Independent music scene thrives at 'Pehr'

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Nights at Occidental make it seem like all of Los Angeles is either sleeping, disappointed at a party or cramming in the library. Though Eagle Rock and its surrounding neighborhoods, like Highland Par, Echo Park and Los Feliz, are a crossroads of independent music, art and film, getting off campus can prove daunting. Yet in reality, exploring local musical venues requires minimal effort — for example, on Tuesday, Feb. 22, after class and a Cooler hot dog, I went to see a few local bands play in Echo Park. Tucked in the Glen Village parking lot in Historic Filipinotown, the nonprofit, all-ages and independent venue Pehrspace hosted an intimate and high-energy show.

The lineup consisted of three groups: Traps PS, Roses and Post Life. I primarily came to see Post List and do some Echo Park people watching — the folks in this neighborhood casually dress like it’s 1963, outer space and also the Wild West — but I left Pehrspace (or, as the cool kids call it, “Pehr”) feeling genuinely moved by each band.

The space is angular and homey, made of a small entrance room for ticketing and a big room for shows. Entrance was $5 and cash only, which is pretty typical for an independent venue. My ticket came in the form of a red yarn tied around my wrist twice. Posters from past and future shows, stickers of local radio stations, hand bills, zines, art and other creative mementos decorated the room.

Traps PS started the show with short songs that hit like 5-Hour ENERGY shots, filling the room with complex, fragmented sounds. Funky and loose yet taut and structured, the band’s short set enraptured the crowd. I felt the instruments make their way into the ribs around my heart, a comforting, grinding pressure that made me forget about the hole in my pants, the hangnail on my left thumb, the boy that didn’t text me back and other the mendacities only possible on a Tuesday.

Between sets, the small crowd floated between the asymmetrical parking lot and the pleasant nest of the showroom for fixes of nicotine and secondhand smoke.

Roses (not to be confused with a band from New York with the same name) made round sounds that bounced around the space and uplifted the crowd. The music was cooling and refreshing, like jumping in an unheated pool on a hot day.

Moving my arms in the air, I felt uninhibited, free to sway and embrace the drifting tones — I listened to the music like a child at a fair, excited to take each next step to see what further excitements waited ahead.

Going outside between the second and last set, I reflected on how independent music’s exclusive and pretentious image contrasted with the strong sense of community and engagement I felt at the show.

Pehrspace is one of many small, local, all-age creative spaces that puts on great art and music events and cultivates safe places for women and queers akin to The Smell, Gal Palace, Honey Trap and Non Plus Ultra. I have gone there by myself, and I have gone there and talked to men — yet still I continually feel safe and included in the space. Bands will distribute their own merchandise and sometimes even work their own door shifts. They generally love meeting the people that wear their shirts and like their Instagram posts.

Though Pehr and other independent art spaces can come off as intimidating or “too cool for school,” they really work to build togetherness and promote inclusivity. Only at small venues can attendees unknowingly flirt with the bassist, buy a t-shirt from the drummer’s boyfriend or bum a cigarette off the album art designer and not feel like a petulant “fan girl” when asking about upcoming shows. The sea of outside smokers and inside listeners is made of friends, lovers and community.

I was there to hear Post Life, and, when they finally started, I was overjoyed to get my fill. Post Life transformed the space into a thunderstorm. Their sound is big yet lets listeners move through it. Standing just a few feet from the stage, I couldn’t help but dance, the beat getting into my ankles and climbing up my limbs until my whole being shook. The singer’s voice was both pleasing and exciting, it melded with the supporting instrumentals. The audience listened in a manner akin to apple picking, bouncing on the balls of their feet, reaching and grabbing at each next fruitful note.

Post Life communicates with the crowd in a way that’s freeing to listen to and empowering to hear. The rumbling strings, the dynamic drums and the fast pace of the songs mirrored the high spirits in the room. Creating spirals in the air, the music encompassed the listeners. Post Life made me feel like less of a random stranger at a show than a cousin who had lost touch with her extended family and was brought back together at a family reunion.

Walking to my car after the show, I noted my mood lifted and my thoughts calmed. Sometimes all anyone needs to feel like a real person and not just a pink peg on “The Game of Life” is a trip off campus to see some art. A night at Pehrspace is a cheap date, a quick field trip, a productive means of engaging with creativity and a perfect introduction to LA’s independent music scene.