Live in Los Angeles: RADICAL FACE

LIVE IN LOS ANGELES:

RADICAL FACE

Tuesday, May, 10, 2016
Teragram Ballroom
Los Angeles, California

words by Dan Sinclair
pictures by Nicholas Bates

 

TUESDAY MAY 10, 2016 was a historic night. Not only did Radical Face play Teragram Ballroom, it was also the first time in nearly two years that your humble writer joined forces with photography master Nicolas Bates to cover a live concert event! It was just like getting the old band back together…  except we weren’t writing any songs or playing any instruments or banging any groupies… okay, okay, so it wasn’t like getting the old band back together at all, but it was pretty fucking special, all right?

My Lyft dropped me off early enough to catch a couple of Bear Republic Racer Fives at a cool dark-ass bar down the street called Monty, before I met up with Nick and we both entered the Teragram Ballroom for the first time in our lives. Not a bad place to catch a show, or drink a beer for that matter with at least three bars that I saw. There may have been another one in the balcony, but I wasn't cool enough to be let up there, so how the hell would I know? For this show I chose a very buttery Angel City IPA, because even though I'm not a huge fan of the brewery, it was the only L.A. beer on tap and I do like to drink local from time to time.

On stage, there is a little forest with scattered dimly instruments partially hiding the instruments waiting to be played. Perhaps it’s because this tour is in support of Radical Face’s final chapter in his Family TREE trilogy… or maybe just an amazing coincidence? Either way, musicians grab their spots among the trees at the proper instrument.  The backing band in this case happens to be the opening act, The Little Books. I wonder if they get payed time and a half for working a second shift? Shortly after the over-worked indie rockers take stage, Radical Face himself, Ben Cooper, walks out to a cheering crowd, his actual radical face very much bearded.

 

Ben says his hellos, making sure to mention, “All these songs are depressing.”  And the first of these so-called depressing songs is “The Crooked Kind,” which Ben describes as “A song for when you’re embarrassed by your family and where you come from.” This, of course, being a theme that most people can relate to… Uh, but not ME! I love you, Mom!  But whoever’s kin to the asshole on my left that is talking nonstop and loud-as-fuck to the drunk girl he brought with him surely can relate.  I mean, seriously, who pays money to come to a show and not listen to the fucking music? Scum, that’s who.

The large majority of concert-goers tonight, however, are not scum, and the only noises coming from their throats are when they sing along softly to the emotional songs or when they cheer loudly in appreciation when each one comes to an end.  This is something the sold-out crowd does enthusiastically throughout the whole show.

Next is the writer’s personal favorite, “Ghost Towns,” and judging by the crowds joyous reaction to its introduction, he’s not alone. Ben says, “This is a song about living in a small town where everyone knows you murdered someone.” He then also warns us, “It’s not autobiographical, but you never know,” before quoting Snoop, “Murder was the case that they gave me.” It was the kind of performance that makes one feel so lucky to be able to cover live music. Thanks, Ben.  After that was “Summer Skeletons” and “Rivers in the Dust,” which is where Ben gave us the real reason he likes to tour with The Little Books. “Free back-up band.”

Then the band leaves the stage, so Ben can play something a little personal. “They get a break because I’m going to sing something depressing.” Someone in crowd shouts, “Make us sad.” Ben laughs and assures him, “It’s ‘Severus and Stone,’ and it’s about a ten-year-old boy whose twin brother dies. You’re welcome.”  As he starts to play the intro, he realizes that this particular song may be even too depressing for him. “I usually don’t play this one on tour, because it bums me out.” But he plays it all the same, and it’s sad and beautiful at the same time. Some people don’t know whether to cry or laugh or cheer. Not me, of course. I’m an emotionless robot. There’s just something in my eye. Shut up.

Next up, Ben decides he’s going to “double down on depressing” by playing “Along the Road” with The Little Books, who rejoin him on stage. It’s a mellow song, but the band really rocks out as best they can at its conclusion. After it’s over, someone shouts, “You’re awesome,” and Ben responds, “I don’t know how to respond to that.”

Shortly thereafter, Ben realizes that The Little Books’ lead vocalist Robi Rutenberg is wearing overalls, and remarks that she must be ready for the next song “We’re on Our Way.” Ben then tells us, “This song was designed as a form of punishment,” before concluding that sentence with a loud burp. Everyone, including the Radical-est of Faces, can’t help but laugh. “Things are shitty, but they might not always be.” He tries to convince us that he doesn’t remember how to play the intro to the song, and then plays the shit out of it anyway. The crowd claps along and Robi proves that she was indeed ready for the song as her backing vocals serve as the most impressive instrument on stage, if only for a few moments.

Next up is “Sisters,” which was composed to sound like a train passing by, followed by a song about brothers in “Always Gold.” Ben tells us that Rick Colado is afraid of this song because he can never get the piano opening right. But with the audience chanting his name, Rick figures it out and Radical Face and The Little Books perform another lovely rendition of a crowd favorite.

A man named Josh Lee plays some impressive cello on “Winter’s Coming,” which is a song about a family that finds out that seasons are people and NOT Game of Thrones. Well, that is, as Ben says, “Unless you want it to be.” Then the set concludes with arguably Radical Face’s most popular song “Welcome Home.” The audience is invited to sing along, but Ben insists on a practice round before the start. The talented men and women in the crowd nail it, impressing him. “My therapist says I need to stop being so negative, but fuck her!” With our help, Radical Face and The Little Books end the show majestically, and though the songs may have been dark and melancholy, I couldn’t find a non-smiling face around me.

The crowd begged for an encore and Ben returned to play “The Mute” all by him lonesome. He starts the intro and stops suddenly. “I fucked up. I did that thing where I ask myself what the next chords are.” Then he tries again and stops. “Damn it.” But third time’s a charm and “The Mute” is played to conclusion before The Little Books join the stage to play the song about kids in factories and child labor laws, “The Gilded Hand.” The song plays, the crowd sways and sings along, but before long it comes to and end and all must go home because the Teragram Ballroom is not open 24 hours. Oh, but they do have one of the best bathrooms I’ve ever pissed in at show, so feel free to drink all the beer you want without worry next time you attend a show there.