The Retrospective

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DIY Done Dutifully: Mika Miko At The Smell in LA

March 20th, 2009 by


The Smell, downtown LA’s most famous not-for-profit, shady-ass-alley-located music venue, didn’t really smell all that bad. In fact, being that the place is all-ages, alcohol free, and volunteer-run, it smelled better than most punk shows I’ve been to. Mika Miko was the headliner, and the 5-piece mostly all-girl punk outfit from the Valley smelled like glory on Monday night.

The Smell’s famous alley-pigeons. Some people learn the hard way where not to stand.

I’ve never been to a place quite like the Smell. The closest thing I can think of are those high school house parties where a shitty punk band does Bad Religion covers to a backyard crowd of 20 until the cops show up, the beer runs dry, or a fight breaks out. (Disclosure: we were that shitty punk band. Last in Line, maybe you’ve heard of us? Yeah, we know, we were shite).


For ten years The Smell has functioned as an artistic collective. Musicians are booking agents, crowd members are performers, management works the door, and so on–everyone working for one another to keep a community alive. And you feel it, the minute you walk in: polite and genuine smiles, no pretense; teenagers flopped on couches, kids were hip, but there wasn’t a hipster in the place. A secret password and a peephole at the entrance to the punkrock clubhouse were the only things missing.

The Lovers

“You all are very lucky, we don’t have anything like this in England” said the second-act’s lead singer in between songs. I can’t imagine how exciting a night he and the rest of his band, The Lovers, were having: teenagers from suburban England playing in the middle of a frenetic crowd in downtown LA. I tried to imagine myself in their shoes if my old punk band were any good: 18, from San Diego playing a punk show in a cavernous alleyway clubhouse in downtown Manchester or something. Incredible.

Mika MikoI Got A Lot

Like the Lovers, Mika Miko set up on the floor in front of the stage and invited the audience to the stage behind them. Bass player: girl. Guitar: girl. Vocals: girl. Drummer: boy. Vocals 2: girl. Vocals 2 sang into a telephone receiver. Mika Miko kicked right into a wild, 40 minute salvo of shouty, 2.5 minute power chorded songs held together by a brilliant drummer. BRILIANT. I haven’t had that much fun at a live show in a long time, and I’ve never seen a show from the stage, peering down at the band. I had only heard a handful of Mika Miko songs prior to the show, and will be checking them out at Amoeba in Hollywood May 6th to hear their new album (produced with some help from fellow up-and-coming Smell alumni, No Age).

Mika Miko

I read a recent article about the Smell (a great article, actually) in LA Weekly by Jessica Hopper that discussed the future of the clubhouse. With up and comers like Mika Miko and No Age seemingly graduating from the Smell-y academy, what will happen to the artist community there? The article: Will the Stink of Success Ruin the Smell? Check it out.

David, Vocalist 1, Doggybag

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