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Live Review: Gang of Four Live At El Rey, March 24

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It’s a Tuesday night, March 25th 2015 to be exact. All the shops and museums along Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile District of the great city of Los Angeles are closed. Cal-Trans is hard at work accomplishing some task that entails tearing up and repaving the asphalt between La Brea and La Cienega, people have long since left work and most have already had dinner and are now beginning to watch some night time television either by themselves or with their families to unwind from a long day at work. The street lights shine brightly in all their newly converted solar-powered LED glory along both sidewalks. The marquee of the El Rey Theatre casts light on the people trickling in to catch the opening act for the show that is happening this night. The highly influential Post-Punk legends Gang of Four are headlining.

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The El Rey is definitely what one would classify as a major venue. They are selling their advance tickets online via a third party website who are happy to do so for a nominal fee, have a full service security that keeps the beautiful red carpeted steps clear of people between bands, multiple bars, a VIP balcony, a roughly 4 foot tall stage, and two massive chandeliers above the dance-floor. The house mixing board is positioned at just the right placement to get a perfect mix from all the mains. They are definitely one of the better venues in Los Angeles as far as sound is concerned. In other words, it is the perfect place to see Andy Gill and the rest of the gang make guitar noise and spit socially conscious lyrics over aggressive, and almost tribal at times, rhythm section.

The opening act was a new band that has recently gained rapid amounts of notoriety at a surprisingly quick pace called Public Access TV. They come from the Lower East-side in New York City. They released a song on Soundcloud called “Monaco” a few months back and almost immediately had Soundcloud listen buzzing about them, especially because they neglected to put their name on it for a short period of time. They played this song among plenty of other Post-Punk and New Wave sounding Rock N’ Roll songs. The frontman John Eatherly, who plays what appears to be a 1970’s Telecaster Deluxe, has a voice that sounds like Genesis B. P-Orridge on Psychic TV’s “Godstar” meets Julian Casablancas over a very loud Pop-New Wave sound. Shortly before 10 o’clock rolled around their set was over and their equipment was struck from the stage.

The roadies tested mics and amplifiers. Monitors levels were checked by the clubs sound crew and set lists were placed at strategic spots around the the stage for the headliners. As more pedals were plugged in and guitars were tuned, audience members began to fill up the dance-floor and find their spots in the crowd where they could best experience the Gang’s performance. Plenty of alcohol was purchased from the bars near the entrance to the dance hall and in the upstairs balcony. Now it was just a waiting game. Everyone taken their places and watched with anticipation as the road crew and the club’s stage hands performed their final tests of all the equipment that would be used that night.

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Then the members of Gang of Four appeared onstage. Applause erupted from the crowd as they donned their instruments and the three members furthest downstage found their starting mics. The band blasted into “Nightingale” with ferocious energy. They swapped positions at crucial changes and moved across the stage back and forth with mesmerizing ease. That stage was theirs.

Andy Gill’s guitar howled, Thomas McNeice’s bass rumbled, Jonny Finnegan’s drums thundered as John Sterry kept us all entranced with his charismatic and captivating performance. A few songs later Andy Gill switched guitars one that he then artistically abused for a minute or so for the noisy introduction to “Anthrax” in which he recited his words as Sterry sang the lyrics Jon King originally recorded 37 years ago. Then another guitar change later the group tore into the group’s original hit single “Damaged Goods” like animals and the crowd loved it. They continued on well into the night. After the last half of the set and a 3-song encore that included the song “I Love a Man in Uniform” that was banned in 1982 when Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Isles it was over.

We all wandered back to our cars and navigated our way through the near deserted Tuesday night streets. Gang of Four would become many’s perfect yet likely unacceptable excuse to show up late for work Wednesday morning.


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