Every so often you’ll walk into a place and immediately know it is special. Whether it be by virtue of appearance, architecture, history or simply the sheer weight of experiences that have taken place in said space. The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one such place. A large marble structure placed at the front of a massive cemetery, the location is often used for more formal events, namely funeral receptions, but it wouldn’t be Hollywood if there weren’t some element of show business. As such, the building has played host to a number of shows throughout the years, and it’s not uncommon to see crowds gathered to watch screenings of classic horror movies projected upon a screen among the tombstones in late October. Given the macabre nature of the venue, there are only a few bands that feel appropriate to perform there. Luckily HEALTH is one such band.
As a primer for the uninitiated, HEALTH is a trio of musicians who crawled out of the depths of LA’s sprawling, but deeply secretive, noise rock scene. Proving their mettle at venues like The Smell alongside current day noise rock legends No Age, they quickly rose to prominence with their interesting blend of traditional noise rock with pop and power electronics. While most noise rock bands find their footing slowly, gathering fans and interest from underground critics and booking agents, HEALTH exploded onto the scene with their innovative DISCO which featured remixes of their self-titled first album, specifically curated by the band themselves. This highly collaborative approach allowed them to quickly ingratiate themselves to popular bands outside of their scene, like Youth Code, Soccer Mommy and Purity Ring. This specific, calculated methodology of music making easily could have sterilized the band, but even today, they stand alone in their sound and accordingly produce one of the most unrelenting live shows you can catch today.
Having been to five separate shows by HEALTH, this was one of the more mellow ones, at least from a crowd perspective. Perhaps the only drawback to the strangely wide appeal of HEALTH is that they attract a rather disparate audience for their live shows, causing a clash between mosh-friendly punks and crossed armed goths, but in the grand scheme of things, this is a minor setback. As is tradition, their music was played with a volume that seemed as though it could wake the dead, who lay mere yards from the stage. On top of the decibel-based assault, the group laid a thick layer of flashing lights, to punish the eyes as well as the ears, bathing the audience in a pulsating strobe. The setlist leaned heavily on newer songs, playing a solid mix of recent singles like “HARD TO BE A GOD” and punctuating that with a mix of popular songs off of DEATH MAGIC and DISCO 3/DISCO 3+ like “STONEFIST,” “DARK ENOUGH” and “NEW COKE.” The volume, speed and unrelenting pace of the show coalesced into an assault on the senses that joyously overwhelmed the whole of the audience.
Perhaps Hollywood should be derided for taking one of the values held most sacred—respect for the dead—and commercializing it in a way that only Hollywood could. Or instead, maybe they should be lauded. So much of life is centered around death—thinking of it, causing it, trying to avoid it—so intertwining it into our entertainment seems a simple next step. When it comes to a venue like the Masonic Lodge, it becomes hard to argue a counterpoint, and when a band like HEALTH plays there, it becomes impossible. So lean back, let the sound drown out the crashing waves of eternity, and live on the edge of death for a night.
HARD TO BE A GOD
WE ARE WATER
Photo Credit: Raymond Flotat