Spaceland Productions brought heavy vibes back to Downtown’s famously haunted Alexandria Hotel on New Year’s Eve. While the spirits were evidently out in force, with more than one attendee reporting being “creeped out” by the place (maybe they’d read its latest Yelp reviews), the flow of champagne and bone-crushing music made for an appropriately “Old LA” evening out.
New Year’s gigs are a regular ritual for the Melvins, an appropriate palate cleaner prior to a new beginning, an hour of ecstatic brainwashing that will leave the mind wiped clean. The current four-piece, two-drummer lineup that adds Jared Warren and Coady Willis from Big Business to the founding duo of King Buzzo and Dale Crover has been the band’s most stable in a near thirty-year career, and may prove to be their most rewarding. In a set that Buzz described as “about two-thirds new stuff”, Crover and Willis sometimes resembled a taiko drum ensemble, layering complex cross-rhythms on an array of bells and chimes before coming together in unison for a stupefying THUD! There are few experiences in rock more physically impressive than standing right in front of Dale Crover as those sticks come down. It’s something like watching films of George Foreman hitting the heavy bag. You can see him leaving indentations with every stroke. And now there’s, like, two of him. I’m not sure if they’re the weirdest heavy metal band I’ve ever heard, or the most ass-kicking avant garde one, but it’s cool to see them still seeking out new ways to be uncompromising and fun.
Fun is a big part of the Redd Kross thing as well, and the band had its glam face on for the gathered revelers as they took the stage shortly before midnight. Jeff and Steve McDonald, joined by Neurotica-era drummer Roy McDonald and guitarist Jason Shapiro, played a greatest-hits set for their select audience. Early originals like “Linda Blair” and “Annette’s Got The Hits” and long-familiar cover tunes like “Blow You A Kiss In The Wind” (as sung by Elizabeth Montgomery on Bewitched) and “Pretty Please Me” mixed with tracks from their powerful new album Researching The Blues. Phaseshifter keyboardist Gere Fennelly made an appearance for a roaring “Jimmy’s Fantasy”, for which Jeff and Steve ordered the soundman to “crank the gnarly keytar solo!” I can’t think of any other band that has quite so many 40+ punker ladies elbowing for space in front of the stage as if trying to touch Shaun Cassidy.
While it was interesting being in a new place, the Alexandria leaves a lot to be desired as a venue, notwithstanding its colorful location on 5th and Spring (New Yorkers indignant about the gentrification of Times Square would love it here.) There’s a certain charm to the decrepit hotel ambience, reminiscent of the Scream Club when it was held at the Park Plaza Hotel, but the low, barely-lit stage and muddy acoustics in the room made it tough to see or hear anything clearly without joining the battle of the elbows up front.
All photos by Elise Thompson for the Los Angeles Beat.