Death Valley Girls
@ The Moth
Words & pics by Captain Stavros
You're travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, The Island In The Sky winter tour, with your hosts Death Valley Girls, The MOTH Club and yours truly, Captain Stavros.
Hailed as LA’s very own Mystic-Rock-Mainstay and fresh off the heels of their latest release, the aforementioned Island in the Sky. A thinly veiled albeit creepier version Themyscira, a bizzarro Themyscira if you will. Where instead of Amazonians, we’ll find Bonnie Bloomgarden giving the audience the business so hard she’ll have to lift her colonial prairie dress to her face to smear it all about, along with her deadly makeup, trying to get all the gunky sweat off her witchy mug to keep the wildest set of the year, thus far, going.
But who are these ghoulish zephyrs from parts Cal-ah-4-neye-eh? That, in and of itself, is a tricky thought exercise. Ever hear of The Ship of Theseus?. Essentially, the story goes, if you swap out all or most of the original parts, is the thing still the same thing it started off as? DVG has seen a fair bit of turnover through the years but original founding member Larry Schemel and Bonnie Bloomgarden, long-time vocalist, are still the beating heart of the band and I’d argue that, like Robocop, swapping out pesky human parts for shiny mechanically powered new ones arguably makes a thing even better than it was before.
The current roster shining down on us from the MOTH’s stage this evening was composed of:
Rikki Styxx – can you imagine if this was her name from birth? Fated to play the drums, and boy-howdy, did she ever? With a Cheshire cat smile throughout. She reminded me of the way a young pyromaniac stares with intensity as the flames she’s nursing rise and consume. Sub the flames for her sticks crashing into the snare, and you’ve got an alarmingly satisfying experience.
Bonnie Bloomgarden – charismatic frontwoman and fallen Disney Princess who, at times, is possessed by the music itself so much so that when she bends backwards. She could be confused for someone with a terrible case of scoliosis or a lost limbo contestant. At one point, she broke out into a make-shift gospel whilst on the keys. I was in stitches.
Larry Schemel, founding member who now is more of an apparition wiggling around stage right in the shadows.
Last but not least, Samantha Westervelt – bassist, singer, actor and Saturn Bar t-shirt wearer extraordinaire. With “Liquor in the front, Poker in the rear” plastered across it and sporting a “Born Free” electric guitar strap. I’d get to know her perhaps more personally than most in the audience that evening as her bass’ headstock rapped against my knuckles like a school teachers' ruler as I tried to take photos throughout the set. Worth it.
For some reason, I’ve written ‘steam roller energy’ in my gig notes and, although those are all words I understand, they make no sense to me and probably never did. On that tip though, much in the same vein of Ty Segall and King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard, Death Valley Girls seemingly have all the energy in the world for putting out an album every Friday to help us make it through the weekend. Their latest is album seven. They’ve also pumped out eight singles/EPs in 10 years, Jiminy Jillikers! I’ll say this about them, they do not accept the laws of thermodynamics. They are a perpetual motion machine with no end in sight; after 10 years, they’re still ‘givn’er’, these lot are a quagmire.
Speaking of conjuring shit up, the set starts off with ‘ABRE Camino’, a methodical slowburn that sounds like a record being played backwards. Ouija vibes man, but soon their set turns mani(a)c with ‘Street Justice’ from 2018’s Dark Rains. At this point, the audience has been completely possesed by Bloomgarden’s signature vocals, which reach maximum hypnosis when Westervelt chimes in chorus, banshee-esque vibes.
A few songs down the road, Bloomgarden starts coming at us with a few gems between tracks; “You don't know how lucky you are to have this place. We don't have a place like this in our town.” I dunno lady, certainly we are lucky to have The MOTH (albeit with iconic ‘All children to be off the Dance Floor by 9:30pm’ sign now missing? How long have I been out for?) but if Bukowski, Stanton or Morrison heard this, they’d probably be spinning in their booze soaked and drug addled graves. I could easily see them playing at The Mint in LA. I did especially appreciate, “If you think being a man is cool, then I'm a man too”, introing 2016’s Glow In The Dark track. Not too long after which, Bloomgarden has a back and forth with a few audience members before diving into the crowd, booths and everywhere in between. No one was safe but I’m quite confident nobody at that point cared to be.
They return for an encore rocking ‘Electric High’ from Street Venom, which brought the fucking house down thanks to Rikki Styxx. I think my friend BobaDebz summed it up best with her review though, “I’m trying to recall exactly what I said because I genuinely want to help you. I remember mentioning about the drummer her Cheshire Cat grin, how insane the last song was and how that made me cream my pants. I honestly can’t recall anything else other than how totally fucking awesome she was.” - BobaDebz
Death Valley Girls are currently touring Europe, wouldn’t miss ‘em if I were you.