At a non-decrypt spot in downtown Los Angles you’ll come across a grungy “store front” called Basic Flowers. Inside there’s a room with only a single standing lightbulb, random chairs set against walls, a table made out of a house shutter, a stick tree displaying shirts for sale that are designed with sharpies. Wandering your way amongst the rooms feels like an art colony that is unfinished. As you make your way deeper into the catacombs you pass through hanging white sheets that part revealing a room set up as a performance space. Wooden platforms serve as a viewing area for a stage on the floor. Lit with only a few floor light bulbs the stage glows with a warm light. Half deflated gold-star balloons hang in the balance against a back wall. Ripped book pages cover the walls like paper mache and old furniture bleached white decorate the back walls while guitars and a drum set wait patiently to be played. This is where Kera and the Lesbians will be playing in celebration of their long anticipated full length album. Front woman Kera Armendariz talked with Grimy Goods at length about the release of the album and how it feels like a “shedding of skin.”
Casually walking onto the stage, Kera and The Lesbians approach their set more like a living room jam session with friends rather than a concert. Since the audience is within arms reach of the band, Basic Flowers definitely lends itself to an intimate setting. Kera switches quickly from friend into performer. As she plays she bangs her head like she’s ripping in a metal band then switches to jumping on one foot as she strums on her guitar. This is no stoic or cute-sy front woman, this is a powerful performer that owns every beat, every strum, every spitting lyric. As she plays she literally embodies the song in her physical body and seems to transport herself into the time and space with which it was written. She changes in an instant, flashing between emotions that flow through her. Her facial expressions exposing the window into the soul of her music. It’s manic and it’s beautiful. This must be why she labels her music “bipolar folk,” because there is no category that you can lump the sound, the performance or the person into. She expertly blends the blues and jazz throwback sounds into a surf-gypsy-rock that never comes off as contrived. Only passion and authenticity are felt and herd.
Halfway through her set Kera says, “I got really emotional this morning. About the release of this record. It is like saying goodbye to an old friend and I got sad.” The crowd, comforted her by yelling their love and appreciation. The album does encapsulate a specific time for Kera, a difficult time in her late teens and early twenties when she first came out to her parents. Kera told Grimy that she had held onto this record for years, not feeling like it was time to release it. And, now that it is out in the universe it seems like she is letting loose and running the full emotional range. That emotion came to a head when she ended the set with one of her more passionate songs, “Snakes.” Playing on an acoustic guitar she tore through the song thrashing and breaking through whatever last barriers might have been left in her way. As the drums and electric guitar rose Kera escalated into a frenzy of release that ended with her smashing her guitar into smithereens. She dropped it and pulled her hand to her face and started to weep. Her friends and the entire crowd yelled out, “we love you Kera.” Overwhelmed she turned away for a brief second and then faced her fans and said thank you.
It’s not often you come across a band that is so emotionally moving that it goes beyond energetic stage presence or quality music and hits at the gut of your heart. Kera and The Lesbians is that kind of band; authentic to the core. As an artist Kera owns who she is even if society labels it as weird. Instead she stands firmly cemented in her total uniqueness and that is exactly what this world needs.
Words & Photography: Annie Marie-Schiefer