I had the privilege of seeing L7 the other week. It was the first gig (the sold out one) of their two-date Melbourne leg — and would you believe, I’d forgotten I’d even bought a ticket until a week before the show. Only when an automated reminder materialised in my inbox did I realise I had committed, so for once it’s actually a case of thanks corporate-ticketing-company.
And you know what? It ain’t the first time it happened. My fears of early onset Alzheimer’s, however, are a discussion for another time. What were we talking about? See what I did there?
L7 live. Pic: Mik Thornley.
My love for L7 began when I was 12 or 13, when I played virtually to destruction a dubbed cassette of Bricks Are Heavy. I loved it from the first listen — the heavier tracks anyway — and how it merged the cynically tone of punk with the heaviness of metal, while substituting watered down whining, found in so much of the grunge that was so big at the time, with actual attitude.
About 20 years later I came across my second L7 album, Hungry For Stink. It was the odd one out in this 200-CD lot of grindcore, death and black metal — someone’s former collection — that I picked up in one go from a pawn shop.
Here was a massive and (for me) unprecedented collection of extreme music, an intense concentration of the heaviest, fastest and grimmest music on earth — and yet Hungry For Stink was one of the stand-outs from the whole lot. As with Bricks Are Heavy, there was just something about the attitude, the acerbic vocals, and those giant riffs.
Naturally, it was great to finally seem them live, this occasion being the previously mentioned first of two shows at 170 Russell aka Billboard, what with the first one having sold out.
Within one song, it was immediately apparent how tight L7 they were on stage. These women started rocking out 30 years ago, and while they had something of an extended break in the latter half, in close to two decades of rocking hard they’ve clearly run low on neither fuel nor fire. Incidentally, check out this unbelievable 1992 Australian tour itinerary where they played venues ranging from The Palace to Monash University. When did international acts stop doing this?
Fuel my fire! Pic: Mik Thornley.
The fact that the sound was excellent did not detract from the show. Is that a non sequitur? Probably. But then I’ve been to at least one gig at 170 Russell where the audio was rubbish.
Track selection was predictably pleasing. L7 have not released new material in 17 years so the setlist borrowed heavily from Bricks Are Heavy and Hungry For Stink — and nobody was complaining. Crowd favourite Fuel My Fire went off with its sawing groove, as did the other rockers like Pretend We’re Dead, Monster, Shitlist (I never got that one much, as I always thought it was a bit wimpy — instead of getting a pen to “write out a list” why not just destroy your enemies and everything they love?) and so forth. My personal favourite L7 song, One More Thing, was the highlight. Goddamn do I love that track so hard with its slow tempo and low-end riff.
Talking of One More Thing, it provided one of the rare opportunities where frontwoman Donita Sparks spoke to the audience — a gag about the lyric line “there’s nothing fun to do tonight” that which morphed into a reference to what the band were doing after the gig. Get it? Doing something fun tonight? Incidentally, the planned activities amounted to “we’re going to dance our asses off” at the after party.
Wait a moment... this isn't the Hawkwind gig. Pic: Mik Thornley. Wacky Photoshopping: me.
I would have liked to see more banter between songs, or at least something resembling dialogue. There was no faulting the tight guitar-ing and everything else, but a top gig could have been just that little bit better-er if there’d been just a touch more interaction. But that’s an exceedingly minor criticism.
I did have one more serious complaint about this L7 concert — but it has nothing to do with L7.
Goddamn phones. That story coming soon...