The first thing that struck me as I walked into the band room at the Croxton was the abundance of punters between the ages of 18 and 25. As someone who was “around” that age when the album of the occasion tonight “Bricks Are Heavy” was originally released, I expected the nostalgia crew to be front and centre. While the nostalgia crew were healthily represented, both onstage and off, it was the fresh round of grunge connoisseurs that caught my attention but more about that later. The reason everyone was here was to hear LA grunge rockers L7 play their 3rd and most well loved album live in its entirety. Originally released in 1992 following 1988’s self titled album and 1990’s “Smell the Magic”, “Bricks Are Heavy” really put L7 on the alterna-rock’s world stage. The Croxton came alive as the sound of radio static as a dial rolled from station to station playing snippets of classic ‘90s hits and memories heralding the start of three sold out Melbourne shows for the band. On stage was the original “Bricks Are Heavy” lineup featuring founding members Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner on guitars, bassist Jennifer Finch and drummer Dee Plakas, with each taking both lead and backing vocals throughout the set’s journey.
From the opening “Wargasm” to the closer “This Ain’t Pleasure”, the live performance was a faithful rendition of the album, albeit somewhat rawer than producer Butch Vig’s studio output. They may have been a bit loose and rough around the edges musically but their attitude and chemistry on stage as a band made it work for them and is the epitome of what grunge is all about. Their biggest hit came in at track 3 in “Pretend We’re Dead”, a song Sparks declared that they usually play last and had Finch threatening anyone who left at the end of it would be sent back on the boat to England, or Greece, Sparks added showing that she had done her local Melbourne research. Other highlights of the album, and crowd favorites, were the John Waters inspired “Diet Pill”, quoting the iconic line by Divine as Edna Turnblad in the movie “Hairspray”, and the vitriolic “Shit List”. Having ripped through the album tracks in a cool 45 minutes, there was plenty of time left for the “almost hits” as Sparks referred to the arsenal of songs they have recorded throughout their 7 album career. Highlights included “Andres” and “Fuel My Fire” from the “Hungry for Stink” album, the latter heavily influenced by the Cosmic Psychos and famously covered by the Prodigy, along with the classic “Shove” from “Smell the Magic”.
The two encore songs comprised of the anthemic “American Society” and the frenzied “Fast and Frightening”, sent the crowd into a spin proving that these 4 women had plenty of gas left in the tank. With one show down in this town and two more to go, it was a strategic way to end the show.
Now about the new fans that I alluded to earlier. While restraining myself from shaking my fists at clouds, I have to say I’m disappointed at the lack of awareness of crowd etiquette. Fine, dance around and get into it by all means but please refrain from scream singing in my ears after pushing your way into the tiniest of spaces that older people like me have deliberately carved out around ourselves to avoid being continually flicked in the face with the hair of the person in front. I think the Covid lockdowns caused some kind of crowd mutation where basic manners and consideration for those around them has skipped a generation. Let’s revive the ‘90s audience behaviors along with the music.