the cherub-faced crowds spilled out of The Smell for the official between-bands smoke break, I've never felt so safe and non-threatened in a dark alley in my life.

By the Way: Cheers to those who continuously spouted Obama's name in between songs during the Slang Chickens set. We did it y'all!

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