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by Matt Vend / 21.11.2014

Iggy Pop has a radio show on the airline I happen to be flying on and he’s playing me his best selection of Southern Californian tunes. Rather apt Iggy, as my final destination is LA. It’s been a pretty cloudy flight, until I look out my window and see my first sight of America; mountains upon mountains, deserts upon deserts, arid, freezing and scorching depending on what sort of day it happens to be. I’m seeing America for the first time.

My first mission was to play two shows in the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles County. I’m still feeling jet-lagged as I navigate my way to East LA to meet Julio, one of the guys from The Tochtli Collective, which booked me to play the shows. It’s quite a different place to the area I’ve been staying and after an hour of travelling I ask a really nice older Mexican gentleman where the hell I am. He shrugs his shoulders.


I eventually find Julio, a half pint with a massive heart. He’s busy making patches to sell at the shows and he gives me the hugest welcome smile. We’re going to be friends, I think to myself.

Soon after, this guy Reuben arrives, from a band called Fool’s Hill. Anyone who admits to being a thief and a liar within an hour of being introduced has to be as honest as they come. Rueben was also one of the first cool folk/punk artists I got to see play in California.

We headed out to a town called San Bernardino, to play in a warehouse that has been converted into a venue called the Black Flame Collective. It’s a really cool space, but unfortunately the venue got shut down a few days after the gig. Hopefully they can find a new location.

The drive back to Julio’s house was fairly uneventful besides for some loud pop music blaring through the car radio speakers, a stop to buy beer and the designated driver hitting an island in the road, almost killing all of us.

Saturday came and I was stuck without a ride. I needed to get to what was pertinently named, the Sad Boii folk punk festival. Luckily a nice (sober) gentleman agreed to pick me up and get me to the show in one piece. I arrived extremely early and a band from Nebraska called Pint of No Return, were already there and already drunk. They offered me a homemade tattoo; I politely declined but thanked them for the generous offer. The perks of arriving at a show early.


The second act up were a mixed bag of misfits. Playing a saw, a banjo, a ukulele, a cello and a mandolin, they rocked the old time folk with a modern twist and got the crowd into the swing of the sunny Saturday morning.

The whole folk/punk scene seems to be gaining momentum in this part of the world. The scene here seems to be revolting against how polished punk music has become. The people, who really don’t give a damn in this modern world, hold banjo’s and acoustic guitars instead of electric instruments and amps. Every act on the night took to the floor and played their hearts out as if PA systems were never invented. “You got to do it on your own,” Reuben says to me as I comment on another act getting up without the PA, thus barely audible from the back of the venue.

Pint of No Return were up next and a pit broke out. I’ve never seen a pit break out for a folk/punk act before, but it would seem this is a common occurrence in this kind of space. The bass player played a piece of string attached to a washing bucket and his fingers rolled through it as if his upright bass was right next to him.

There were more bands playing than actual people attending so it started to become increasingly difficult to keep track of the musicians, one after the other, guitars, banjos, washboards, upright bass’s kept coming on and off the small carpeted area which was laid down instead of a stage.

The music had been really interesting so far, with some incredible acts  – one of my favorites for the day was The Rifleman which features a raconteur from Vegas who decided to bring the tempo down a bit. His soft spoken stories got everyone sitting and listening, hanging onto every word, reminiscing to an old America where things were a lot simpler.


The last act was called Rent Strike, the accordion player shouts at the crowd “who likes to party?” Then three-quarters of the band decide to strip naked, working the crowd into a frenzy that got a few other dicks out as well. Penis always gets a crowd excited and Rent Strike did exactly this. Yet before they could end their set, the people in charge decided that it was enough. I was too busy enjoying the music to really get the full story of what brought them to end the show so abruptly. All I knew is that they were pissed off; apparently Julio the organiser had broken something. I wasn’t entirely sure how or what.

He then proceeded to punch out a window and throw a bunch of tables around. All the nice drifter kids gave him big hugs and calmed him down. At this stage he was bleeding quite considerably from the broken glass but he seemed too wasted to even know his own name. Maybe he was just upset because Rent Strike had to put their pants back on.

The show moved outside, until the venue eventually told everyone to leave. Pint of No Return’s van didn’t start, so they just proceeded to play a set outside. Finally one of their girlfriends got the car going as they were all too inebriated to attempt trying.

Most people come to LA to visit Hollywood or Disneyland; I came here to play songs for a bunch of homeless kids in a warehouse, an interesting choice that still keeps me asking ‘why the hell am I even here?’ Drifting seems to be in my blood and whenever I start feeling too comfortable I wander, sometimes not having the slightest clue where I’m wandering off to. These are just some of the things one does to continue making music on the road.

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*Images © Matt Vend

*Read the next episode of Matt Vend’s American Adventures: RIVER DRIFTERS

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