Dirty Beaches and SISU at The Echo, RAD at Permanent Records, Shizu Saldamando at VPAM

After circling the world once or twice and releasing a double album, 10″ soundtrack, and a bunch of digital mixtapes, Dirty Beaches came back to L.A. last Friday, teamed up with soulmates SISU as well as Chasms from San Francisco. The opening duo from San Francisco were raw and cool, like the swirling goth of Siouxsie meets the industrial tone of post-Dils, post-Rank & File Blackbird.

I don’t think I’ve seen SISU with the same lineup twice. For this show, Sandra Vu’s band was a full-on five piece. While I loved the more garage-y sound at their Origami Vinyl in-store earlier this year, this set had a fuller, more realized tone that demonstrates how much the band has evolved. Kinda reminded me of the darkness and depth of Faith and 17 Seconds-era Cure without the drowsiness–totally alert and alive–and I can’t wait to compare the live sound to the new vinyl that I picked up at the merch table.

This was also the first time for me to hear the new music of Dirty Beaches. Alex has totally moved on from his much-loved Badlands songs and sound, shedding the ’50s crooner vibe for an even more stripped down, even simpler sound. It’s almost as if he’s playing to the musical equivalent of a heartbeat, albeit a straining and tortured one. Onstage Alex’s mission seems to be to prove that basic doesn’t mean boring, though. It’s intense, gripping, and gorgeous, as well as totally honest and unique. Looking forward to catching up with Alex and Sandra when they return from tour.

The next afternoon, I went to Permanent Records to catch my favorite thrash band RAD. But first up at the hardcore matinee were their tourmates and friends, Bad Daddies. I didn’t know what to expect but dug their no-bullshit, bass-driven hardcore. Apparently, their name isn’t rockabilly jargon but a reference to two of the band members being parents who leave their kids with sitters so they can play punk shows. Awesome!

And then there’s RAD. Even if my cousin Anthony didn’t play bass, I’d still love their unironic blend of golden-era thrash with hyper aware lyrics with geeky tangents. Excellent! I was embarrassed to go up to the singer Lory afterward, say, “That was rad!” without even thinking, and then realize that I sounded like a smart ass or dumb ass. She said it was okay, and that she actually likes it when fans do that.

Got to hang out with Anthony and his pals for just a little bit until they drove off to play a café in Fresno. (Did I mention that they played in someone’s garage in South Central the night before?) My brother and sister came along with their families, as well, and do so did my buddy/photographer Ben Clark, who shot some key pics that show up on RAD’s debut album as well as the recent MRR article.

That evening we went to East L.A. College to catch Shizu Saldamando’s art show at the Vincent Price Art Museum. This is her first museum retrospective and real milestone for her, and I was honored when she said that she considers Wendy and me to be early collectors of her work. Shizu’s work documents the SoCal Latino subculture’s obsession with goth, new wave, and punk music in the most honest/least trendy manner, and it was cool to see that my 2007 interview with her that ran in Giant Robot 50 made the cut in her amazing new monograph.

To see her pieces collected in context, including early paper works, ink-on-handkerchiefs and tablecloths, and newer and brighter pieces on wood (below) was mind blowing. Even better was seeing her work as part of a lineage with John Valadez, a Los Angeles artist that began depicting non-mainstream Latinos in the eighties, who was showing upstairs in the museum. Not bad to see Len Higa, either (also below).

What a great weekend, and Dirty Beaches and SISU are still on tour. Meanwhile, RAD plays all the time around Sacto, and Shizu’s show will up at VPAM until December 7. So many friends are doing such awesome things, I could puke! Instead, I’ll just enjoy, appreciate, and share.