In a sushi bar somewhere in LA a group of hipster kids are taking shots and gearing-up for The Hit Machine. The opening act finished over an hour ago, and all the chatter is that the headlining band is up the road getting sloshed at cheaper bar. “They’re always a half hour late or more” one girl, equipped in her HM teenie jersey, screams into my ear.
The normally casual place, not really known as a venue, is elbow to elbow; smoke is creeping from the street and not all of it smells like cigarettes, there’s a pair of bikers in the corner sipping Budweiser, a gothic couple with messy jet black hair, a girl dressed as a cheerleader with the name “Grant” painted on her uniform, a kid who keeps trying to push everyone out of the way and breakdance, and a slew of your average LA hipsters and whatnots with their fancy drinks, some with assorted fruits, umbrellas, Slim Jims etc.
On top of the bedlam I recognize two fairly famous producers parked casually at separate ends of the bar. This is not your typical “here’s my pals to run up the bar bill,” “here’s your drink tickets band members”, set-up, tear down, and see-you-later, LA local band late night. Before a note of music is struck, there’s something decidedly giddy about the atmosphere, progressive, angry … something different is happening here tonight.
A few drinks later, my interest peaked to the max, the crowd starts ramping-up and a few of the members of the Machine are finally setting up their gear, which looks tattered as hell with exception of a pristine drum kit, donned by local studio pro Jason Smith. Hayter, guitarist, one of the lead vocalists, and co-songwriter, is arguing with the promoter, probably about being late, and an older woman, absolutely looking like Hayter’s mom, looks over his shoulder with concern.
Almost like herd of walkers, the crowd surges toward the stage. We hear a couple of screeches of guitar, a couple of snare hits, and the band appears ready to rock. Dre Perish, the band’s primary songwriter, guitarist and front man, approaches the mic and whispers “the world is a crazy place, come nestle up with us for an hour,” before busting into “Work of the Devil”, a sort of demonic version of something The Strokes might do after a handful of Adderall, and “Let the Record Spin” a classic favorite from the HMs first album. Several rockers follow before the band comes up for air, covered in sweat and with fierce looks in their eyes.
They gaze out at the audience as if they hate everyone out there, almost as a challenge for someone not to think they’re extraordinary, which they are. Clearly, from the first few numbers, the band isn’t the tight, every note in it right place type of band but is instead is something better—a wrecking ball of energy and sound. Guitar bends come in and out of tune, as if to demand your attention, and vocals approach the kind of shouts that you might expect from a fatal knife fight. All this in a surprisably sing-a-longable package. That’s The Hit Machine—a night of rage on the auspices of a pop band.
Needless to say, the rest of the concert was equally as kick ass. Grant, Hayter, and Dre each took turns on lead vocals and each brought something new to the set. My favorite song was the closer, “Runnin’ Out” which is a crazy creative piece of rock music, starting with a spoken word verse by Dre and climaxing in whacky Marc Ribot + Johnny Greenwoodesque guitar solo and a shouting verse on the subject of some sort of manic hallucination that ends in a police beating by the beach.
It was my first time hearing the band and I wanted to punch someone in the face, start a riot, wake up in the morning bloody and broken, and then begin the process of being reborn, changing my life. Instead I bought their album, Mean I Are. You should too.
– Jack Markson