You can tell my ass is kinda/sorta…umm, “sweet”, cuz my ass has lived in the city of West Hollywood for way too many years than I care to mention, yet last night was the first time I went to the world famous Troubadour club to catch one of my favorite bands, The Raveoneettes, performing live (ooh, if I hear one more person call them the Raisinettes, I’m gonna...). Their new album Raven in the Grave dropped last month and I’ve been beating that shit to mutherfucking DEATH!!!
The Raveonettes are this kinda/sorta like…cool Danish Indie rock band with a retro inspired sound that’s a throwback to the ’50s and ’60s. They mix tow-part vocal harmonies (male and female, but the guy sounds like a girl) and add dirty hard-edged guitars that distort into a screeching static feedback that makes my skin crawl (in a good way). But I mostly like them for their dark lyrics which combine love, loss, lust, sex, betrayal, drugs, crime, murder, suicide and other themes that tap into my inner teenage girl angst. The lead singers are Sune Rose Wagner (that would be the odd-looking boy, believe-it-or-not) and the beautiful Sharin Foo, who makes up for her somewhat weak voice by looking like she jumped out of a vintage Vogue mag.
My first impression of the insides of the Troubadour is that of a recovering drug addict. You get the sense that there was a lot of drug use at this club. I’m talkin’ about the dirty kind of drugs. This is the place where Janis Japlin partied the night before they found her dead at some seedy hotel, for fuck’s sake. Yet cut to today, and the heightened security is like a box of condoms at a bareback party (meaning it ain’t the same), however this vintage joint still reeks of a serious OD. I don’t know if it’s the old dark wood or the various photographs of Rock legends, but the place triggered me to wanna do a bump of a lil’ sumthin’-sumthin’…just to make a point—Alas…(sigh) to do anything harsher than some form of medical marijuana would be a total cliche. You could smell the pot, but you couldn’t see it; that’s because people were digesting it via brownies, popcorn, gum or whatever other shape Maryjane has morphed into these modern days (again–ain’t the same). Today the only smoke you get inside the Troubadour is the fake kind that comes out of a smoke machine to give the stage some kind of edgy effect thanks to a smoking ban in West Hollywood (what is it not? The same!).
I’m sure I walked past The Troubadour plastered out of my mind many times, but I never actually partied inside this place. That’s because–unlike the world famous House of Blues on Sunset Blvd, which lent its space to the gays on the last weekend of every month waaayyy back in the day–The Troubadour has never gone gay-for-pay (unless you count Elton John playing there back in his hetero Hey Days).
I ran into a guy who had seen the show several times already. He warned us that the show was loud. Dangerously loud. “Some people use earplugs,” the guy mentioned, “But those guys are big pussies. You have to catch the show in the raw.”
I quickly realized that the stage took up a lot of space at the Troubadour. It was close to the bar. Dangerously close. It didn’t matter if we went upstairs, or to the far back of the room, it felt like you were all up on the drum sets and the three electric guitars. I fought a suffocating GULP. Then I noticed a sign that read “EARPLUGS ONLY $2”. It was a total rip-off—how EVER…dare I pussy out and purchase myself a pair? Earplugs were the exact opposite of anything Rock-n-Roll, but fuck-it, when my friend leaned over to get himself a drink, he made the mistake of asking me if I wanted anything. “Earplugs, pleeeeze.” I told him with a thin wavering, cringing smile (EMBARRASSING!). He shook his head, but I got my $2 ear protectors–I’m sorry, but my ass is already blind as fuck. I don’t need to add hard of hearing to my ailments.
The band quietly walked out, took their positions, said a shy–almost awkward hello, and then they busted out with the song “Recharge & Revolt,” which transferred over well as a live number. It was loud, but not painful. Then—I think around the third song–Sharin motioned something to someone in the control room. That’s when the volume went up several notches. The scratch of the bass guitar almost blew my bangs right off of my forehead. Eyes became tight all around me, but everyone stood their ground and stiffly bobbed their heads to the sound. It gave a new meaning to the words “Dead Sound”–another one of their songs. I was gonna rough it in a futile attempt to maintain my cool—fuck the earplugs—but that shit was obnoxiously loud, which was kind of dumb, cuz you couldn’t even make out what they were singing. It felt like someone was boxing my ears in. My brain felt gooey, like it would ooze out of my nose. I fished for my earplugs feeling like a swollen va-jay-jay. I folded my arms nonchalantly. I scratched my chin. Then I ran my fingers through my hair. I swiftly jammed those fuckers deep into my skull, you swore I was a ninja. It felt like I had these giant corkscrews sticking out my head, but I didn’t give a shit (much). The plugs completely altered the experience. Gone was the screeching feedback. I was left with the vibrations of the bass pounding against my chest.
I looked around to see how others were handling the sound. Was it just me? But up on the VIP balcony, I noticed an elderly couple sitting side by side. This was an odd venue for senior citizens. The white-haired Rock-n-Roll granny held her place, which made me suspect she was packin’ earplugs of her own. However, the little old man crumbled sideways, looking like he would collapse, while he cupped both sides of his head to stop his eyes from vibrating. I could make out a scowl on his face. I felt his pain. And in turn I felt old. It was sad. So I took a picture (evil grin).
THE SHIT WAS LOUD!!!
Those standing near the front of the stage gradually pulled back, which was fine by me. I could inch dangerously close without damaging my hearing. By the time they did “Aly, Walk With Me”–a fan favorite–for a finale, the floor was noticeably less crowded. For some reason “Aly…” started on the wrong note, or something was off, which didn’t feel intentional. It didn’t matter though, because at this point ears had to be ringing all around me. I’m surprised I didn’t see people walking out with blood trickling down their necks.
I pulled out my earplugs with deliberateness when the show was over. I’m sure my ass looked “sweet”. But it was the best $2.00 I ever spent. No lie.
Anyway, the band is The Raveonettes and album is called Raven in the Grave. You MUST run out and buy their record. And by Record, I mean CD–err, I mean MP3. And by “buy”, I mean download. It’s what all the kids are doing these dayz.
PS: Below is a timeline of The Troubadour that I stole from their website (troubadour.com), which I found interesting. The place was full of debut from acts that would explode into huge stars, to final performances from huge stars before their inevitable fall. Check it out if you have a free moment.
1957 – The Troubadour opens. September – Lenny Bruce is arrested on obscenity charges. 1964 – After a gig by resident band The Men, Bob Dylan comes onstage for an impromptu “folk-twist” jam session – attended only by Troubadour staff. Shortly afterward, Dylan makes pop music history by switching from folk to folk-rock. 1965 – The Byrds, who met at a Monday open mic, perform their classic take on Dylan’s “Tambourine Man” for the first time. 1966 – Buffalo Springfield make their live debut. 1968 – June 4 – Joni Mitchell makes her Los Angeles debut. September – Comedian Richard Pryor records his live debut album. September – Gordon Lightfoot US debut. 1969 – Poco, late from a Denver gig, arrive to find unknown comic Steve Martin doing their songs on banjo to a rapturous crowd. June – Neil Young plays his debut solo show in LA. July – James Taylor makes his solo debut. – September 3 – Tim Buckley records Live at the Troubadour 1969. 1970 – Cheech and Chong are discovered by Lou Adler at a Monday Hoot Night. The Eagles’ Don Henley and Glenn Frey meet in the front bar. Elton John makes his U.S. debut, introduced by Neil Diamond. Neil Diamond releases Gold, an album recorded live at the Troubadour. Kris Kristofferson makes his Los Angeles debut opening for Linda Rondstadt.October 3- Janis Joplin parties at the Troubadour and the next day is found dead at the Landmark Hotel from a heroin overdose. November 24-29. – James Taylor plays “You’ve got a Friend” for the first time. He heard his piano player (as well as opening act) , Carole King, play it during soundcheck and they decided to give it a try. 1971 – Lori Lieberman writes the song “Killing Me Softly with His Song” inspired by a performance by Don McLean at the Troubadour. Waylon Jennings performs in the cult classic film Cisco Pike. Tom Waits is discovered by rock manager Herb Cohen during an amateur night. April 6 – Carly Simon, opening for Cat Stevens, meets James Taylor for the first time. They later marry. – 1972 – Billy Joel makes his LA debut as the opening act for Ballin’ Jack. – May 16-21. – Randy Newman returns to the Troubadour for a six night run to perform his masterpiece album “Sail Away”. 1973 – Van Morrison records his live record “It’s Too Late to Stop Now…” The Bryds reunite and launch tour with a Troubadour show. May – Pointer Sisters make their debut performance. 1974 –January 30 – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band closed the hyped Columbia Records showcase week with a 90 minute set…that starts at 2 in the morning! March 12 – John Lennon and Harry Nilsson are escorted out of the club for heckling the Smothers Brothers. August 25 – Elton John plays benefit show to raise money for UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. September – On the last night of a triumphant week of Average Whie Band shows, drummer Robbie McIntosh dies of a drug overdose. – 1975 – January 17-19 – Miles Davis records the album “Live at the Troubadour”. March – Leonard Cohen, performing a five night stand, meets with Phil Spector and Bob Dylan between sets. The next year Leonard and Phil start work on their record “Death of a Ladies Man”. August 25 – Elton John returns to play a “5 year anniversary show” November 6-8 – Willie Nelson performs his new album “Red Headed Stranger” for a live radio broadcast. 1976 – January 23 – Bob Dylan and HIs Rolling Thunder Revue, en-route to their next gig, pull over and play a short set during a Roger Miller encore. – 1978 – November – The Knack, who were then unsigned, headline with special guests Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Stephen Stills, and Ray Manzarek. 1979 – Rickie Lee Jones releases “Chuck E.’s in Love” – a song written about musician and former Troubadour employee, Chuck E. Weiss. – The Eagles release “Sad Cafe” – a song written about the Troubadour. – 1980 – Tim Hardin, a long time Troubadour regular, plays his final show. 1982 – August 18 – Metallica make their Los Angeles headline debut. – 1984 – Hair-metal band Warrant play their debut show. 1985 – June 6 – Guns N Roses debut of the classic “Appetite for Destruction” line-up. 1986 – February 28 – Guns N Roses play the show that gets them signed to Geffen. – 1991 – March 10 – Pearl Jam, formerly Mookie Blaylock, perform for the first time under their new name. 1994 – November 9 – Korn play their first Los Angeles show as the opening act for Corrosion of Conformity. – 1995 – November 24-26 – No Doubt perform record release shows for Tragic Kingdom. – 1996 – System of a Down perform their first headline show. May 16 – Elvis Costello and longtime collaborator Steve Nieve record “Live at The Troubadour” for a live 4 CD box set. – September 10 – Fiona Apple perfoms her first live U.S. gig. – 1997 – June 13 – Radiohead make their US live debut of OK Computer. – 1998 – August 20 – Shonen Knife make a surprise appearance at a gig by Joey Ramone & the Independents. The band is introduced onstage by Joey as “The Osaka Ramones.” 1999 – Foo Fighters’ Chris Shiflett plays his debut show. February 14 – Troubadour owner and founder, Doug Weston, passes away.May 22 – Johnny Cash does one of his last performances with his wife June Carter Cash. – 2001-October 22-26 – Joe Strummer plays his final LA shows. October 28 – Starsailor make their Los Angeles debut. May 16-17 – Record release shows for White Stripes’ White Blood Cells. – 2002 – March 7 – David Grohl, playing as a drummer, makes his first live appearance with Queens of the Stone Age. 2003 – November – Phantom Planet releases “Live at the Troubadour”. 2004 – March 19, Franz Ferdinand performs their first LA show. 2005 – March 11 – Coldplay perform a secret show, debuting five songs from their third album, X&Y. June 18 – The Go-Betweens play their final US show before the death of co-founding member Grant McLennan in 2006. – 2006 – January 6 – The Strokes debut material from their new record “First Impressions of Earth”. May 13 – Red Hot Chili Peppers record release fan show for their new record “Stadium Arcadium”. May 16-20 – Rise Against play five sold out nights previewing their new record “The Sufferer & The Witness”. August 25 – The Killers debut tracks from their new album “Sam’s Town”.- October 14 – Lilly Allen makes her US debut. – December 13 – Comedians of Comedy featuring Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifinakas, Sarah Silverman, & David Cross film their DVD “Live at the Troubadour”. 2007 – November 28-30 – Troubadour celebrates it’s 50th anniversary with a series of shows with James and Carole King. They recreate their original Troubadour debut together along with their original band (Russ Kunkel, Danny Kortchmar and Lee Sklar). 2008 – April 25-29 – Tom Petty and fellow Heartbreakers Mike Campbell & Benmont Tench reform their original band Mudcrutch and play their belated LA debut. May 22-23 – Hall and Oates return to The Troubadour, where they made their LA debut 35 years earlier as the opening act for Harry Chapin. December 13 – The Cure perform their first US club show in over 20 years. 2009 – May 18 – NBC awards Troubadour as “Best Venue in LA” by way of their Golden Local debate.