Live at The Glass House

May 31, 2023 Review by Todd Markel

In the early ‘90s, producer Butch Vig was on a proverbial roll. After working on some of the biggest albums of the era, including Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and Smashing Pumpkins’ “Gish,” he went on to produce another album that was destined for greatness.
“Bricks are Heavy” was the third album by Los Angeles’ own, all-female rock band, L7. The album featured the catchy single, “Pretend We’re Dead,” which went into heavy rotation on alternative radio stations across the nation, and swiftly moved into the top 10 on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart.

After several years of inactivity, the classic lineup of Donita Sparks (vocals, guitars), Suzi Gardner (guitars, vocals), Jennifer Finch (bass, vocals), and Demetra Plakas (drums, vocals) reformed in 2014. In 2019, they released “Scatter the Rats,” their first full-length album in 20 years. The band is currently touring to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their seminal album, “Bricks are Heavy,” and recently stopped for a show at The Glass House in Pomona.
Opening the show was an artist called I Speak Machine. They’ve described themselves as an audio-visual collaboration between musician Tara Busch, and producer/director Maf Lewis. Their show is very avant-garde performance art and features dark, theatrical elements along with some very industrial sounds. Busch is the only performer onstage, singing along to prerecorded tracks from her laptop, often giving some insight into the songs; for instance, while introducing “Dirty Soul,” she described it as a “dirty, dirty song.” After reminding herself not to “explain every song,” she introduced one called “Santa Monica” as an ode to the city of Los Angeles.

I Speak Machine have been described as “Nina Hagen meets Norma Desmond in a head-on collision with Lux Interior,” and I agree that is appropriate. Her songs had a wide range of styles, from an industrial dirty sound, to very melodic and angelic. She closed her set with the title track from their latest release, “War.”
As it became time for L7, the house lights went out and a musical collage of songs played out over the PA. Only in retrospect do I realize that they were all songs associated with, or produced by Butch Vig, starting with House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” flowing to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It all set the mood for the era that we were about dive into. A large cheer arose as Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner, Jennifer Finch, and Demetra Plakas strode onto the stage.

Smiling and acknowledging the crowd, Sparks said, “Welcome to the 30th anniversary of ‘Bricks are Heavy!’” They then busted into track one, the equally heavy “Wargasm.” I was happy to hear that they would be playing not only the album in its entirety, but in the actual order as found on the album.
With a count of “1-2-3-4,” “Scrap” was next. The band sounded fantastic; they were super heavy and played very tight and together. Sparks introduced the next song by saying, “We normally save this one for the end of the set, cause we’re assholes like that,“ before playing what is arguably their biggest hit, “Pretend We’re Dead.” The crowd all sang along to, “Come on, come on, come on,” and at one point, someone shouted “We love you Donita!” bringing an ever-so-slight smile to her face.
Between songs, Sparks would occasionally ask the crowd if they “like that shit,” to which the crowd would give an affirmative roar back to her. Sparks said, “God, I love this song” before playing “Mr. Integrity,” with its line, “Don’t preach to me Mr. Integrity.”

The chemistry between Sparks and Finch was evident as they would headbang, side by side, and in unison. The crowd was a nice mix of guys and gals who were all very appreciative of the music. I did notice a considerable difference in the way this crowd behaved, as opposed to the punk crowd that I’m used to. There were no large mosh or circle pits, no pushing or shoving. Everyone was more or less bouncing or lightly pogoing along, and having a good time.
Sparks announced that “Bricks are Heavy” wasn’t available on vinyl when it debuted in 1992, but that has since been rectified, and encouraged everyone to go out and get it. At the conclusion of “This Ain’t Pleasure,” Sparks announced, “And that completes ‘Bricks are Heavy’” to a large cheer.

The second half of their set started with 1994’s “Andres,” with its apology to a friend of the band named Andres. They played a nice career-encompassing set with an assortment of songs from just about every album of theirs, including “Fuel My Fire,” “Shove,” and from their latest album, “Scatter the Rats.” The songs “Stadium West” and “Fighting the Crave” were also incredible.
Other stand-out tracks were “War with You,” and the political satire, “Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago,” which imagines Donald Trump Tweeting from his country club in Palm Beach as it falls under attack.

To close the night, L7 went all the way back to 1990’s “Smell the Magic,” with the appropriately named “Fast and Frightening.” There’s been a trend lately with many bands celebrating milestone anniversaries of their classic or fan-favorite albums, and hopefully they are up for it.
L7 definitely proved that they can still rock as hard – if not harder – than they did in 1992. Unfortunately, L7 is now off the road, but crossing fingers they will be back sooner rather than later!


by Todd Markel Rock Photography



%d bloggers like this: