The Garden are a punk band, but you wouldn’t guess that by looking at them. Their newest album Mirror Might Steal Your Charm features a boldly decorated court jester smirking at his own reflection, and their 2015 album is literally called haha. Surely they can’t be that angry. But the performance at Club Dada from Wyatt and Fletcher Shears on April 29th was one of the most raucous I’ve attended in recent memory.
I arrived at the door at 7:15 PM, hopelessly fuddling around with the station’s DSLR camera as I made my way to the bar, where I figured I’d be standing for the entirety of the show. As I began taking test shots and realized that I will need to be in earshot of the band to get a good picture, the first of two openers initiated one of the most blistering drum ’n bass loops I have ever heard in a live setting. Cowgirl Clue, a duo from the Garden’s neck of the woods, consisted of a female lead vocalist, a drummer, and many a pre-recorded track. Their sound is intriguing at first, but as I sunk further into their set, I had a hard time not referring to them as “Kero Kero Bonito with breakbeats.”
After maybe 8 two-minute tracks, Cowgirl Clue escaped the stage. Having still not grabbed a single good photo yet, my friends suggested that I enter the pit. It was then that Tijuana Panthers took the spotlight. The Long Beach trio presented lighthearted-yet-boisterous garage rock standards with familiar chord progressions and an old soul. My dad would probably like them. The frontman kinda looked like my dad. While the sound wasn’t the most innovative in the world, it was plenty enjoyable, especially with the expressive bass playing and earnest banter (the drummer was filling in for the band’s actual drummer, who was having a baby. How sweet). The group charmed me with their studied garage rock spirit, and compelled me to recommend them to some friends soon after the show.
As the night progressed, the crowd began to boil with anticipation, myself included; we knew these openers were just palate cleansers for the main course (no disrespect to the openers, whom I will keep tabs on). From the moment Fletcher Shears got behind the drum kit, a thunderous bass drone filled the room, followed by ear-shattering screams from the pit. The entire room became a popcorn bag, and the Garden’s first note turned the microwave on high.
The originally chill trap banger “U Want The Scoop?” became an unparalleled overblown rap performance, with everyone screaming the lyrics word for word. This energy carried throughout the 14-song setlist, which included about half of the Garden’s newest album, and a few tracks from each of their previous releases. Songs fell into two categories: whacked-out hardcore punk furies with Fletcher on drums and Wyatt on bass and vocals, and energetic breakbeat-laden cyberpunk with a backing track and both Wyatt and Fletcher yelling at the top of their lungs and jumping around. Both were fun as hell to hear, but it was the latter category that turned the entire venue into one huge mosh pit, with the crowd undulating from one wall to the other like a crashing tide and band members and audience members alike running across the stage and diving like they were trying out for Tokyo 2020. The Garden aren’t the most heavy band on the planet, but they sure can rope in a fanbase and get every one of them to hold on to their every word.