Sunday, January 11, 2009

Whip @ Smell 2003

FROM THE ARCHIVES, Jan 11 - This was originally posted on vermiform.com, 3/3/03.

The Whip – a new band from Olympia, WA featuring Joe Preston from Thrones and Jared Warren and Scott Maniac from Karp – played at The Smell this last Friday and boy did those mothers rip. Good God. Great music was played and snappy banter was had, Joe looked genuinely happy and the new umpteen-bajillion watt sound system asserted itself in the face of L.A. Weekly badmouthing.

Also, no one died. That ripped as well. If there is any silver lining to last month’s horrific nightclub tragedies in Chicago and Rhode Island, it is that concert goers now have something more concrete to worry about than Level Orange soft-target terrorist attacks. In L.A., one can also stop fretting about earthquakes. And club owners have something new to raise their blood pressure. In cities around America this last week, nightclubs have been feeling the stresses of a post-Great White world, one where it is even less funny to yell 'fire' between a band’s songs. In New York, ABC No Rio’s shuttering (although amusing to the club’s many enemies) signaled some new course by city officials already taking a hard line towards public dissent, culture and merrymaking. But clubs everywhere are undertaking squashings of a new and sinister tone.

Neil Burke and I visited The Station in Warwick three years ago. He needed to buy some Blue Oyster Cult tickets. It was that weird time of the day when nightclubs are open for business but still hours away from any live music, and the only other people present were barbacks and soundmen. Not being a fan of B.O.C., I spent a few minutes inspecting the photos of failed hair bands in their front hallway. It was in this hallway that 25 of the 97 people who burned to death were found last week, stacked and unidentifiable. I tried to eyeball the rooms of The Smell on Friday, comparing each to my memory of that hallway, and all I could calculate is that a lot of those hallways could fit in the Smell.

After the Whip played, people applauded a lot and dispersed and a suspicious little man arrived. A few minutes later, the staff abruptly and quietly made the rounds from group to group, informing everyone that the building had to be immediately vacated. A full team of fire inspectors materialized, maybe a half dozen guys of the No Bullshit variety (although one was seen laughing at the unflattering wall of GW Bush photos). Wiring was scrutinized and dimensions were taken. The new stage – painstakingly measured at exactly 44” from the wall, in complete compliance with fire codes - was arbitrarily deemed incorrect. A series of additional arbitrary violations followed and now the Smell is closed indefinitely. My sources tell me indefinitely means “at least the next couple of weeks”, and “hopefully no longer than a month”. But it still sucks.