Take the Lindas Bowling

Martin Wong Photos

Ah, a night at the Hollywood Bowl.
Sounded pretty good when you bought those tickets back in May, didn’t it?
A warm Fall night out, maybe dinner at Musso & Franks before strolling up the hill.
Dean&DeLuca charcuterie box balanced on your lap, a benevolent moon swimming an ocean of stars above.
Music swells through the hills, and you think, by God, I love this city!

But then the date arrives.
And as you squint at those tickets stuck to the side of the fridge, you think: Goddammit-The Hollywood Bowl!

The Bowl trip, that torturous ritual that all Southlanders must commit to once or twice a Summer.
It comes down to the fucking parking, am I right?
Mention that you are heading off to the Bowl, and you are answered with a roll of the eyes before being bombarded with a dozen ways to get there.
A So Ca tradition, family secrets passed down through the generations on how to navigate to the Bowl.
Guarded as closely as the recipe for Mom’s ambrosia or the knowing secret of that one Uncle, overly fond of giving horsey rides to the kids.
Take the shuttle from Lakewood Mall yo!
Park at Yamashiro and bring rollerblades.
Stub Hub! Don’t go!

There are whispers of a secret tunnel, from a hidden closet at The Magic Castle that leads directly to the lower boxes.
You need only suffer an overpriced dinner and the indignity having the 3 of clubs plucked from behind your ear to access it.

But tonight I park at Hollywood & Highland and commit my aching knees to that pilgrimage up Highland.
Joining the mass of Angelenos puffing their way up the hill, we need only horsehair whips to complete the sense of pilgrimage.
The crowd is young, excited…….early.
Here to see the opening band.
It is a nice, if sweating, sense of community here, an air of celebration for the hometown heroes.

The Linda Lindas, yeah, you’ve seen them.
On every magazine cover and festival poster, in social posts playing for massive crowds in Europe and Japan.
Made the rounds of late night talk shows like Ricardo Montalban promoting a movie of the week.
Yet each new level of fame has been taken with grace, and they look like they are having fun.

Full disclosure here, we’ve known this band for a while.
We’ve shared the stage with them at Save Music in Chinatown shows, have posed for countless selfies with Eloise since she was…….. this tall.

The band seemed a rare jewel plucked from the dark depths of the pandemic.
Not since Belinda and Jane crawled their way from the Masque up to the Bowl stage has there been such a story that we can all– punkers, So Callies- share pride in.

Oh, of course, with any band’s triumphs come the whispers from the shadows:
Rumors that the act is too perfect, that they must be coached or lip-syncing, put together by ad agency or algorithm.
And to be sure, they arrive at the right place and time and check off all of the boxes.
As multi ethnic as a Benetton ad of the 90’s.

But it only takes a countoff and slashing chord, first shouts into the air to convince you of their conviction.
The ladies play songs with compelling structure and dynamic, a joy that reminds us just why we are punks.
And their musicianship easily rivals any aging punk band playing 40 year old songs (ahem).
Unfairly perhaps, it was as if we had been waiting for these 4 wee girls to somehow save us from a dark cynical path that has threatened us like a slowly realized curse.
Proof that there is a reward for madness endured

People have remarked that they’ve never seen anything like this, but of course youth is something of a grand tradition in punk rock.
Stevie from Mad Society, the Red Kross kids of The Tourists, Venus with Unit III.
Harley Flanagan bashing away behind the Stimulators at 12.
Is it because a childlike wonder is just what is needed to cut through the bullshit of monetized art, of petty jealousies between bands, of migraine inducing thoughts of the future?
To just play as though there is no school tomorrow?

Flipside photo

Of course, back then Venus sang of sleepovers and how yucky beer was, not racist sexist boys or the importance of voting to protect our threatened personal rights.
A reminder once again, of this very changing world.

And while I’m sorry these young women need to write such songs, I am happy that they want to.

Was it only back in May that Kimm and I reported to the Troubadour for the record release party?
The room packed with every staffer from the wounded record business, looking in awe and emerald envy at the girls on stage.
They played a joyous set on that storied little stage, and a Summer of dreams lay ahead of them just as soon as they were done with finals.

I climb the Bowl steps, each usher in turn squinting at my ticket before pointing me higher still.
The boxes below are filling with families, kids with headphones already clamped over their young eardrums, ready for first concerts.
Beyond the numbered seats now, up to the bench seating of upper loge, where the Alaskan Cedar planking has been worn smooth by generations of Angeleno butts.
I gaze down at that scalloped band shell, to that stage where the Beatles played inaudibly to a shrieking mass.
Where Hendrix chased out a Mamas and Papas crowd with piercing feedback.
Where Morrison sang of LA women, where Richard Pryor turned a crowd against him in an instant.

The band comes on and the crowd cheers.
Not just for them, it seems, but for all of it: this night, this place, this time.

The band is tiny from these seats, and I find myself watching the side screen, where tiny Eloise now looms large as a superhero, transformed gigantic by a single wonderful word.

And I think then, that this is it.
How success in this business must be measured on how far away the artist is from your seat, how much dearer the ticket.
How many more people discover the band that you guard jealously as your own.

But it feels like a triumph for us all, and I can only wish for them to go, to keep going, for us all.
A blaze rendered to the horizon, sparked from a small stage in Chinatown.

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