Despite 2019 being the 10th anniversary of Fidlar‘s existence, I first heard the band around two years ago while on tour (late to the game, I know.) We were driving somewhere through the Carolinas in a rattling van formerly used to shuttle the homeless out of LA and all six of us were hungover as hell. With four of the bandmates passed out in the back, I was riding shotgun and taking in the sights while my friend that was driving cued up Fidlar’s 2015 record Too and began singing along in that kind of raspy voice you have after a long night out. Something about the tone of that album – the wistfulness, pacing, and honesty about facing adulthood resonated perfectly with the moment. Almost Free, the album being celebrated and released recently at the Teragram marked a new direction for the band that captured their interest in exploring new song structures and instrumentation and allowed this show to highlight other LA bands approaching music with a similar attitude.
“Don’t Fear the Weird,” the motto scrawled in red across Brandon Schwartzel’s bass guitar summed up both the new direction for Fidlar as well as the energy of the entire lineup that evening. The Side Eyes and No Parents, acts that would be a strange fit on many bills in this city, presented bold and energetic sets to a packed house 100% committed to the show. The Side Eyes aggressively delivered classic punk vibes with a captivating stage presence lead by singer Astrid McDonald.
No Parents – the true oddity of the evening – played an insanely energetic ode to pop punk with some kind of warped ska influence. During their set I looked to a friend that was there with me and told him I couldn’t tell if I absolutely hated what we were seeing or if I loved it. His response was a huge grin and the short statement “they’re awesome.” He was right; despite how much the jokey pop punk “no fucks” attitude made my skin crawl their performance was fantastic. The songs were extremely well crafted and totally self aware without being pretentious and every other person in the audience was going nuts.
Hearing songs from Almost Free live finally gave that album the weight it needed to sit alongside its predecessors. There’s a wild energy in packed venues that easily opens your mind to those experimentations and lane changes heard on the record and it’s nearly impossible not to move to songs like Can’t You See, the new single that falls somewhere between the funkiness of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the bluesiness of The Black Keys. Further backing the strength of live shows: the biggest curveball on the record, By Myself, functions so much better with a live/full band’s presence and reveals how well it sits among Fidlar’s discography. This is a band that’s earned their reputation in LA over the past ten years and obviously has a lot more to offer in the future as long as they keep sight of their motto and continue to delve into the weird.
Words and Photos by: Dillon Vaughn