Before we dive into the second day of La Escalera Fest 8, I have been informed by my wonderful boyfriend, Skyler, that I did not properly end our evening of Night 1. Apparently, I had forgotten his favorite part of the night.
So… we were at Toronado sometime past 2AM, and we were starving. We found a Thai restaurant which was open until 3 and Lyfted over. The place was called THE Asian Bistro and nothing could have prepped us for what we saw when we walked inside. Directly to the right of the door, was a four top and one of the patrons was passed out in his food. The only other people in the restaurant looked like a couple on a first date. At 3AM. We placed our order with the waiter, who was clearly drunk, and asked for it to go. I wanted to get back to Morocco STAT before I passed out from exhaustion in my food like our friend over there. That’s when the plates of food started to come out. We reminded them that we ordered it to go and instead of just agreeing with us, the waiter spent way too much time trying to convince us to stay, eat in the restaurant, and hang out with him. That’s gonna have to be a hard “naw, dawg” from me. By the time we eventually got back to the Airbnb, I was only able to eat a few bites before passing out.
Day 2 started with brunch at Breakfast Republic with Skyler, Julianne, and Shane. We had all eaten there last year and couldn’t stop talking about how good it was and this year was no exception. Then we headed over to the San Diego Zoo where we met up with Uriel (Ash Williams, Le Saboteur) and took one final look at the oh so cute female panda before they send her back to China. We spent the next few hours wandering around the zoo, chugging down boozy slushies, and cracking weird jokes which quickly became inside jokes (HAAAAALP!). But then Shane started to feel ill. Within a few minutes everyone who ate brunch together felt off and decided it was best to head back to our respective resting places to puke, poop, nap, whatever, before the night shows started.
We got to Soda Bar early since Heck Yes was both starting the night and letting all the bands use their gear. I didn’t have much to offer in the way of helping, so I wandered out to the back parking lot and spent some time with the Mables Marbles guys, who I hadn’t really hung out with before. That was when drummer Billy (also of Burn Burn Burn) passed me a White Claw and schooled me that it’s “Garra Blanca” in Spanish. I had no idea the foreshadowing of that gesture. In a mere days, American Airlines would cancel my flight back to Chicago and I’d end up in a van headed North with the Heck Yes and Mables guys chugging down van claws/garras and playing “Would you rather?” for hours.
At 6:50 on the dot, Heck Yes kicked off Night 2. The Seattle-based band also played La Escalera last year, both at Red Brontosaurus Records and in TJ, and holy hell, what a difference a year makes! They’d been on the road for just over a week at that point and were tour tight. They interspersed new unreleased songs with those off their 2017 EP, Get Jazzed, along with a Fenix TX cover that strangely no one seemed to know but me and Billy.
The evening was set up between Soda Bar and Space Bar, a block or two down the street. So I spent my evening ping ponging between the two venues. I showed up to Space just in time to catch California Hearse. I had heard so much about them since they released six songs last December. The band features the rhythm section of the much beloved Gentlemen Prefer Blood and they pick up exactly where GPB left off!
I headed back to Soda for the The Dodges. This four-piece local band has always been a treat to catch. They have so much energy and put so much into their live shows. They also have a new EP out Spotify! One the way back to Space, my FitBit went off informing me that I had hit 10K steps for the day. And only twelve more bands to go! Le Saboteur was a band which took my breathe away. Flaunt’s Michelle Pannell also fronts this band, but the sound is completely opposite. Her voice comes across and both powerful and fragile at the same time. It’s beautiful. My biggest regret of the weekend was not picking up a shirt from them and from Pity Party (I am so bad at merch).
Demasiado was one of the few acts on the bill who I had not yet seen. The band has been described as “art rock” and I think I concur. Their onstage presence was both simultaneously brooding and ethereal. I was able to catch a few photos of Midnight Track before my camera battery died. And of course, I left my spare at the other bar. But they were too good to miss. I stayed and watched their whole set before heading back and catching the pals in Despero. I missed two bands this night, Buckfast Superbee and Doc Hammer. Sometimes you can’t Catch ‘Em All after all.
I did, however, watch The Gay Agenda. They describe themselves as ‘Homo Riot Hardcore’ and while that about sums it up, their live show is a must see. There’s bondage, leather, chains, a bunny mask, and more all set to hardcore songs with titles like “Bear Fucker.” Much like Le Saboteur and Flaunt, they topped the list of my favorite bands of the weekend.
Back over to Space for ODD ROBOT and another mango White Claw. The Fullerton-based band has really been gaining steam since they first came on my radar with their 2017 release, A Late Night Panic. ODD ROBOT’s set contained songs from both their debut album and their latest release, Amnesiatic (both albums out now via Wiretap Records. Both albums are chock full of power pop punk goodness.
Between the two hour time change and more walking than I had done in months, my body was telling me to quit. But it was the home stretch. There were only four more bands to go and they’re all so good! Matt Caskitt & the Breaks absolutely ripped through their set. There’s only a handful of things I actually miss about living in California and seeing Matt Caskitt play drums while singing is one of them. But then again, whenever I saw Caskitt I think I was already living in Chicago anyway… Either way, the band is flawless and I cannot wait for them to put out another release.
I stayed at Soda Bar for the wonderful Mercy Music from Vegas before trudging back to Space one more time for DFMK. Tonight, the Tijuana four piece was down to three TJ members and one Davey Tiltwheel on guitar. They were amazing, as always. There is no distance too far to travel to see this band if you have not done so already. And if you have, see them again. They’re exactly what I believe La Escalera Records is all about – some of the kindest humans alive making some great music.
Closing out the night was Nothington. Last year, the band announced that they would be calling it quits with a series of shows over the next few months. I took that to mean that Fest 17 was their last show. But earlier this year, they announced the final three shows and, luckily, La Escalera 8 happened to be one of them. The crowd was insane; everyone who was at DFMK came filing in as soon as they were done and it seemed that everyone was trying to push themselves up to the front of the stage to sing along live with the songs one last time.
The show ended and we stuck around to load up all the gear. Within an hour, Skyler and I were back in Morocco, eating our left over Thai food from THE Asian Bistro and watching what Skyler claims to believe is the best Indiana Jones movie, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I was too overtired to object to this statement (a phrase I will probably never write again, as debating Skyler is one of my favorite relationship pastimes). As he began to explain what made the movie so good, I remember thinking that his logic on this one made so much sense, before I fell fast asleep. I must have been delirious with exhaustion.
Check out the below gallery of La Escalera Fest 8’s Day 2 and check back tomorrow for Day 3 coverage:
- California Hearse
- Heck Yes
- Le Saboteur
- Matt Caskitt & the Breaks
- Mercy Music
- Midnight Track
- ODD ROBOT
- The Dodges
- The Gay Agenda
- La Escalera Records
- Wiretap Records