Photo credit: Dean Keim
L7 don’t defy expectations — they detonate them. When their punk-metal-grunge mélange smacked America in the face in the late ’80s and early ’90s, they flew in the face of preconceptions that 1) Girls can’t truly rock out and 2) the best grunge comes from Seattle.
On Wednesday night at a Polish punk/dance venue in Brooklyn, the ferocious quartet demolished another long-standing rock preconception: That reunited bands never recapture their former glory.
Admittedly, I’m too young to confirm that the 2015 edition of L7 — who shredded absurdly hard at Warsaw in Greenpoint last night — are every bit as good as they were back in the day. But without a doubt, they were one of the hardest, rawest rock bands I’ve seen onstage in years.
Their drumming is more about primal pounding than tiresome theatrics, and unlike some men wielding an axe like a phallic extension, L7’s guitars cut straight through the bullshit — whether they’re delivering a razor-sharp riff or a libidinous groove.
As befitting a band who earned its greatest success in the ’90s alt explosion and went on hiatus in 2001, the audience was equal parts never-say-die punk veterans in their 30s/40s and Brooklyn hipsters, presumably introduced to L7 by the power of music blogosphere acclaim.
But the age (and fashion) gap didn’t seem to bother anyone by the time the band rolled around to “Andres,” the second song of their set (and their second highest-charting hit). Heads banged with vigorous abandon to the crunching Hungry for Stink track, and as L7 rolled out classics from their most celebrated LP, 1992’s Bricks Are Heavy, sweaty faces lit up with an enthusiasm for some of the most fun music ever created by disaffected youth.
While a room full of people dancing and screaming along to “Pretend We’re Dead” did make one long for a time when Tank Girl actually seemed cool, the most ’90s moments came courtesy of the stage banter. When Suzi Gardner broke out an ironic shit-eating grin and exclaimed, “Golly, this is fun!”, her smothered-in-sarcasm comment brought to mind a long-dormant tradition in alt-rock: Parodying the gee-whiz enthusiasm of the ’50s. (That trend’s death is understandable: Almost no one who regularly attends rock concerts these days has parents who were teens in the ’50s, so ruthlessly mocking Leave It to Beaver-isms is no longer relevant.)
But L7 had fun with the generation gap. They mocked a variety of current trends, repeatedly asking the audience how many people were sexting and twerking these days — all while maintaining sardonic grins. But the best was from bassist Jennifer Finch, who derisively mentioned the 21st century #hottopic of squirting. “Back in my day,” she deadpanned, “We just called it peeing.”
Stage banter and mockery of Internet culture aside, one thing remains ageless about L7 — they way they attack a song. While the music is unmistakable ’90s, their stage show is as vital, vicious and pissed off as ever. Seeing L7 reunited onstage wasn’t a nostalgic pleasure – it felt more like a privilege.