Last week the Rickshaw Stop on 155 Fell Street lent its stage to Leopold and His Fiction, The May Fire and The Ettes — a peculiar line up indeed. Leopold is new on the southern rock revival scene. The rowdy chick bassist, nondescript drummer and lead vox/guitarist that resembles the Kings of Leon’s beefy long-lost half-cousin play makeshift creek-panner music. The latter is hardly the standout component to this mismatched three-band bill. The May Fire is a band that has truly nothing to offer. Lead singer Catty Tasso walked on stage wearing blue Converse sneakers old and beat-up enough to make you puke. After a few songs it was apparent that The May Fire, having put out four full length albums to date, still cannot get past a painfully mundane power chord arrangement. With no trace of passion or drive, the group struggled to trudge though a weary, uninspiring set devoid of theory or even playfulness despite their website’s claim to being a band amongst relentlessly skilled do it yourself (DIY) style artists. The tired quartet proved to be about as original and captivating as Tasso’s vomit-inducing Chuck Taylors. After this horrible experience my sensory receptors were involuntarily resurrected by Los Angeles’ newest grind-pop installment, The Ettes.
Once lead vocalist and guitarist Coco and bassist Jem slung their axes around their necks, kick-drum thumping rang out in the Rickshaw and the crowd began to still. Drummer Poni, displaying a devilish grin, shouted out to her mates, “I’ve got a broken arm! This is going to have to be our last show!” A response of wicked laughter from Coco and Jem began to drown once Jem started to pound mercilessly on his red vintage sunburst Epiphone for the thunderous opener “No Home.” Bass man’s Epiphone, plugged into a beautiful Fuzz Face distortion pedal, played out of an ancient amp manufactured by Sears evoked a frothing dark grind that could make Jack White’s toes curl. Perhaps rugged setup is the only one that can carry the burden of Jem’s meaty four-string crunch, the backbone sound for the Ettes’ debut album “Look At Life Soon.” Meanwhile firecracker lead vocalist Madam Coco played a fierce all off-white Telecaster as she channeled Karen O, Bettie Page and Lydia Lunch to make the Rickshaw masses cower.
Mid-set the Ettes took no prisoners with dirty dance jams, “Spend My Money,” “Subject” and “I Get Mine.” On album, the Ettes sound like a mere fusion of an average song from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and 1950s production aesthetics — nothing new. However, a live experience of the Ettes is a whole different animal exuding an undeniable sonic magnetism with the unleashing of songs that explode like short bursts of raw metallic energy into your welcoming veins.