Long Beach live music crawl

On Saturday Feb. 27 the editors of the Daily 49er each embarked on separate adventures as they navigated different realms of the live music scene throughout the city in order to capture a sampling of its vastness and diversity. These are their stories:

Run River North perform at Fingerprints in Long Beach

Fingerprints – 2:30 p.m.

Run River North performance photo
Singer photo

Johnny Romero | Daily 49er

Top: Run River North performs to a large crowd at Fingerprints in Long Beach, CA. Top Right: Alex Hwang, lead singer of Run River North, performs during the band’s Fingerprints set.

Running late from work, struggling to coordinate with my photographer and wearing far less makeup than I was comfortable with, I didn’t feel my usual wave of excitement as I walked into Fingerprints on Saturday afternoon.

My hands weren’t itching to grab the record I reserved behind the counter, and my stomach wasn’t filling with butterflies at the thought of seeing Run River North take over the back corner of the shop for a live performance.

I really should have had those butterflies.

Maybe being introduced to a new band via live performance isn’t quite everyone’s cup of tea, but I can’t imagine hearing “29” or “Excuses” for the first time in any other way. I probably should have checked out “Drinking From A Salt Pond,” the album they dropped the day before the show, but there was something intriguing to me about going in completely blind — or deaf, rather.

I will admit that, at first, I was skeptical of the six-person group. Too many cooks, broth, etc. But as colorful lights started bouncing off the wall behind them and they each took post at their respective instruments, I realized there was no way Run River North could exist without each and every one.

The music was great. Jennifer Rim’s violin came in like an extra set of vocals, piercing and soothing at all the right times. I couldn’t take my eyes off John Chong on drums as he bounced and lurched with a happiness that filled the room just as much as the songs themselves. There was something endearingly raw about the vocals — everyone sang, screamed or harmonized at one point or another and while talented, none of them came off as trying to sound good.

And for as much as I enjoyed the songs in the set and caught myself bobbing in time to each beat, what grabbed me most about the set was the band itself.

Sure, six people may be a lot to fit on a single stage, but the energy that flowed between them was past the point of remarkable. They were a unit in the strongest sense of the word. Standing in the audience, I felt like they could be playing to a sold-out stadium and still have the biggest smiles when they made eye contact with each other, roaming the stage and settling into each other’s presences as they played.

Watching them, I saw a team. I saw a group united by honest love for their craft and comfort with each other. I saw a band in it for all the right reasons, and a band I definitely will be following from here on out.

Line dancing for dummies

The Gaslamp – 5:00 p.m. 8:00-ish

Line dancing photo

Ariana Sawyer | Daily 49er

Kristin Ann, far left, teaches a group of over 30 people how to line dance at the Gaslamp Restaurant and Bar’s country night Feb. 27.

Line dancing at the Gaslamp sounded like a stupid way to spend a Saturday night.

I’ve heard horror stories about this pickup bar. And almost all of the stereotypes were true. It really does smell like piss and mistakes.

Yes, men in their 40s were looking up and down at 20-something-year-old girls in cut-offs and tanks.

Yes, the music was a bit too loud and the bar is in a weird spot, in front of a bunch of booths and facing the dance floor and stage, creating a cage for anyone trying to drunkenly dance to overhead tunes.

But at 5 p.m., when the doors opened for the Line Dancer Country Music Fest on Feb. 27, the Gaslamp was an empty watering hole, with just a couple of people schlepping around the hardwood floors.

I asked the hostess when it was going to get busy and she explained, with great sadness, that it was just “one of those nights” when it was going to be anything but nuts. And yet, after she slid the set list across her host stand, crammed with bands like Country Moon, Texas Runaway and Pope Paul & the Illegals, she reassured me that line dancing lessons at 8 p.m. could be fun.

I wasn’t going to give up on some home-cooked, classic corny country grooving. So I left and came back at 8:30-ish, pleasantly surprised by the growth in numbers in the large restaurant-bar. The Gaslamp was nearly packed now with freshly shaved bros in button-ups, bearded SoCal rednecks and wavy-haired cowgirl wannabes in too-short dresses looking for a tush squeeze.

I made my way to the back of the line dancing menagerie and waited for direction from our fearless leader, Kristen.

Alright, so learning to line dance is bloody hard. Memorizing the steps while doing the steps while trying to look cool while watching the feet in front of you while trying not to look at the tequila shots being poured at the bar while trying not to fall makes you work up a good sweat.

I still think country music sucks.

Domestic disturbance with Danger Mob

818 Olive Ave. – 8:23 p.m.

Danger Mob concert photo

Trang Le | Daily 49er

Keyboardist Josh Bartlett plays the keyboard with his feet during Big Sun’s album debut at Danger Mob on February 27.

At 8:23 p.m., I managed to embarrass myself before I even entered the backyard carousal. Gates, fences, doors — with especial emphasis on those attached to cars — have never been “my thing.” A gentleman swung open the metal gate for me, and then asked me to pay up.

Support your scene, they said. Half of my friends are tortured artists and starving musicians living below the poverty line. Half of my paychecks buy nights soaked in spilled beer and cigarette smoke set to the sounds of aggressive skate punk. I’m the f*cking head cheerleader of the scene, sir.

I handed them $4 and wrapped my wrist in a band warning me to “enjoy responsibly.”

A quick heads up: Danger Mob is a production company carried by a staff of homegrown visual artists and musicians guised as roommates. Events actualize about once a month, most often at home base, which is 818 Olive Avenue. Maladroit garlands of Christmas bulbs and $1 tacos earmark the residence from its neighbors, noting it as one link of the larger chain of houses that are a part of the local house-show circuit.

Tonight was Long Beach synth-psych rockers Big Sun’s record release party for their freshman compilation dubbed “Spacelift.”

A soft blend of conservative punks, alt-rockers, metal kids, rude boys and those filed under “other” congested the L-shaped lot. Of course, there was room for anyone simply there to party. Seldom room — headcount was just shy of 150 — but it was there.

Danger Mob crowd photo
Three people at Danger Mob

Johnny Romero | Daily 49er

Top: “Moshers” and “metal heads” head bang with the band performing during Danger Mob in Long Beach, CA.

Top Right: Attendees of the Danger Mob party throw up their fists in support of the band performing.

Clean, metal medleys in the distance navigated the needle of my compass as I writhed through the compressed hoard of bodies that was my rabbit hole. Agile hands glided against a Jackson King V six string, skillfully executing a metal rendition of “Kirby’s Gourmet Race” jingle from the Nintendo video game series. The melody is traded off to his co-guitarist and then tackled in unison as part of a tag-team, call-and-response structure.

As it turns out, Soulera is a four-piece band dedicated to your childhood. They’re most known for their covers, including the “Pokémon” Trainer Battle theme and the ditty backing the Rainbow Road level in “Mario Kart.”

A posi-mosh stayed alive for the duration of the set that would later open for a brief dip into thrash punk from the night’s headliner. Ezra LoBianco, 20, charismatically fronted the pit for most of the night.

“Pits are the community saying ‘Hey, we’re here and we’re going to pick you back up,’” LoBianco, a music aficionado fully aware of the scene’s social capital, said. “Everything you put in goes right back to the community.”

I found refuge in the cabana corner as Big Sun set up. DJ Rico cleansed musical palettes, dishing out old school-infused hip-hop.

Blue and yellow sheets draped the bohemian shanty tent that backed the five conduits of psychedelic groove rock. A marriage meeting at the intersection of Pink Floyd and the Growlers poured from assorted amps and PAs. It’s refreshing to hear trance bands holding their own in an instant-gratification generation fascinated by six-second video clips in a 24-hour Twitterverse, I thought.

Minimalistic drums and bass were lead by three tiers of keyboards, guitar riffs and a scratchy vocal performance.

It wasn’t long before the fuzz filed in, friendly with honest intent, but three minutes before curfew. Boys in blue — the surefire way to tell that you were having a great time.

Okay, okay. We’ll leave. Where the fuck is my car?

Crowded in

The Prospector – 10:14 p.m.
Bobby Blunders performance photo

Yasmin Cortez | Daily 49er

Bobby Blunders brought a new sound to the Prospector and premiered a couple new songs.

I really cannot stand crowds. Whether I am pushing my way to the front of the bar, dancing in the middle of a club or standing outside for a smoke, I’d rather not be in your personal space, and vice versa. It is not a matter of claustrophobia or concern about your various infectious bacteria; I just don’t want to brush up against your life.

But pack a large group of people into a tiny room with live music, and I suddenly stop caring about how close everyone else is to me. It doesn’t matter if it is one of my favorite groups or a band that I am seeing for the very first time, because the feeling of the crowd becomes infectious (the good kind).

That is what I experienced seeing Avi Buffalo, Bobby Blunders and The Barrelhousers at Long Beach’s resident Old West steakhouse and rock venue The Prospector.

Having never heard a single song from any of these Long Beach locals, I was not sure what I was in for.

And admittedly, walking into The Prospector for the first time sowed more than a few doubts. Getting to the stage required navigating past the bar, which meant sliding in between people packed nut-to-butt into the 10 feet of space before hitting the back wall.

Once hitting the floor about 6 inches past the bar, I realized that I was now in the middle of a large mass of people standing around while The Barrelhousers set up to perform. Taking this moment to survey the room, a thought occurred to me: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band perform in a rock and roll elk lodge.”

That was the odd dichotomy presented in the Prospector, and the greatest example I could think of for this city’s hunger for music and the music scene’s hunger for adorning fans: packed to the brim into a steakhouse and surrounded by animal heads mounted on the wall, musicians and fans connected with one another, and it did not matter to anyone the surroundings.

Because as soon as Avi Buffalo, Bobby Blunders and The Barrelhousers each hit their first notes, I know that it no longer mattered to me. And as I looked around me at each of the faces that would normally be way too close, I was able to see everyone enraptured by the spectacle going on not more than 12 inches in front of them; people discovering a new favorite band, people singing along to a songs they’ve seen live a dozen times and people crowded together so tight that the back half of this tiny room was now completely empty.

Retrace their steps:

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