by Ashley Berry
With a vibe that is equal parts arcade and Vegas strip club, Good Hurt, is a Venice nightclub and music venue that manages to pull off tacky chic without being garish or over the top. As the name suggests, the decor of this dive plays on a theme of pleasure and pain with naughty nurse bartenders, neon prescription signs, and red and black leather details that hint at S&M. The dance floor has ample space as well as a stripper pole for the daring or wasted, and the decently sized stage serves as home for an evening to a wide range of musicians.
On Sunday, September 16th, the north Carolina-based Powerpop band, I Was Totally Destroying It, casually prepped their gear as a light crowd of Venice locals and friends of the band milled about, occasionaly dancing ironicaly, but unpretentiously to the bass-heavy electronic dance music saturating the club. The members of IWTDI have been playing together for about six years and the show at Good Hurt marks their third time playing in Los Angeles. As the sound tech consulted with the band over a speaker from his crow’s nest in the back of the venue, he seemed baffled by the fact that the members of IWTDI did not need to hear each other playing in their monitors during the show. Lead singer, Rachel Hirsh, refers to the members of the band as “busy players”, and she says that they perform better when they just trust each other.
As the band started to play, they did not waste any time building up the energy of the room, starting with “Come Out, Come Out”, a catchy anthem of a song with rhythms that are undeniably poppy, but infused with musical elements of folk punk. The band didn’t seem to need to feed off of the crowd’s energy, but the crowd gave it to them anyway, with enough dancing and cheering to create an atmosphere of jubilant celebration. The second song of the set, “A Reason To”, showcased the leads’ abilities to tandem off of each other as though they were alternately telling two sides of the same story. The tone of the song was that of an angst-filled romance as the sound would build from a sense of desperate frustration to a release of rage and then find its way into a catharsis with a nothing-left-to-lose sense of freedom that so often follows a blow out. “Hello, Salty Ghost” and “Follow You”, tracks from the newly released album, Vexations, were next on the set list and brought the tempo down ever so slightly without losing a drop of energy.
Hirsh gives the most physical performance of the group, as the lead singer and keyboardist, and she vascillates between coquettishly peeking through her hair while pleading her case musically to belting out lyrical admissions and commands as she jumps, stomps, claps, and head bangs. Her co-lead, John Booker, also provides vocals as well as lead guitar. Booker took on the role of band spokesman during the show as he chatted graciously with the audience between songs. The other three members of IWTDI, Joe Mazzitelli on bass, Curtis Armistead on guitar, and James Helper on drums, are all business and keep their focus firmly on their instruments. Mazzitelli keeps his head low and his long, wavy hair obscures any view of his face as he plays. Helper and Amistead provide strong musical presences, but seem refreshingly uninterested in garnering any personal attention. The band members tend to interact with each other very minimally during their perforamnce, each seemingly entranced in their own experience of the music, but it is clear that there is an unspoken unity amongst them, not dissimilar to that of a closely-knit family. It’s not that they are disconnected as they play, but instead, their musical relationships are strong enough to not need constant tending. Their communication is more subtle, almost imperceptible, but effective.
They round out the evening with several more songs, including “Done Waiting” and “The Prisoner”, which features velvety vocals by Hirsh met by a gentle response from Booker and catapulted to a crescendo with an exuberant drum and guitar duet. As they wrap up the night with “Control”, the crowd jams right along with the band by dancing in erratic and spontaneous spasms. The crowd is not trying to maintain an heir of coolness, but instead meets IWTDI’s earnest style of performance with the same. IWTDI’s simple, upbeat brand of pop encourages the audience to take life a little less seriously and just have fun, and as the music comes to an end, I become aware that I have been tapping my feet and rocking body along to the music the entire show.