Bleached was on tour promoting their second album, Welcome the Worms. The trio of L.A. punk chicks have made big waves in the last four years, bringing a blend of surf and garage together in a relentlessly catchy, uncompromisingly edgy way that has cemented their position in any serious rock conversation. They had brought with them No Parents, a punk-pop band relatively unknown outside of the L.A. underground other than a reputation for playing naked. When No Parents took the stage, almost no one seemed to know what to expect - except for one guy who shrieked like a girl who had bumped into Bieber. That guy already knew what we were all about to find out the hard way.Show openers No Parents were dressed like they had all been blindfolded, given $25, and let loose inside a Goodwill. Their singer, a short little guy named Zoe Reign who moved with the loose lethargy of someone who subsists primarily on beer, bounced out of the back about three seconds before they started playing to ragingly yell "we're No Parents!" as the onslaught began. They've been compared to early Blink-182, and for good reason: their raw, very loud brand of rock is puerile, tightly practiced and calculatedly juvenile. It's the sound of poor, young boys who own a backpack's worth of belongings, couch-surfing far longer than any of us could without getting stabbed or caving in and getting a real job, skate rock from men who wouldn't bat an eye at flipping off a cop to his face. Their debut LP, a casette released by Burger Records titled May The Thirst Be With You, has tracks named "Dick City" and "I'm a Dildo," and amidst their hurricane din of noise you can make out lyrics like "pizza, fuck yeah, pizza, pizza" and "I'm fucking in an In N' Out bathroom, I'm eating out in an In N' Out bathroom."
Sadly, the clothes stayed on - live reviews tell tales of Reign tucking it back and stage diving - but the band didn't lack for shock or energy. On one of their slower songs, Reign painted a surprisingly honest and poignant picture: "my grandma thinks I'm my dead uncle, my grandma thinks I'm another man," which had us all going "whoa..." for about three seconds before power-drummer Monte Najera rolled us into another jumping, head-smashing banger.
What little press exists about the band paints an image as vivid as any coming-of-age movie could: a group of guys who manage to survive off pennies, living in a DIY concert venue, embodiments of the punk totem "do the best with what you got." They had a song called "Buy us a van" which, unsurprisingly, was one long plea for audience members to buy them a cheap van so they can gig more. At one point, Reign slid off stage and returned carrying a classical acoustic guitar, which he held backwards (not upside down - backwards) and plucked at like a bass as Bleached bassist Micayla Grace looked on from the wings, side split with laughter.
They brought a raucous, thoroughly untempered show to Barboza, wielding a style of rock that usually gets cleaned up and professionalized before it reaches the stage. It was honest, refreshing, and astonishingly fun. As their set reached its conclusion, they (vocally) realized that they had more time but no more songs, so they all launched into a note-for-note cover of Lenny Kravitz' "Fly Away," before collectively wobbling off stage to find their next beers.
"It's about accepting that people you love will pass away, your pet will die, you'll get a parking ticket, and you'll have a pimple on the day of your first date. That's just part of life and it's all beautiful" - This was Jennifer Clavin's description of Bleached's sophomore album, an album that was made in the midst of profound personal darknesses. The sisters Clavin - Jennifer and Jessica, respectively the singer/songwriter and lead guitarist - had come off a successful first L.A. punk album and returned home to lives that seemed to be falling apart at the seams. Jessica had been evicted and was living in the rehearsal space, while Jennifer was freshly free from an emotionally abusive relationship only to find herself quickly sliding down into her own substance abuse. It was an all-too-familiar position for a rock band, but one still heartbreaking to see, and the rest of the musical world waited anxiously to see if the second album would ever come to life.
Fast forward a year and, as Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" thundered out of the speakers, Bleached took the Barboza stage. The Clavin sisters in pink and green hair, bassist Micayla Grace, and an un-named but smiley guy on drums calmly strode out to loud applause and greeted us with a quick "hi" into the microphone. The girls are pin-up gorgeous: nylon-y plastic skirts, boots, colorful hair and black fingernails. While the Clavins are punk rainbows, Grace is all black with a face obscured by hair, plucking away at a battered black bass.
The sisters both managed, miraculously, to get their personal lives together just as the record began to come together, and Jennifer in particular recalls pouring her heart and all her issues into the songs - some power anthems of self-love, some self-loathing and heartbreaking - that they then meticulously honed in pop gold. Songs like "Sour Candy" are radio gems and about as catchy as hard drugs or early Beatles, while tracks like "Keep on Keepin' On" recognize a heavier, more pained side of love and rock. They all translated perfectly live: Jessica's riffing was mathematically precise while never sacrificing a shred of punk, and Jennifer's swaying and dancing, bright hair whirling around the microphone, was as hypnotically captivating as Jessica Rabbit.
About halfway through their set, they took a break to thank the crowd and tell us that they found Seattle to be "pretty cool." "We got to play KEXP today, and we got to meet the sweetest woman, we were pretty awestruck by her! Her name was, uhhh..." The crowd finished her sentence, a whole bar shouting in unison: "CHERYL!!!" As they laughed, the drums rolled them right into "Think of You," one of their earliest songs and a stark contrast to some of the cuts from Welcome the Worms: it was recorded during a carefree, young, flippantly happy time for the band, and they performed it with a certain passion, trying to wring every last drop of nostalgia out of a bulletproof rock song. No Parents came out and joined them for Sour Candy, the boys looking wide-eyed at the seasoned superwomen sharing the mics with them, notably tidier now that they were sharing the stage, and they left without making a single dick joke.
As a freshly rocked crowd left the venue in a haze, shaken and alive, the crowd of bikers had attracted a gang of beggars, who simply sat on the corner in a mob of fifteen with a sign that read "anything helps." Two bikers - as physically terrifying as you could possibly imagine - walked up to them and set down a cardboard box. It was filled with about forty cheeseburgers, and the whole crowd cheered. One woman began to cry and hugged one of the bikers, who cried and hugged her back.
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