Photos by Mariana Timony
Friday February 1st was the date, downtown LA’s the Smell was the spot, and Big Joy Records were the hosts of a sold-out show featuring Cherry Glazerr, Surf Curse, Palm Reader (celebrating the release of their tape on Big Joy), and Moses Campbell playing to a crowd of wigged out kids who wouldn’t stop stage diving to save their lives. It was hands down one of the most wild shows I’ve ever seen at The Smell and, cuz I’m old, I’ve seen a bunch.
I arrived too late to see teenage girl band Cherry Glazerr or Nevada’s Surf Curse (who had gotten into a terrible car accident just hours before the show, but still put on what was by all accounts a blistering set; don’t worry, mom, they proceeded to the ER afterwards.) It was only because Big Joy had put Lo-Pie on the list that I was able to gain entry at all: the show was sold-the-eff-out by 9:40pm.
“It was in the last few days we really got the vibe that this might get big,” said Michael Fierstein of Big Joy, who was busy overseeing the entire show, despite most likely having a concussion from the very same accident that made Surf Curse cancel their Burger Records in-store the next day. “We’ve been turning people away for two hours!”
The kids had come out for the occasion dressed in their mid-90s best. As I surveyed the plethora of crushed velvet, plaid, floral minis, and ripped thigh-highs paired with combat boots, I felt like I was surrounded by punked out versions of Cher Horowitz. Cognitive dissonance? As if!
Mathy punks Palm Reader were ready to party, throwing themselves into their set with abandon and matching the crowd’s energy without missing a beat. From start to finish, their set was literally a non-stop parade of kids climbing up onstage and diving into the steaming mass of people moshing against the stage. While crouched at the back of the stage taking photos, I realized that I had basically trapped myself. There was no way I could get through that crowd with both my bones and camera intact, so I stayed put. The walls were sweating and my ears were ringing by the time Palm Reader finished up.
Things did get a little too rowdy at one point, drawing the LAPD into the mix. To keep the event going, The Smell closed their front doors and kept the sweaty masses inside until Moses Campbell began their set. As part of the deal made with the po-po, the show was supposed to end at midnight, leaving only about 12 minutes when the band began play.
But after around 3 songs, lead singer Sean Solomon announced, “The cops left, we’re just gonna keep playing.” And play on they did, tearing through melodic punk songs reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel’s heavier moments. Standing at the rear of the stage, watching the kids move like an ocean, it occurred to me that Big Joy is perfectly named. The show was big and the vibe was joy, fueled by goodwill and a commitment to good music made by friends. If this first show is any indication, expect big things from Big Joy.