The Teragram Ballroom

The Teragram Ballroom is located just west of the 110 Freeway near downtown Los Angeles, California, in an area known as City West.

Though DTLA is rapidly gentrifying, for now Teragram’s street remains in the shadows of the neighboring skyscrapers. In a way, the area matches the Lo-fi and grunge musical style in which the venue’s visiting bands most frequently play. The best part here is, tickets don’t break the bank.

It’s not a shock that arriving fifteen minutes before the opener was scheduled to begin meant plenty of elbowroom. In fact when Wild Pink emerged onstage, not only was there no applause of recognition, but the loudspeaker continued to play a song by The Tallest Man On Earth.

It was an inauspicious start, but the band strapped into its tools and pushed forward with music that connected in a way that promptly tamed the crowd’s attention.

Their set hummed on, and the typical late-arriving Los Angeles crowd showed up in time to fall under the band’s trance. Though everyone in the room was a stranger, I wandered into the headspace where I felt tears lurking. Perhaps one day I’ll be that person.

To close a fairly short set, Wild Pink played the titular song off their most recent album, Yoke In The Fur. Though they had been greeted as lambs, upon exiting the stage to a raucous ovation, they were sent off like lions.

Like any shrewd venue hoping to maintain the energy between sets, Teragram restarted its house playlist, and those assembled were treated to the dulcet backdrop of Peter Gabriel’s Don’t Give Up.

Predictably though, as soon as the lights came up, the phones came out. Muscle memory is enough to wash away even the most powerful of experiences. Of course this problem isn’t unique to concerts, but it exists here as much as anywhere; phones give us the power to usher ourselves onto the next diversion, instead of observing everything the present moment has to offer. The question is, how can we as a society encourage a brief collective reset in an effort to properly reflect on the state of our withering attention spans?

Hold that thought, because Strand of Oaks (the stage name of Timothy Showalter, although he tours with a backing band) materialized onstage and promptly ripped into a killer rendition of Weird Ways, the first song off of his new record Eraserland.

Halfway into the song it became evident that something was amiss though, as Showalter had taken a knee to furiously jiggle wires and press buttons. When he stood back up to the mic he informed the audience his amp was broken. “This has never happened before, and I’m having a panic attack,” Showalter admitted with a nervous smile, halting the show so a tech could hustle onstage to make a quick change.

To fill the silence, the keyboardist began a cover of Violets by Avar (thank you Shazam), but he didn’t get very deep into the song before the amp was repaired and the band smoothly transitioned back into the chorus of Weird Ways, almost as if they’d rehearsed the scenario.

Despite the second rocky start of the night, by the third song, Goshen ‘97, Showalter had the whole crowd belting out the chorus “I don’t wanna start all over again,” with him. When the song ended the band paused for a water break, and Showalter engaged the audience to announce, “Welcome to Eraserland, where you can start again!” The crowd erupted as he put a bow on the opening snafu, winning the people over for good.

In that breath, Showalter underlined the allure of the live performance – when anything can go wrong, true control is achieved through leaning into the moment. On a base level, the job of the entertainer is to wrangle the energy of the room on behalf of those present, because there’s no sensation quite like deeply feeling a moment.

From his pulpit Showalter sang on “Ruby won’t you slow it down it’s happenin’ so fast/Ruby won’t you pull me back I’m living in the past,” which briefly caused my life to flash before my eyes. I didn’t sign up for this immersion therapy!

As the set wound down on a tremendous performance, Strand of Oaks’ encore consisted of only one song: Forever Chords. It’s a tune that lives up to its name, as it’s a nine-minute epic, and final number off the Eraserland record.

As I floated out of the Teragram on that musical high, I re-ground myself by going through my personal concert checklist.

[ X ] Did I take my eyes off the lead singer and watch another band member for an entire song?

[ X ] Did I close my eyes for an entire song to just listen?

[ X ] Did I stand in multiple vantage points to capture the sights from different angles?

I stood on the corner outside feeling accomplished, and I turned back to look at The Teragram Ballroom once more. Any venue specializing in indie, rock, and indie rock will, at worst, have an average rating in my eyes, but my experience was such that I look forward to my return visit. I encourage any and all to go check out the joint for themselves, because it’s easy to forget the stuff you’ve never really known, and no amount of reading will ever replace experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *