Chula Vista's Los Saints perform at Mr. T's Room in Highland Park
Chula Vista’s Los Saints made the trek up the 5 freeway to perform an opening set inside LA Counties oldest bowling alley, Highland Park Bowl. Highland Park Bowl, with its interesting history stemming from the prohibition days, would make a great story on its own merit, but on this night, it was merely the backdrop of the performance from the up-and-coming indie rock outfit.
Upon arriving at Highland Park Bowl and walking through the arched entryway, you are greeted with an aged-tile hallway that is staged with vintage-like furnishings. Window paned walls separate different rooms on both sides of the walkway, and the large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling are hard to miss. Music blares from the house speakers situated on the walls and instantly your attention is drawn toward the back of the building. The lighting and sound emanating from the restored bowling alley is quite alluring and hard to resist. Situated just to right of the entrance is the intimate sized space known as Mr. T’s Room. This is the actual music venue within the larger building, and if you arrive prior to the bands playing it could be easy to miss.
The small venue has hosted an array of bands and has been lining up more music acts now that the pandemic restrictions have eased up. The room is equipped with its own bar at one end, and a small, elevated stage at the other end. Heavy red curtains drape the glass paned wall, and tables line up both sides of the room. The same lighting fixtures seen in the hallway are also found in here, which light the room up decently. The location is perfect to catch an up-and-coming act, but it does seem to come with a few caveats.
Los Saints were finishing up their sound check as I arrived, and one thing that quickly stood out was the lack of a bassist. Although the band has just acquired a new member to play bass guitar, this specific show was performed using a pre-recorded bass track. Los Saints drummer, Emiliano Garcia, was tasked with carrying the back end on his own, and it’s safe to say that he nailed the challenge.
The band's overall performance was great and featured an eight-song set. The early time slot was cause for a small sized crowd, so lead singer Angel Mariscal’s interaction appeared minimal, aside from the typical song title announcing and a few banters with friends in attendance. Guitarist Gianluca Exposito’s primary focus was entirely on his playing performance, and with his shoegazing tendencies it seemed evident his intent was on being flawless. The trio performed as cohesive as possible, and no apparent flaws were obvious. Something noticeable but at no fault of the band was the mediocre lighting. While this wouldn't necessarily tarnish the overall performance, it is definitely a miss on the part of the venue. A few hanging cans could go a far way.
Los Saints have a musical style that permeate traces of their influences. From Cage the Elephant to the Strokes, it's not hard to discern where their creative process might have gained traction. During their eight-song set, the tracks which most notably portrayed the indie-rock style aforementioned included IDK, I’m in Need, Hard, and Oh Snap. These songs had hyper-heavy rhythmic guitars, steady and crisp drumming, and bass lines that danced around melodically.
Their newest release, "Fouund You Somewhere", which was played near the end of the set, also falls within the same indie domain. This track has a different kind of energy to it though, and it is noticeable right from the start. The live version skipped the musical notes played off of what sounds like a xylophone evident in the music video, and jumped right to the rhythmic beat of Garcia's drums. Within seconds the catchy melody begins to strum and you cant help not moving. The live rendition was just as good as the studio release, and Mariscal's vocals lend themselves quite well to the tracks overall aesthetic. This is definitely the song that should expose new listeners to the band.
Los Saints will continue to tour, and have more San Diego dates lined up. If you have a chance to catch a live gig, do yourself a favor and check them out. If not, keep posted as we're hoping to get the group into Orange Wood Studios soon for a Noisy Cavern Music Sessions. For now, check out the new music video "Fouund You Somewhere".