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Laurel Canyon

From a small Pennsylvania band that used to be known as The Paranoids to receiving recognition from punk rock icon Iggy Pop, Laurel Canyon is bringing raw music back into the music scene with their 90s grunge and 70s punk rock sound and energy.

Laurel Canyon consists of members Nick Gillespie (lead guitar and vocals), Serge Cereja (vocals and rhythm guitar), Dylan Loccarini (bass guitar), and Lachlan Driver (drums). The band formed when Serge and Nick met through a mutual acquaintance and were soon joined by Dylan and Lachlan. Their influences come from punk rock bands like The Stooges and subcultures like metal and punk. Their stage presence is a captivating and loud spectacle; they have the energy of 80s metal bands and mid-70s punk rock bands from New York, such as Richard Hell and the Voidoids and Dead Boys.

When I first saw them live at Rough Trade, they played for a crowd of first-time listeners with a few loyal listeners who instantly started moshing in the middle of a busy Rough Trade. They played a 30-minute head-banging set, and people were left wanting more and wondering, "Who is Laurel Canyon?". Despite Rough Trade's restrictive sets, Laurel Canyon played one more song as people demanded an encore.

I knew I had to see them again when I heard about their following show at The Broadway. Although vastly different from Laurel Canyons' sound, the opening acts completely blew me away and set the mood for the night. Starting with a beautiful melodic set by Sleepy Jeanne to a groovy indie set from Trinkets and a head-bopping set from S.C.A.B., I was pumped and ready for Laurel Canyon, or was I?

The second Laurel Canyon walked on stage with beers in hand, looking like every cool old punk rock band; they engulfed the room with chaos and loudness as they started with Tangiers, a song most reminiscent of bands like Blur and Nirvana. Laurel Canyon's sound is not one that you can fit into a box, genre, or era, as they play around with so much and make it distinctly their own.

Their setlist was a balance between unreleased and released songs where Nick and Serge alternated who led vocals; both are incredible frontmen and have different qualities regarding how they perform. Nick uses his voice to distinguish himself; he elongates and slurs words, adding to the psychedelic rock sound from the Wah pedal that adds synths to their sounds. Nick drones his voice and audience members, returning them to the 1970s N.Y.C. punk rock era. His vocals are reminiscent of East Coast punk rockers, but they reminded me of vocals in Let It Slide by Mudhoney. In contrast, Serge uses mobility to add an element of eccentricity and visualize their punk sound. Not only can you hear this punk sound and energy, but you can also see it on stage. Laurel Canyon feels like you are watching a band that would've been jamming with The Stooges, Richard Hell, or even been part of the 1970s punk rock scene in New York or the grunge movement.

Each member brings a unique energy to the stage, from Lachlan performing like Tommy Lee from Motley Crue with large movements to Dylan hitting every single note and grooving away every beat. Watching the frontman, Nick and Serge, it is almost as if you are watching a young Iggy Pop or even John Lydon from Sex Pistols swing the mic or their bodies and fearing that you are about to get hit, backing away from the front row because Serge goes into the crowd and even sometimes ends up singing on the floor (it would not be a Laurel Canyon show if Serge or Nick did not end up on the floor at least once), all occurring while people mosh away the set.

In addition to their stage presence, their style solidifies that it's not an image but who they are as a band. They all have punk rock, British rock, and an overall punk look, with most of them wearing all black and white, with Nick in a leather jacket, Lachlan in a suit, Dylan in a black leather hat, and lastly, Serge wearing a white button-down with blood spattered in the front and back. They all look different but marvelously create a cohesive look without losing individuality.

Towards the end of the setlist, Serge adds to the chaos as he joins the audience as they mosh. During their final song, Serge slumped over the speakers, and audience members dragged him and dropped him on the floor as they continued dragging him along the floor. Despite all of this, Serge never stopped singing. Not only was there utter mayhem in the pit, but the stage set-up looked different from the beginning to the end of the set, from instruments on the floor to each member aimlessly trashing and shredding on stage, ending the set with pure raw punk grunge energy.

If you want to explore Laurel Canyon, start with "Tangiers" or "Shove Out." Hearing "Tangiers" for the first time live, you instantly think of "Song 2" by Blur, but both "Tangiers" and "Shove Out" are songs in which the listeners can hear the early Nirvana influence from Bleach. If you told me they were Nirvana songs, I would believe it. However, they do not limit themselves to the 90s grunge; instead, they bring in older influences. The wah pedal is used in most songs and brings the psychedelic sounds of early rock n' roll songs like those by Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck.

Unlike other bands, Laurel Canyon is bringing back music that impacted what we know today. Laurel Canyon is not a band that you can pinpoint into one genre or one sound; although you can hear the musicians that influenced their sound, they make it their own, paving a new way for what music can be.

Written By Veronica Anaya

Photography by Tori McGraw

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