On Jan. 24, FUNZONE, Santa Barbara’s hidden gem of a DIY venue, hosted delightful weirdos No Age, Drug Apts, and Sweet Reaper for a night of unrelenting noise of unprecedented proportions. Revered noise punks Randy Randall and Dean Spunt of No Age managed to draw a crowd of 100 in what was, reportedly, FUNZONE’s (not to be confused with the larger, outdoor venue the Funk Zone) first sold-out show in years. Despite being packed to capacity into a (thankfully carpeted) garage, the show was no less intimate than the venue’s less-attended ones.
First on “stage” was Sweat Reaper, the laid-back surf-garage rock band hailing from Ventura. Despite sounding like a generic brand of Cage the Elephant at times, their presence was the perfect opening to what was a truly exceptional night.
Drug Apts bordered on genius. With dynamic, dramatic vocals, courtesy of the distinctly badass Whittney Kebschull, thrashing feedback and rhythmic grooves of guitarist Tristan Tozer, and some seriously insane drumming on the part of Michael Thiemann, the group is just as rough and jagged as the grimy neighborhoods of midtown Sacramento from which their name is derived.
Despite being a relatively new creation, Drug Apts is already grabbing much-deserved attention from major media outlets. After hearing them perform, Zach Hill, drummer of experimental hip-hop group Death Grips and fellow Sac native, offered to produce what is hopefully the first of many EPs from Drug Apts. One song in, and it became apparent why Hill, as well as Andy Morin of Death Grips, have decided to align themselves with Drug Apts.
From the moment they began their set, they quickly struck a chord with the crowd, forming a bond that was sustained throughout their entire performance. The band contained everything you could possibly hope for from a garage/noise band. Rhythmic, catchy riffs and thundering drums derailed into self-indulgent experimentalism, all with the force of a sonic boom. Hearing them live for the first time is a little disorienting — the energy pulsing through the crowd ebbed and flowed, and I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to dance or kick a wall in.
Whittney Kebschull seemed to have her own gravitational pull, and though each member of the band was equally vital, Kebschull’s unrelenting energy was the glue that gave Drug Apts their cohesive, intoxicating sound. She utilized everything in sight — maracas, the floor, whatever. Her theatrics ranged from dreamy, ethereal gazes off into space to blood-curdling screams, all in one manic episode of self-indulgent strangeness.
Drug Apts’ uncontainable, frenzied energy hit the crowd like an explosion, and the space was nearly sucked into a blackhole of a mosh pit that filled half the room. The band was clearly having shameless fun, which translated all too well to the crowd. At some points it neared a free-for-all, the likes of which I had yet to see at FUNZONE, and while I was still enthralled by the sheer nuclear power of Drug Apts, by the end of their set I was mostly trying to avoid getting knocked off my repeatedly trampled-on feet.
Next was the eagerly awaited main event, No Age. The duo wasted no time in diving into their set, denying the crowd a chance to fully come down from the rush that was Drug Apts. Despite their considerable success, No Age continues to embrace the DIY ethic of venues such as LA’s The Smell, where they first got their start.
Their sound, too, hasn’t strayed too far from their DIY beginnings. Their clean, yet manic and unhinged onslaught of noise was felt in the hypnotizing, supersonic waves washing over the crowd, filling every corner of the room. Despite there being only two of them, Randy Randall and Dean Spunt were an absolute powerhouse, unleashing everything they had onto the crowd.
I had high expectations for their performance, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t let down in any capacity. If nothing else, there’s something special, and pretty surreal, about making eye contact with someone who has an extensive Wikipedia page devoted to them. They seemed to be as entranced by what they were doing as the crowd was, and their free-flowing passion and sincerity was felt in every note.
Most of the songs on their setlist were from “Everything in Between and Objects,” with some old favorites from “Nouns” thrown in. Although their performance didn’t seem to have the raw, uninhibited energy of Drug Apts’, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Whereas Drug Apts had shameless fun, No Age’s almost reverent aura saturated every note of their performance. They graciously acknowledged their loving audience, but they were clearly wrapped up in their art.
To see their level of creative genius in motion, along with the intimacy that only places like FUNZONE can provide was thrilling. All too soon, No Age graciously thanked the audience for creating music with them, and the night came to an end as the crowd reluctantly shuffled back out into the cold.
No matter how many times I make the pilgrimage out to FUNZONE, I never know quite what to expect. Such is the wonderful nature of DIY music. Even while wading through the occasional ocean of mediocre bands, I always manage to find a takeaway from the experience, even more so when I am lucky enough to see bands of the same caliber as Drug Apts and No Age. In a way, FUNZONE allows for the creation of art in its purest form.
There’s a special connection formed in places like these, free of any barriers, literally or metaphorically. While hidden away in a garage on the outskirts of town, you can lose yourself in a way not allowed anywhere else. Only in places like these are you able to fully abandon the weight that existence sometimes brings, in exchange for a revitalization of spirit, and the awakening that comes with shedding everything but the feeling of being alive.