The good folks at FADER never fail to impress with their free events. This year’s FADER Fort at SXSW featured one of the festival’s best performances, Santigold. Curiously, FADER nabbed the only LA-area show for the newly reunited band The Afghan Whigs for a free show as a part of their “Step Into The Black” event series put on by them and Captain Morgan last night on the Sunset Strip at a small venue called Bootsy Bellows. After announcing their reunion last February, the band have gone on to release a new cover song, announced a full slate of tour dates including stops at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and a slot curating All Tomorrow’s Parties New Jersey, but oddly, no proper ticketed performance in LA has been announced yet. Those lucky enough to catch the RSVP and line up early enough, saw the reunited band play (minus members Rick McCollum and Rick Nelson) in the most intimate space imaginable.
For an all guest-list event with a stellar band, Bootsy Bellows is a tiny space. Fans crammed into every spot, standing on VIP tables, bars and even the side stage. Wherever there was an inch of room people were there craning to see the band. The band took the stage and dropped roughly 45 minutes of no-nonsense rock and roll. The set leaned most heavily on their final album 1965, “Crazy,” “66,” and opener “Uptown Again.” Lead singer Greg Dulli has lost none of his trademark guttural rasp, and has that impossible-to-emulate throaty rock voice that true fans adore. As with recent tours with Mark Lanegan, The Gutter Twins side project and The Twilight Singers, Dulli was playful and confident. During the opening of Congregation track “I’m Her Slave,” he screamed the Guns N’ Roses nod, “Welcome to the jungle baby / You’re going to die!” A few songs later, he ditched his guitar and literally sang through the crowd, climbing on top of the bars and then back through the crowd towards the sage. Later, upon smelling the aroma of a fan smoking a spliff, he quipped, “Who’s smoking weed? Pass it on up!”
Perhaps most impressive was the band’s ability to assimilate other people’s material and cover it such that it sounds convincingly like their own. Not missing a beat, the band dropped in their recent cover of “See and Dont’ See” by Marie “Queenie” Lyons and a darkened rendition of The Supremes’ “Come See About Me.” Near the end, they dropped in a bar-rocking version of Thin Lizzy’s “Little Darlin” (“Little darlin’ / gonna be a rock and roll star / little darlin’ gonna play electric guitar”). And earlier, Dulli again proved that he’s far hipper than even diehard fans’ expectations. The band did a sultry cover of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All member Frank Ocean’s “LoveCrimes” (“I still got one bullet left in my nine / Finna do a love crime / Love crime / Finna do a love crime”). They wrapped everything up with the rocking romance of “Somethin’ Hot,” and just like that, they were done. No encores, just a polite, “Thank you,” before leaving the stage as was always the stage presence of 90’s grunge icons. It was a great show from top-to-bottom, and hopefully LA fans get another shot to see them at a more standard event. It’s no stretch for those that have supported the band and all of Dulli’s side projects over the years to say, but the band is something special to see live in a time over-loaded with gimmicks and nonsense.
I’m Her Slave
Going to Town
What Jail is Like
See and Don’t See (Marie “Queenie” Lyons cover)
LoveCrimes (Frank Ocean cover)
Little Darlin’ (Thin Lizzy cover)
Come See About Me (The Supremes cover)