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Dávila 666 at Alex’s Bar

by on June 28, 2024

After a five-year absence, in part due to the pandemic causing disruptions in touring, Dávila 666 has returned to the west coast like a drug-addled bat out of hell. Doing 19 dates in just about the same amount of time, the band has proven that they are still as locked in as ever. For those unfamiliar, Dávila 666 is a band from Puerto Rico (a territory of the colonial United States) that blends elements of 77-style punk, garage rock, and psychedelia together to create a sound that is at once nostalgic and fresh. They sing and belt in Spanish with a fervor that can be enjoyed with or without knowing the language. Their songs can be at one moment filled existential myopia and philosophical dread then shift to moments of resistance and resilience with some good old fashion carnal and romantic notions sprinkled in for good measure. The band sounds amazing when recorded; the layers of the dueling vocals and group harmonizations, the aggressive guitar and bass rhythms on some songs, with multiple layers of percussion coming from both the drummer and tambourine, and an unnameable playfulness that all comes together in a way that can hype up any moment.

Hearing the recordings does little to prepare you for the experience of seeing them live. We checked out the band on one of their earlier dates of the tour at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach and they did not disappoint. The venue is a storied place where many punk rock legends have come to play smaller shows. There is a charm and grit to the space that definitely has a punk rock vibe, but also a bit of Mexican influence to their décor. You might recognize the space if you’re a fan of the HBO series True Blood. From the moment the band took the stage they were on. The songs were loud and blaring but not overwhelming. The banter between the band members (only five members were on this tour) was humorous as well as pulled in the crowd. You could feel the emotions of the songs and the energy of the band. The band moved across the stage, playing off of one another’s energies. There was a level of impromptu choreography to the movements that made everything always feel tight and put together.  A Puerto Rican poet friend of mine casually mentioned while smiling that they were getting Menudo (the boy group not the food) vibes from them. I, without as deep of a cultural context of Puerto Rico and boy groups in general latch more onto the punk and garage elements of the band, casually pushed that notion aside. But the very next day a post promoting their show in Lancaster, CA mentioned that Dávila 666 was a Menudo on drugs. You’d be right to guess that I promptly received an “I told you so message” that day. That’s one of the band’s charms, their ability to reach different audiences and give completely different, though complimentary, experiences all at once. If you missed their dates in Long Beach and San Pedro, you are in luck because they are heading to The Paramount in Boyle Heights on July 4th before they swing into Arizona to close out the tour. Here’s to hoping that they come back sooner than another five years.

Honorable mention goes to the band Mad Menace and the Murder Dogs who had their debut show opening the night. While bringing in a bit of garage rock to the mix, they really channeled the energy and essence of Motorhead with hard hitting rock songs that packed a punch. The band has that classic straight ahead rock energy going for them that is missing in a lot of bands these days. For a first show, MMMD was quite tight in their set and the songs, while calling back to older genres didn’t feel like a recycling of a genre. Keep an eye out for them as their songs will be up on SoundCloud and Bandcamp soon.

  • Zachary C Jensen

Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
Dávila 666 Photo by Bowie De La Pena
MMMD Photo by Bowie De La Pena
MMMD Photo by Bowie De La Pena
MMMD Photo by Bowie De La Pena
MMMD Photo by Bowie De La Pena

Bowie De La Pena, a native of Southern California, is a dedicated photographer and student at Cal State Long Beach, a decision influenced by the city’s vibrant music scene. Bowie has been honing his photography skills for six years, with a particular focus on music photography for the past four. Initially inspired by friends who were talented musicians and skaters, Bowie picked up a camera as he found his true passion behind the lens. He started with a Canon 7D borrowed from his high school, which he used extensively before acquiring his own camera. His work can be found on his Instagram @bowie_stop

Interviews Music

Interview with Vermin on the Mount founder Jim Ruland

by on May 17, 2017

Angel City Review is proud to present the first installment of an interview series that will feature exclusive interviews with writers and musicians about the literature and music that moves them. First up we have Jim Ruland, author of the award winning novel Forest of Fortune and the short story collection, Big Lonesome. He recently co-authored Angeleno punk rock icon Keith Morris’ autobiography My Damageand is the man behind the Vermin on the Mount reading series. We talked to him recently about his love for punk rock, Los Angeles, zines, and the future of VOTM.

Angel City Review: What were your first encounters with punk rock and literature? Did your affinity towards both happen simultaneously or at different points in your formative years?

Jim Ruland: The worlds of punk rock and literature seemed very distinct to me and didn’t collide until I started getting involved in zines. A friend in grad school was a lifelong subscriber to Flipside, which was based in L.A. He wanted to move to L.A. and work for Flipside. I told him I thought this was a realistic ambition and put him in touch with my friends in North Hollywood where I’d lived for an exhilarating year after finishing my undergrad. He got the gig and soon I was writing reviews, interviewing bands, and penning my own column for Flipside. Writing for zines gave me access to the music I loved and I quickly figured out that I could do whatever I wanted to do. I was raised Catholic and had served in the Navy, so I was a rule follower by nature. Having the freedom to write in a space where there weren’t any rules was huge for me.

ACR: How much has punk rock informed your style as a writer?

JR: Punk zines are where I cut my teeth as a writer and learned how to write for an audience. There was a time when I wanted to be Kickboy Face but thankfully that was a short-lived phase I outgrew a long time ago.

ACR: Many people feel like music criticism (or criticism in general) is on the decline. What do you think the role of the music zine or blog will become in the next five years?

JR: Zines can be critical but they aren’t criticism. I wholeheartedly endorse the fanzine approach: embrace, document, and share the things you are passionate about. The world is full of weirdoes. Find your people.

ACR: First punk rock show?

JR: The Ramones at the Wax Museum in Washington, D.C. in 1985 (I think).

ACR: At what point did you realize that there were tangible ideological and aesthetic intersections between punk rock / DIY culture and the literary scene in LA and SD?

JR: When Flipside folded, two friends from grad school, Todd Taylor and Sean Carswell, started a new zine called Razorcake in 2001. They kept everything they liked about Flipside and got rid of the rest. We started doing readings around L.A. and found that if we asked people if we could read at their café or record store the answer was usually yes. I had this ongoing series of stories about a punk rock band that was perpetually on tour told in the style of a medieval manuscript. So I went around dressed like a monk’s robe with studded leather Birkenstocks reading these weird hyper stylized stories. In 2002 I set up an event at Track 16 in Santa Monica to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Damned playing for the first time in L.A., and Keith Morris and Brendan Mullen read. We were even invited to open for X at the Knitting Factory. It was all very strange. Todd asked me to set up a reading for the Chicago writer Joe Meno, who was a columnist for Punk Planet at the time, and I thought it would be cool to expand the audience beyond the two or three dozen L.A. punk rockers who were amused by what we were doing and Vermin on the Mount was born.

ACR: Much of the literary canon from Los Angeles is often painted with a sense of dread and vaguely apocalyptic themes. Nathanael West and Joan Didion’s essays come to mind. Did the LA punk scene capture that same mood for you? 

JR: Yes and no. I don’t think the early L.A. punk rock scene (or punk rock in general) was particularly literary, but it inspired some great narrative art that is full of dread.

ACR: How important is it for VOTM to be a place on the periphery of the culture where writers can read, share, collaborate?

JR: I think it used to feel more subversive when Vermin was held in a bar in Chinatown and I had not yet addressed my substance abuse issues, but I remain committed to Vermin being a space for indie and emerging writers. I’m not against mainstream writers (whatever that means) but if I have to deal with a publicist to book a writer for a show I’m probably not going to be interested.

ACR: How did the collaboration with Keith Morris on My Damage come together? 

JR: Everyone asks about that and it’s not particularly interesting. My agent heard about the opportunity and introduced me to the publisher, which is not the way things usually work, but is still not a very good story. Keith has been amazing to work with. The guy has so much integrity. When he commits to something, he commits 100%.

ACR:  So many rock “tell all” biographies tend to fall into the realm of sentimentality and cliche stories of debauchery and eventual cleanse and rebirth. In working with Keith on the book, how up front were you guys about avoiding the pitfalls of the rock bio?

JR: That’s a good question. I think there were some things we didn’t want to do—like we didn’t want to start the book with 75 pages of childhood memories—but I don’t know if we talked about how to avoid the pitfalls of the redemption trajectory. I knew that Keith’s stories would attract a lot of people who aren’t necessarily readers. So we hit on the idea fairly early to write short chapters—like a hardcore song—to keep the reader engaged and turning pages. But one of the myths of the redemption trajectory as it pertains to sobriety is that your life will get better after you get clean. Newsflash: it doesn’t. For many people, things get worse when they stop drinking and/or drugging because now they have to deal with the damage. I think Keith falls into that category. The glory years of punk rock were behind him when he quit and there were some hard years before he started to enjoy success with his band OFF!

ACR: Best place to eat a taco and catch a reading in SD?

JR: Salud in Barrio Logan has the best tacos in San Diego. On the last Thursday of every month So Say We All puts on VAMP at the Whistle Stop Bar in South Park but you better show up early if you want a seat because every show is standing room only.

ACR: Your favorite LA writer of the last 20 years?

JR: Chiwan Choi.

ACR: Favorite LA punk record?

JR: That’s a tough one but my go-to is The Adolescents self-titled debut, aka The Blue Album.

ACR: With nearly every corner of LA becoming more and more affluent these days, does that, in your opinion, affect the music scene in a negative or positive way?

JR: Punk rock has always thrived in the margins. It’s always been informed by class and power. Always, always. When Hollywood was the locus of the L.A. punk scene it wasn’t the Hollywood of stars and starlets but the Hollywood of teen hustlers and junkies. It’s ground zero, The Masque, was a bunker under a porn theater that Brendan Mullen converted into a practice and performance space. Glamorous it wasn’t. But even then you had punk in East L.A. Punk in the beach cities. Punk in the valley. Punk in Oxnard. So it’s a little disingenuous to talk about L.A. as a “scene,” which suggests some degree of homogeneity. It’s just too massive.

ACR: What are you currently working on?

JR: A novel set in near-future L.A. about a woman who works for an underground organization who breaks people out of prison hospitals.

ACR: What does the future hold for Vermin on the Mount?

JR:  I’m always looking for ways for Vermin to be a more meaningful experience for its participants. I’m presently experimenting with podcasts and planning something in the category of an anthology. I recently came to the conclusion that I was holding Vermin back by doing everything myself. I’ve basically been re-inventing the wheel with every show, which is dumb because even with the 13th year anniversary coming up I have no intention of quitting or slowing down. I recently posted a solicitation for volunteers and asked for help. I’m not interested in “taking it to the next level” in the sense where Vermin on the Mount becomes a thing that burns up the time and energy of everyone involved – like so many magazines and websites do. I just want it to continue. If anyone reading this is interested in getting involved in an irreverent, irregular reading series with a punk rock aesthetic, drop me a line.


Follow Jim on Twitter: @JimVermin