Sunday, November 19, 2017

A surfeit of surfeit: Egrets on Ergot

I have a few distinct memories of Los Angeles from the period spanning 1988 to 1992. My parents were in the process of separating, and then they went through the process of learning to be a separated couple. So of course, I recall a few of the men my mom dated as a freshly single woman in her late 20s.

There was the 24-year old quintessential punk: leather jacket, bright mohawk, eight holes in each ear. He was nice. There was the ginger from Ireland. We didn't interact much. And then there was the guy who made movie props and, from where I'm standing, resembled a hybrid of John Landis and young Francis Ford Coppola. He was nice, too. There were others who weren't as nice.

I also remember my uncle's artsy lifestyle and eccentric friends. One lived in a fancy house somewhere in the northwest San Fernando Valley, and she claimed to be a dancer and once made us paint rocks outside her house. My uncle had a local access television show that was as bad and funny as you'd expect, and we have VHS proof of this somewhere.

I've got particularly fond memories of the theater my uncle managed in the late '80s, on Heliotrope near Melrose. It later became the Sacred Fools Theater and now seems to be empty but for a short while it caused Gracie's Pizza next door to smell like weed. A three-year old me was allowed to attend several live viewings of Hair at the Heliotrope Theater. I didn't understand it but I did know that I was uncomfortable when the entire cast sang in the nude. I also knew that the guy who played Berger was handsome as all hell, pale with long, black hair. God knows why he was replaced with this Vernon guy, or this James guy.

It wasn't all fond memories, of course. We were quite poor and it's feasible that we all took up creative pursuits because it was cheaper than going on family vacations or whatever unpoor families do. And of course the start of the '90s were a grim time for watching the news in Los Angeles. But L.A. was still a creative and diverse city, and I was a young kid with a young, pretentious, artsy family who had young, pretentious artsy friends. It was fun, in hindsight.

When I watch Egrets on Ergot on stage, I see everything I remember from early childhood in Los Angeles. They are not everyone's '80s/'90s Los Angeles -- most of my friends didn't grow up with young parents who painted and had daring record collections. But they are mine. They are also memories I didn't develop until later, like watching Nick Cave in Wings of Desire, or seeing Silver Daggers play at the Smell about ten years ago.

It is impossible to imagine them spending their days in office jobs. They are Muppets. They are young Danny Elfman. They are Suzi Gardner singing "Slip it In," and they are every Goth kid who ever dreamt of studying abroad in Berlin so they could claim they "lived in Berlin once." If their debut, Surfeit of Gemütlich, suffers from anything, it's a case of too much being too much. But then, that's what makes their live performances memorable -- I've heard these songs several times prior to the record's release, but none of them sound particularly familiar except the nine-minute "Plantation Pudding," because all that comes to mind when you think back to an Egrets performance is the mess of toms, saxophone, darkness, growls and eyeliner they comprise. You don't come here for the songs, you come here for the energy and the nostalgia and the feeling of toughness they stir up. And they stir it all up marvelously.

Naturally, they made this record with Paul Roessler, who also worked with them in 2014. Purchase this sucker.

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