L7 / The Mis-Made
Metro Theatre, Sydney 15/10/2016
Review & Photos: Peter Zaluzny
Soundwave festival may have gone the way of the dodo, but every cloud has a silver lining. Soon after the first line-up lay in ruins, grunge-metal legends L7, crawled out of the rubble, recovered their gear and loudly declared that they would still come to Australia. In place of a short daylight stint on a Soundwave stage that would have been marred by clashes, the country had a full headline tour on its hands, with an hour-and-a-half’s worth of material in almost every major city, including Sydney. Turns out it takes more than a dead festival to keep a great band down.
20 years is a long time between visits, but a little piece of L7-inspired genius had been living in Sydney for years – they just called themselves The Mis-Made. With 90s LA alt-rock influences flowing from their sleeves, The Mis-Made ripped through a punky, snarly, and ever so heavy, hard rocking set that often floated into metal land. It was the perfect soundtrack for the leather-clad, middle-finger flipping kids of yesteryear that had turned up in droves, as well as the next crop of alterna-youth who looked to the 90s and thought “damn, that decade knew what was up.”
These youngsters, and the stylistic progenitors from whom they took influence, wore the appropriate uniform – black shirt, black jeans, docs and some form of leather. L7 attracted a cross-section of punks, metal heads, alt-kids that had discovered their older sister’s record collection, and classic grungers wrapped in Front End Loader t-shirts. Listening to general chatter, you couldn’t help but feel that this was a nostalgic kick for most of the attendees, with frequent mention of the “90-something tour.”
But they’re very much a band that could pick up exactly where they left off, if they wanted to keep going. Sure the show was a throwback, a notion the band had embraced in various interviews, yet when they launched into a triple-assault opening with “Deathwish,” “Andres” and “Everglade,” that sense of visiting for the memories was replaced by a goddamn heavy as hell grung-metal gig. L7 were back, and they weren’t fucking around.
Tearing into a collection of fan favourites, most tracks came from the tri-force albums that put L7 on the map – Smell The Magic, Hungry for Stink and of course Bricks are Heavy. The Metro quickly became caught in an uproar, as row after row of dedicated fans passionately screamed, shouted and sang along to every song. And that would have been enough. They could have walked on stage, stood still, played a bunch of songs and the room would have been dripping with the sweat of enthusiastic mega-fans regardless.
But that’s not how L7 do things, no, they had clearly missed life on the road and Sydney was a chance to make up for lost time. They hammed it up like over-excited children in the best possible way, leaping and lunging about with all manner of guitar antics and audience interaction. You’d be forgiven for thinking bassist Jennifer Finch had downed a bucketload of sugar before walking on stage.
And that’s what made the show so spectacular, this was L7 at their prime, 20 years after the fact. You could have sent a blindfolded punter into The Metro and convinced them that they were listening to a live recording from the ’96 tour (until slightly deeper cuts from The Beauty Process… and Slap Happy emerged). Maybe that was the world these fans wanted to live in for a night, and why the hell not. It was glorious to see a crowd heavily shift around to “Shove,” it was amazing to watch hundreds of fans point towards the stage and shout “shit list!” And being part of that transition between silence, the opening riff to “Pretend We’re Dead” and the ensuing roar of approval was the kind of beautiful you only get when a venue is filled with people that know all the words to every single song on the set.
With next to no banter aside from a quip about leaving behind koalas for raccoons and a few scripted lines here and there, L7 traded spontaneity for a well-oiled, rapid-fire collection of tightly-rehearsed classics crammed into 90-minutes. But they did leave one question unanswered… when are you recording a new album?