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Trash Talk thrashes it out at Rock & Roll Hotel

By Mark Jenkins,

Lee Spielman is the lead singer of Trash Talk, but that seems to be a secondary role when the California punk-metal quartet plays live. Tuesday night at the Rock & Roll Hotel, Spielman functioned foremost as a choreographer, leading the crowd with words and by example. First, he suggested that the band’s fans thrash in a circle. Then, he encouraged them to stage dive and crowd surf — activities forbidden by a sign above the stage.

“We know what we’re doing. We got this,” he announced. The bouncers didn’t agree, but major conflict was avoided. Only a few moshers were ejected during the group’s 30-minute set. One reason for the relative harmony was that the venue was only about half-full, which allowed the clump of devotees to expand and contract without causing any disastrous collisions.

The soundtrack to this half-hour paroxysm was less interesting than the commotion it inspired. While Trash Talk’s style flows from the music of such 1980s California hard-core punk outfits as Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, its sludgy passages and Spielman’s throaty delivery owe more to doom metal. The band also maintains a link to hip-hop through its friendship with members of Los Angeles’s Odd Future collective, whose MellowHype opened for the band on this tour.

The hip-hop connection is more personal than musical, however. At the Hotel show, the group played the new “Blossom & Burn,” whose recorded version features Odd Future’s Hodgy Beats and Tyler, the Creator. With shirtless, bushy-bearded bassist Spencer Bollard handling most of the vocals, the song sounded about 99 percent metal.

Trash Talk did play some punkier tunes, including “Sacramento Is Dead” (about the band’s home town) and “Exile on Broadway” (a reference to its new neighborhood in downtown L.A.). As the musicians churned precisely behind him, Spielman shouted the verses, sometimes flipping the microphone toward the crowd so it could yell the one-word refrains to such songs as “Awake.” The synergy between singer and impromptu chorus was enough to sustain the group through a set that included both draggy bits and long gaps between numbers. A more nimble Trash Talk could have played these songs in half the time and incited mosh-pit bliss without having to ask for it.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.

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