“San Diego, it’s been a long time,” magenta-haired L7 bassist Jennifer Finch announced to a screaming mixed crowd, ranging from early twenty-somethings to late Gen X devotees, at the San Diego Music Thing on Saturday in North Park. “A really long time.”
She’s right — 16 years, to be exact. 16 years since San Diegans have reveled in the relentless shredding, crunching, kick-in-the-pants musical transcendence that is the all-female Los Angeles based rock band, L7.
It might come as no surprise, then, that heads started banging within seconds of their first song “Deathwish,” off of Smell the Magic. It was this 1990 album that established the band as both grunge and female rock pioneers in 1990. Twenty-five years later, L7’s venerated reputation remains unchanged.
In the ‘90s, I had the privilege of seeing L7 several times. Unlike so many other bands that lose focus and vigor over the years, L7 on Saturday was as high-powered and wisecracking as I’d remembered them. For a moment, I had to look down and make sure I wasn’t still wearing my thrift store corduroy Cobain jacket.
Decked out in her uniform of sunglasses and all black, guitarist Suzi Gardner prevailed in all her sardonic glory, yelling a Leave It To Beaver-esque, “Oh sweetie, oh honey, oh buttercup…come pick up your clothes off the floor!” before launching into the freeloading-boyfriend bash, “Slide.” Feisty lead singer and guitarist Donita Sparks warned the crowd to “get ready for the scraping,” her delightfully discordant guitar scaling, which segued into “One More Thing” and later, “Shit List.”
Despite the apparent PA issues Sparks said the band was experiencing — “Can you hear us? Okay, good, because we can’t hear us” — their entire performance was fluid. Never missing a beat, Sparks and Finch synchronized their thrashing during “Pretend We’re Dead,” “Diet Pill,” and “Andres.” Drummer Dee Plakas, hailed as one of the most brazen in alt-rock rock history, pounded away with relentless precision, each song as thunderous as the one before. Whenever L7 performs, it’s a timeless experience. They’re consistently relevant and hard-hitting; any traces of nostalgia are comforting, not anachronistic.
But the true beauty (process) of L7 lies in their perpetual pushback against the simultaneous stagnation and aggression of American society. They unapologetically refuse to yield to the whims of mainstream media; creepers (or “fuckboys,” as the kids call them today); gender expectations; naysayers; haters; leeches; socially induced fear and anxiety; and the political infringement on women’s rights. And they’ve always managed to make it look so damn effortless.
In a world of information overload and overwrought ideological expression, L7’s poignant message cuts through the noise straight to the point: women have endured a lot of shit, and still do. Their way of dealing with it is pretty simple, and has evidently worked well for them: “Get outta my way, or I’m gonna shove.”