Simpler Times

By Madeleine ConnorsJanuary 31, 2024

Simpler Times

CRIME WAVE: AN INDIE SLEAZE PARTY, Los Angeles, January 25, 2024.

The indie sleaze event was advertised as a comedy show/birthday party; it took place in a secluded warehouse surrounded by industrial buildings in Downtown Los Angeles. In recent months, there’s been a self-conscious revival, by coastal twenty- and thirtysomethings, of the retroactively dubbed indie sleaze aesthetic, nostalgia for the runoff of aughts pop culture as marked by fixie bikes and sideswept bangs, mild disaffection and upward social mobility, the Strokes and the Patriot Act. Donald Trump was still just a brassy reality TV star, and our favorite bands were white, male, and depressed before we made them self-conscious about it. Things were a little more hopeful. The impulse to return to this era—especially for the white and wealthy who giddily foster a cognitive dissonance about the grim actualities of the Bush administration and Iraq War—is oddly earnest and reassuringly tidy. Still, couldn’t we pretend it was 2008 for just one night? 

Not really, it turned out. Under a green neon glow, a merchandise table and 2000s indie rock playlist set the mood in the cavernous space. MIA and LCD Soundsystem echoed in the background. Jell-O shots were four for $10, Modelos were $8—the inexorable march of time. People floated around the space and got $10 tarot readings. Suddenly, a variety show broke out. Jake Flores, a comedian and the apparent birthday boy, introduced the event. If you’re like me and spent too much time on Twitter in 2018, you might recognize Flores as the man stoking a perpetual slap fight with the Red Scare podcast hosts for the title of Brooklyn’s top socialist dogma prattler. According to Wikipedia, “his jokes about killing ICE agents […] led to an investigation by Homeland Security.” He recently moved to Los Angeles to join a polycule. He provided this information himself.

Next, rapper and comedian Fellatia G charmingly recounted the era in question while wearing knee-high socks. She explained how being on “4Chan at nine years old gives you traits that are associated with autism.” Occasionally, she said something semi-poignant, like “True love cannot exist under capitalism.” She ended her set by rapping two songs referencing Bernie Sanders and vague socialist slogans. I liked her. With a messy and unpredictable performance, it was impossible to be bored while she was on stage. Then, Jamie Peck and Jake Flores began a live recording for their podcast The Woke Mob and subsequently ran through a PowerPoint about indie sleaze. The extent of the political commentary ranged from throwing around phrases like “bootlicker” and “fascist” to lamenting that Flores’s new L.A. neighborhood looks like a “Third World country.”

The event promised to exalt indie sleaze. Instead, it delivered a compelling rendering of an entirely different era—one where Bernie was a presidential candidate, and socialism was a stylish talking point on bratty podcasts. During the live podcast recording, the hosts called Jimmy Fallon a fascist and vowed to destroy capitalism. They told a well-trodden story of how James Corden was kicked out of Balthazar in 2022 for rudeness, a year too late. Whither the post-Sanders Left? Mean celebrities? Polyamory? Stale Twitter grudges?  Sitting in a folding chair, I was reminded of a quote by Lauren Oyler in The Cut: I believe that internet socialism is going the way of feminism and that it’s going to […] become not just uncool but permanently tainted by the way people act on the internet.” The carefree fun of indie sleaze feels elusive given the state of the world. At the beginning of the show, a comedian asked a woman in the crowd what she did for a living. She snapped back, “I don’t have a living” with a gusto and cheer that rang through this gaping, white, overlit warehouse. It was the most carefree moment I’ve seen in a long time.


Photo by contributor.

LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

Madeleine Connors is a stand-up comedian and writer living in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in places like The New York Times, Bookforum, and Vanity Fair.


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