When you visit the bio of LA noise punk band, No Age, you’ll find they’re still just the duo of guitarist Randy Randall and drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt. Listen to one of their records (2007’s Weirdo Rippers, 2008’s N0uns, or 2010’s Everything in Between) and you’ll soon realize their sound, a mix of swirling sound collages, ’80s NYC art rock, and skate punk, is much bigger then any two men can handle on stage — All the gear in the world can’t relieve the need for extra hands when you need to segue from sweet, pleasant sounds to stomping rock in seconds. So, it should come as a surprise to no one that No Age, while still technically a twosome, are now touring with one man on keyboards and two men back in the booth (One working the s0und and another with a table full of additional A/V gear).
From the back of the Grog Shop crowd, the typical No Age jam finds Spunt pounding, stretching to keep his mouth to the mic and Randall shredding behind a veil of long hair; There’s a projection of blurred images behind the band, and the two men in back are frantically shifting knobs and twisting dials. From the front of the crowd, there’s just shredding, and trashing, and pogoing, as the younger crowd members lash on to the more primal aspects of the music. It’s that duality, the cerebral versus the visceral and the primal, that makes No Age such a captivating live act. One can choose to lose oneself in the shifting tones of “Life Prowler” or one can choose to trash along to “Teen Creeps.” While a song like, “Glitter,” the single from their latest album, could illicit either reaction with each one being equally valid.
Opening for No Age this night were the experimental, LA band Lucky Dragons and Cleveland, up-and-comers Herzog. Your reaction to Lucky Dragons likely depended on how close you were to the action, or more accurately, whether you were a part of the action. The “band” consisted of a techie-hippie circle in the center of the Grog Shop audience where band member(s) mingled with concertgoers to create living sound collages. CD’s were used to refract light from a projector in order to distort sound loops. Something with hooka-like wires worked somehow to do a similar trick. There was a laptop and a tangle of other electronics, too. It was like being in college, except you weren’t lounging in the grass, skipping class, and these hippies had a lot more money and a lot more audio gear than the hippies you knew from college. Still, there was that communal vibe and to be a part of it had to be special. And, if you weren’t a part of it, you were probably being impatient waiting for No Age to hit the stage.
Herzog, meanwhile, put on another extraordinary set of ’90s slacker rock and power pop. The hooks were tight. The guitars were big. Nick Tolar’s melodies, meanwhile, ran the gamut from straight up sugar pop to complex and deceptive, pulling in unknown influences which previously lived somewhere between Big Star and Built to Spill. With only one song, “Living Alone,” coming from their latest album, and the bulk of the set coming from an upcoming EP release, the future can only be brighter for Tolar and his quickly gelling live band of Dave McHenry (guitar/vox), Brian Hill (bass), and Dan Price (drums).