Be Your Own Pet @ The Wiltern

June 28, 2008

I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen a couple walking down the street and wondered, “How the hell did that happen?” Maybe one’s way hotter than the other, maybe one’s dressed like a cowboy while the other looks like an attorney. Whatever it is, something just doesn’t add up. As I looked at the Nylon Tour’s bill the other day (Switches, The Virgins, Be Your Own Pet, She Wants Revenge) I couldn’t help but think, How the hell did that happen?

I have a theory. Kind of. My theory is that it was Be Your Own Pet’s non-fault. There aren’t many bands around that Be Your Own Pet could go out with that wouldn’t illicit a double take from me. (previous tour-mates The Black Lips were a pretty brilliant choice though) One of the reasons that BYOP has become so successful is because they are hard to pin down. They appeal to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. This is also generally the most frequent reason they get hated on. It’s hard for me not to see a parallel between the type of mass appeal BYOP has achieved and what today’s politicians are aiming for. There is one very important difference though. While a politician intentionally baby proofs their image, smoothing out any possibly controversial rough edges through compromise, most of BYOP’s image is either due to happenstance or the result of what other people have projected onto them.

Teenage girls flock to their shows and hold up spunky frontwoman Jemina Pearl as a role model so they have to find other bands that girls can listen to without being threatening to boys. Their songs aren’t about dying children or underpaid laborers so they can’t tour with hardcore bands. They’re fashionable so people cry hipster fad. Whoever designed this tour probably took all of these factors into account; which, really, are entirely irrelevant. Because at the end of the day what you’re going to have is the actual set and it isn’t going to be anything like what the crowd is ready for.

I just thought of who BYOP would be in my village people mismatch scenario. They’d be a lightweight prize boxer. They were introduced just like boxers, one member at a time before their set. (I love it when the world bends to fit my analogies) Once that set started it was on. The band went into full pummel mode and were hitting me right and left. John Eatherly’s sticks were just a blur, Nathan Vasquez was launching himself as high as possible with his bass while Jonas Stein favored some sort of airborn bicycle kick maneuver. All the while Jemina Pearl was convulse-dancing, sometimes in a way that made me wonder if she’d seen Rize. By the end of the set I was pretty sure all that shaking was going to make her throw up right then and there, and it looked like she might have actively been trying to for a minute but she held it together and just hocked some major lugies saying, “Eww” in probably the cutest voice I have ever heard. For the most part though, cute moments were few and far between. Live, BYOP played their songs faster and with more ferocity than the record would make you think. Much of the playfulness in Pearl’s tone on the record was translated into yelling or sultriness. Be Your Own Pet’s songs keep a pretty good balance between childish fun and reckless destruction. The whole BYOP aesthetic can be summed up from two lines in “Black Hole” “Eating pizza is really great!/ So is destroying everything you hate!” Their live show leans much farther to the latter side and when you’ve just seen two pop bands you can get a little confused. From what I could see the crowd was barely moving. Even when Vasquez launched himself so high that he flew right out of his pants (and underwear) and kept playing ‘til the end of the song, I didn’t see any type of audience reaction.