LOS ANGELES — Randy Randall has a cold. To be precise, a debilitating throat infection picked up on a plane somewhere over the Pacific. Dean Spunt, the other half of the LA punk-pop duo No Age, says the affliction makes Randall sound like “the Godfather meets Kermit the Frog.”
COME ONE, COME ALL: No Age’s DIYism may get tougher to pull off as the crowds get bigger
Two Saturday nights ago, No Age were slated to play a typically off-the-grid gig at a local gallery called Tiny Creatures. They’ve been heralded throughout the city; the New Yorker called them a shining example of LA’s blossoming DIY neo-punk æsthetic. They’re equal parts skater-chic fashion, avant-garde murals, and ADD noise rock, qualities likewise found in LA peers Health and the all-female Mika Miko.
At the gallery, two spunky young women dished up free vegan treats through their catering company Crops and Rawbers in anticipation of the main event. (Both members of No Age are dedicated vegans.) But the dozens of loyal fans who showed up at the diminutive live/work storefront, which is sandwiched between two abandoned lots and sports an apocalyptic view of the Hollywood Freeway, were instead greeted with a handmade sign proclaiming, “Randy is Sick!”
Janet Kim, Tiny Creatures’ skinny brunette owner and the lead singer of the Softboiled Eggies, assured everyone that “Dean will do something solo. He’ll be here.” But at 12:30 am — after three bands, dozens of illicit Tecates, and no sign of Spunt — the caterers produced a black tissue-paper piñata from beside their table. They’d wrapped a tie-dyed bandana reading “No Age” around its neck. The crowd spirited the piñata outside, hung it over a street sign, and destroyed it with anarchistic zeal.
“Oh damn, that sucks, I’ll have to call and apologize,” said Spunt when he learned of the piñata incident and the general disappointment at Tiny Creatures. Still, he said, Randy was really bad off. His real regret was that people got turned away.
In a way, the night felt much like one of No Age’s tunes: an oddly enjoyable movement from hot anticipation to utter devastation. The tracks on their singles compilation Weirdo Rippers and the forthcoming Sub Pop debut, Nouns, seem to end before they begin, darting between waves of ambient washed-out guitar reverb, sharp, screeching feedback, and coiled, driving bass. The chaos occasionally breaks to reveal a sturdy skeleton of contained, fully realized pop.
Those glittering breaks just may be the secret of No Age’s success. The next afternoon at the Mark Taper Forum in LA’s downtown library, more than 300 fans showed up for a free show. (Also present was Randall, croaking occasionally and glazed with a fine, sickly sweat.) Many more got turned away at the door. No Age’s free-for-all (and usually all-ages) DIYism may get tougher to pull off as the crowds get bigger and the need to make the band a career becomes inevitable. Still, they’re holding out as best they can.
“Randy and I are interested in free shows,” Spunt explains. “We don’t get paid and the audience doesn’t pay. It makes it more honest. Making money is beside the fact. The fact that we’re able to is like, ‘Whoa!’ ”