Last weekend I flew out to Los Angeles for the inaugural Lie Detector fest. I had a great time doing the things you do at punk fests… reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, hitting up record shops, trying to find killer food, and of course watching lots of bands. One nice thing about not knowing as many people on the west coast is that I never found myself in that conundrum where you’re talking with someone you want to hang out with, but a band is starting inside or in another room and you can’t decide whether the hang or the set is more important. I got in plenty of hanging, but I also watched every single band at Lie Detector and at the show I went to in Orange County on Sunday. I’m still in my post-isolation state of mind where I can’t get enough live music, so I soaked it all in. It helped that pretty much every single band was killer.
At one point I thought to myself that maybe I should post pics and vids to the Sorry State social media accounts, but I don’t want to go down that road. I spent years taking photographs at nearly every gig I went to. I had no training in photography and crappy equipment, but I still got a few decent shots over the years. However, once smartphones came out, looking at a sea of phones in the air at gigs got me out of photographing shows. Fortunately, there were some very skilled photographers at this weekend’s shows. Rob Coons has already posted some insane photos, and legendary punk photographer Alison Braun was at Friday’s gigs. I’m sure you can find tons of photos and videos on social media too. As for me, I’m thankful for being able to point your attention toward these skilled artists and experience shows without that sense of dissonance that comes from thinking about how the world in front of me should be framed and presented.
As I said, I didn’t see any poor sets this weekend, but my favorites were from Reek Minds, Public Acid, Fuga, Blazing Eye, and End Result. Electric Chair was also incredible every time. I think they’re a very special band with both great songs and a larger-than-life personality that puts them head and shoulders above pretty much every other current hardcore band. My favorite set of the weekend, though, was Prision Postumo. I’d heard Prision Postumo’s records and I liked their singalong punk style already, but live the band crackled with a different energy. As I was watching them, Minor Threat kept popping into my mind… like Minor Threat, Prision Postumo is anthemic but tough-sounding, and they have a charismatic frontperson you can’t take your eyes off of. I hope I get to see them again sometime.
Another band whose energy felt very different live than on record was Reek Minds. As with Prision Postumo, I liked Reek Minds’ records a lot already. They have an ultra-fast style in that Septic Death / Siege / Deep Wound territory with lots of whiplash changes in tempo and rhythm. I’ve seen a lot of fast bands like this in my life, and they’re usually way sloppier live than on record, the live sets typically getting by on noise, volume, and chaos rather than precision. Not so with Reek Minds. Their execution was razor-sharp despite their songs’ intricacy, and the beefy sound at the venue made them seem even heavier than their records. As much as I love their records, what came across live was a little different, and I hope they can capture some of that magic on their upcoming 12” on Iron Lung.
All of this reflecting on bands’ live sets versus their records makes me jealous of the people who get to see these bands all the time. When I fall for a band, I try to see them as often as I can. Records, at best, capture one moment in time, and there are so many bands that have had better moments. As great as Government Warning or Direct Control or Wasted Time or Double Negative’s records are, I saw sets by all those bands that were so much more special, and I know the people who only experienced those bands’ records don’t have the full picture. It makes me jealous of the people who get to fill out their picture of bands like Prision Postumo and Reek Minds, as well as thankful that I got at least a little peek at what I’m missing.