No Age - MOCA - 8/7/11
Better than... A Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.
Sunday night's show was a strangely modern intersection of corporate invasion and countercultural retaliation: No Age, L.A.'s leading independent experimentalists, closed out MOCA's "Art in the Streets" exhibition by performing at an adjoining film workshop space sponsored by denim conglomerate Levi's. The band was simultaneously filmed for a piece by Todd Cole, whose client resume includes Philadephia rockers Kurt Vile and Nike alike. Such is art-making in 2011, where paying for all those vegan cupcakes often requires patrons with products made in China.
The performance wasn't No Age's first fashion connection: they designed Wayfarer-esque sunglasses for high-end line Phosphorescence's current season that you can buy for a month's rent in Glassell Park. Still, those were made in (hopefully) exploitation-free Japan. Either way, we have to give credit to Levi's for a genuinely creative, useful space that included a stop-motion animation station, a green screen, a video DJing set-up (used during DJ Peanut Butter Wolf's opening set to synch his Steely Dan and Michael Jackson songs flawlessly to blurry performance clips) and even a Super 8 film conversion booth.
For refreshments, the RSVP-only party brought in the Kogi truck and offered organic vodka with five flavors of Izze Sparkling Juice as mixers; we're not sure how many free glasses you had to drink before annihilating the possible health benefits, but the booze and lengthy Kogi line kept the medium-sized crowd busy even once No Age took the Levi's stage. With the backdrop of MOCA's graffiti-filled Geffen Contemporary halls across the hall, the band, a duo this time out, felt like they'd come a long way since their Smell days - even if they were just a few blocks from their usual downtown stomping ground. And stomp they did. Those who braved the volume - the air pushed by Dean Spunt's bass drum alone could've knocked over my grandmother -were rewarded with a typically intense 45 minutes of the band's unrelenting punk noise.
Most stood by idly, motionlessly watching the performance or holding up an iPhone as if out of habit to try to bottle the speaker-busting (a monitor actually shorted out early into the set) performance, except for a handful of teenagers who took the opportunity to politely mosh at the front of the crowd. The only breaks in the action came during brief ambient interludes, when the band floated distorted textures like rough waves in a grey sea, and a surreal closing song that involved an unidentified mariachi singer and Randy Randall trading in his axe for a classical guitar and a waltz-time rhythm. It was the first and presumably last No Age performance to feature a horn solo. We're not sure what it had to do with street art, punk rock, filmmaking or denim, but it did go down well with a fusion taco.
Personal Bias: They probably would've sounded better at the Smell.
The Crowd: Post-college Urban Outfitters shoppers, aging street art veterans, free booze aficionados and surprisingly few Echo Park hipsters.
Random Notebook Dump: At an exhibition dubbed "Art in the Streets," there was nearly none in the white-walled men's bathroom. Surely there's some graffiti artist who could've improved the museum's toilet experience.
Set list below.