Driving to the Bootleg Theater last night, I was yawning the whole way there. School had just started, and I had spent the past two hours reading Shakespeare (seriously…). I was in serious need of a pick me up, and, fortunately, that's exactly what I got.
Walking into the old warehouse venue I could already feel and hear the distorted screams of rock music. Inside wood framework, brick walls, and industrial accents I laid my eyes upon Sleeper Agent--a precocious, wickedly rowdy, unkempt, and entirely electric sextet--running the stage. Though the crowd was small, it was somewhat enthusiastic despite the band's newness to the area. Sleeper Agent hails from Bowling Green, Kentucky (guitarist/singer Tony "Tutone" Smith's pin on his guitar strap read I [Heart] BG, and the heart was the state of Kentucky…I think…). This was their first time playing Los Angeles, and I can guarantee the acquired a few new fans.
Their wild energy and youthful flair showed not only in their performance but in their music. It's like five genres in one: sometimes it's bluesy, sometimes punchy, sometimes true rock, sometimes pop rock. They're like a pissed off version of the Thrills with Karen O vocals. They're like if Neko Case got taken over by some divine Julian-Casablanc-ian spell while listening to Liz Phair and The Ramones. Besides lead singer Alex "Kidd" Kandel's vocals being a great addition to the band's sound, she's entertaining as hell to watch perform. She has a careless poison to her, a piercing gaze, and a jagged sensitivity and fragility.
Beyond her, each band member has a distinct personality (a rarity these days, it seems): Drummer Justin "Keyser" Wilson was sharp tongued and aloof; bassist Lee "Grizzlee" Williams embraced his vagabond vibe while thumping out groovy, crystal clear baselines; guitarist Josh "Junior" Martin threw himself around the stage dramatically as if performing some musical exorcism; afro-headed synth/keyboardist Scott "Saga" Gardner was entranced by his instrument--until he wasn't--when suddenly he'd fly his nest and run around wildly beating a handheld drum like an animal; and finally, aforementioned lead singer/guitarist Smith filled the spot in the band as dreamboat, what with his sideswept hair, cute plaid shirt, and roughed up but still sensitive vocals (swoon).
Sleeper Agent celebrated the release of their first full-length album, Celebrasion, by playing tracks such as "Get Burned" and "Get It Daddy". Their music is upbeat, loud, punchy, and fun, speak plainly. They're not whiny, not overly pensive or depressed; they're tongue and cheek, but not condescending. The kids are talented, the bass is strong, the rhythms are fast and gripping, and the hooks run for days. The members of Sleeper Agent are as kick ass individually as they are when combined to form a rock n' roll force to be reckoned with.
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All photos (c) Claire Gallagher