L7 - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Live in Grand Rapids (2018)

live show

I was a pretty big fan of L7 back in the early ‘90s, but never got a chance to see them live. My opportunity finally came 25 years later. The show was at the Pyramid Scheme in downtown Grand Rapids on Monday, July 23rd. L7 reunited in 2014, after splitting up in 2001. They’re currently riding a well deserved surge of popularity. I’m sure the 2017 documentary about the band has contributed to that surge. I definitely recommend you watch Pretend We’re Dead. I know it reignited my interest in L7.

The show was supposed to start at 8:00, and there was only a single opener. This was merciful for a Monday night. We started the evening across the street with dinner and several drinks. I was pretty surprised when we walked in the club at 8:24, and the opener had just finished. My apologies to local band The Quirk. I had every intention of checking you out. Next time. I ran into quite a few old friends at the club, which is always a nice bonus. L7 brought together an interesting mix of people. There were plenty of riot girls, both old and young. There were punks, headbangers, and a fair amount of normal looking people too.

L7 took the stage promptly at 9:00 pm to the sound of the Prince dance club hit “Pussy Control”. They wasted little time before tearing into fan favorite “Andres”. It was obvious from the start that these four women still play with an undeniable intensity. Guitarist/vocalist Donita Sparks, guitarist/vocalist Suzi Gardner and bassist/vocalist Jennifer Finch shared lead vocal duties all night. Sometimes those lead vocals sounded more like a growl. Age doesn’t seem to have mellowed L7 much. They also genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Songs like “Off the Wagon” (“a drinking song for heroin addicts”) and “Deathwish” were real crowd pleasers. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the new songs. “I Came Back to Bitch” and “Dispatch From Mar-a-Lago” stand up well next to the band’s classic material. Between songs, the band made awkward but charming small talk about how great Grand Rapids was, how cool the club was, and how rowdy the crowd was for a Monday night. The packed house really was into the show. Everyone seemed to stay until the very end of the 80 minute set.

The encore alone was worth the price of admission. First came some “old school Southern California hardcore” in the form of the early ‘80s Agent Orange classic “Bloodstains”. It made me excited to see Agent Orange in a couple of weeks. (The band’s roots actually go all the way back to that ‘80s punk and hardcore scene. Gardner sang on Black Flag’s controversial “Slip It In”.) Next was their most recognizable hit, “Pretend We’re Dead”. “Shitlist” closed out the night and sent us home happy.

I was fortunate enough to see most of the grunge bands in their prime, and L7 can hold their own with any of them. Only Mudhoney played with as much reckless abandon. (They’re also the band that L7 has the most musical similarity to.) I’m glad I finally got to see these ladies. They are not a retro act living off past glories. L7 are still extremely relevant to modern times. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience them for yourself if you get the chance.