WRFL is throwing a tower upgrade celebration concert at Gumbo Ya-Ya. The independent radio station’s tower will soon (sometime between May 3rd and 9th) beam at 7,900 watts of power on the 88.1FM frequency, a big upgrade from the current 250 watts. It took the station 7 years to get approval for the upgrade and it cost them almost $200,000 to build a new tower, money raised through University of Kentucky student fees and donations from the public. As a “thank you” to the Lexington community, this tower-upgrade celebration will be free to attend. It features a handful of bands featured on this very Music page in past issues: Latin Heat, Lushlife, The Butchers, Tiny Fights, and Loose Change. Headlining the concert will be No Age. Below is the schedule of performances.
9:00 – 9:35: Latin Heat
10:00 – 10:35: The Butchers
11:00 – 12:1ish: No Age
Downswtairs @ GumboYa-Ya:
7 pm: WRFL DJs
9:30 – 10:00: Tiny Fights
10-11: RFL DJs
11:00 -11:45: Loose Change
Midnight – 2: Lushlife/Cass
Friday, April 23rd
No Age w/ Lushlife, The Butchers, Tiny Fights, Loose Change, & Latin Heat
Gumbo Ya-Ya/ Bar Lexington (367 East Main Street)
Doors @ 6pm. Free show. 18+
No Age is drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall. The duo, from different LA suburbs, moved into downtown LA and formed hardcore/punk/noise band Wives with friend Jeremy Villabos back in 2002. Wives lasted three years, and then Villabos left for Brooklyn while Spunt and Randall stuck in LA. The two kept making music together in the same vein as Wives, sans bass, fomenting tunes at downtown venue The Smell.
The Smell is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit all-ages drug/alcohol free music venue and gallery space where most shows are 5 bucks. Since 1998, it’s been a springboard venue for bands like Mika Miko, Abe Vigoda, The Mae Shi, and HEALTH. Housed in a former Mexican grocery store, The Smell serves vegan snacks and operates as a de facto public library. Musicians who play there, including No Age, frequently volunteer to work the door, run sound, serve food, and clean up the place at the end of the night. (Randall even dug a trench to install a second bathroom there, a project that took over four years to complete.)
By the time Spunt and Randall christened themselves No Age, in late 2005, the downtown LA underground punk scene was thriving and new venues were popping up a la The Smell. A climate of DIY empowerment spread, inspiring new bands, more shows, and a savvy network of self-promoting artists to join forces to churn out everything from t-shirts to screen-printed fliers to shoestring record labels to put out one another’s records. The Smell even started its own record label, Olfactory Records.
In 2007 No Age decided it was time to spread their sound beyond the hometown. They chose an ambitious way to maximize their audience through record distribution: release five EPs on five different labels, all on the same day. Why this approach?
“We did 5 EPs because it’s a concept we thought was interesting and wanted to see it through to the end,” Randall said. “We were able to make more material that way and just get as much out as we could. That was the idea.”
The releases got the attention of a couple influential blogs, including Brooklyvegan.com and thefader.com, soon meriting the attention of UK-based FatCat Records. In June of ’07, FatCat released Weirdo Rippers, No Age’s debut LP. The album features highlights from the five EPs—many tracks combine contrasting ambient and punk songs—distilled into one 30-minute salvo. It’s a unique take on fragmented noise pop, its terrain dense and fascinating, visceral and stark. It’s not the most accessible album, and yet it garnered the band a spot touring with Liars and a heap of critical praise. As homage, Weirdo Rippers’ album cover is a picture of The Smell’s façade with “No Age” and “Weirdo Rippers” painted onto it. (This isn’t a graphic design trick—it was actually painted onto the venue.)
Later in ’07 the band signed a deal with Sub Pop Records and, in 2008, released follow-up LP Nouns. Nouns is a more orderly, clearer-sounding record than Weirdo Rippers. It features brighter ambiance and more poppy punk songs, still peppered with lots of noise. But even Nouns’ most accessible moments are short-lived: like Weirdo Rippers, it’s done in 30 minutes. Almost comically, Nouns was nominated for a Grammy…for best album packaging. Metallica won.
The band has stayed busy since critical acclaim found Nouns, appearing on MTV, touring the UK, and finding themselves at the center of a minor dust-up surrounding Craig Ferguson’s late-night talk show. The latter incident involved Randall wearing an Obama t-shirt for an on-air performance before the ‘08 election. CBS, who broadcasts the program, wouldn’t film Randall wearing the shirt because of the “equal time rule,” which states that for every minute of airtime given to “Candidate A,” candidates B, C, D, etc must be given equal airtime. Randall compromised by flipping his shirt inside out, writing “Free Health Care” on it with a marker, and then playing. It’s a telling parable of how punks with ideas and corporate America make strange bedfellows.
No Age’s ideas aren’t relegated to just music and politics. They’ve dabbled in video production, film scoring, art show curation, clothing and tennis shoe design, as well as running Post Present Medium Records, a label Spunt created back in 2001. They’ve even toured creatively, playing in venues as varied as a vegan grocery store, on a bridge, at a library, at an Ethiopean restaurant, on the Los Angeles river, and on a special mini-tour last summer that brought them to Newport, KY. That Southgate House gig was part of the “No Deachunter” tour, which saw a trio of acts—No Age, Dan Deacon, and Deerhunter—sharing a stage and alternating songs in one lengthy setlist, sometimes joining forces like Voltron to play simultaneously.
Having released another EP in October of last year, the subdued Losing Feeling, and with a new LP coming soon, No Age find themselves indie rock royalty du jour. Yet they’ve not forgotten The Smell scene that helped get them there. Recently, just before heading to Austin for SXSW, they worked the door at a Smell gig, later jumping onstage for an unannounced performance…as openers.