That’s a Wrap

By David DiazDecember 20, 2023

That’s a Wrap

GRAF ORLOCK with SUPERVOID CHORALE ENSEMBLE, DANGERS, and THOU at the Echoplex, Los Angeles, December 15, 2023, and Chain Reaction, Anaheim, December 16, 2023.

In 2008, I met Jason Schmidt in an Ancient History class or maybe it was while I stealing a sandwich from the student store. He complimented my Pig Destroyer sweater, then made fun of me for unironically listening to Deicide on my iPod Nano. Later, he asked if I’d ever heard of his band, Graf Orlock, which I hadn’t, so I looked them up on YouTube and was decimated by the technicality and quality that punished my ears. After I attended my first “Graf” show a month later at an Orange County screen-printing shop, the rest was history. 

Then last weekend, on Friday and Saturday at the Echoplex in Los Angeles and Chain Reaction in Anaheim, respectively, Graf closed the curtain on a 20 year career of their unique brand of hardcore, or “cinemagrind,” with support from bands who were all part of Graf’s history in some important way.
At the Echoplex on Friday, the Los Angeles experimental post-metal two piece, Supervoid Chorale Ensemble opened. It was my first time seeing them, and I was expecting this super-group to be good considering the other projects both members are a part of, but I was downright impressed.

The inimitable Los Angeles band Dangers followed, catapulting the room into a frenzy with their pensive, no-bullshit brand of hardcore. The singer, Al, half-jokingly reminded us that “it’s clear that [their] band hasn’t made a difference, but also that [they’re] still needed”—and that’s shockingly true. With a nearly two-decade catalog of unforgettable riffs and lyrics, they played songs like “Half Brother, All Cop,” “Opposable,” and “Loose Cigarettes,” and their unfortunately evergreen social commentary hit harder than ever.

Next up were the Louisiana sludge/doom legends, Thou, and they immediately made us grimace and bang our heads. Since 2004, this prolific six piece rarely fails to brutalize your aura in Drop B or F# (and others), while taking you on a thundering spiritual journey.

Graf Orlock finished off the night. Sardonically cued sound-bites from definitive ’80s, ’90s and ’00s action movies bobsledded us down memory lane as the band cherry-picked from their expansive discography—certified classics such as “Murder on the MTA,” “Economically Viable,” “50 Year Storm,” and “Captives of the Thuggee.” The songs felt like my personal property now that I’ve seen Graf perform live for maybe the 20th time. Never a disappointing spectacle.

This ushered me towards night two: their final show at Chain Reaction in Anaheim. For the last time, they set up on the floor of the venue. Staged in front of a Christmas tree and a pile of cardboard “doombox” stereos, the finality of everything set in. They were the only band billed, and it really felt like they had planned the ultimate holiday party from hell. After a short set, Graf held an intermission and a raffle, or “Graffle,” to give away things like the stencil for one of their many unnecessarily intricate record jackets, and then set back up for the final scenes of their epic saga.

In addition to some of the hits from the night before, they added bangers like “A Shocking Interrogation,” “Franky; Buying Dog Food,” and “Difficult Decisions in the Yutani Mess Hall.” Before the night was over, Jason paused to remind us how many shows the band had played at Chain Reaction (50+) and thanked everyone for being a part of this messed-up family. It was truly saddening to see the end of such a long love affair.

We sneered at the band one more time and looked at one another—at hundreds of others we’ve grown up with over the past two decades without even knowing it—and it was tough to hear Graf start their beloved show-ender and Jurassic Park–inspired wrecker, “The Dream Left Behind,” as someone threw the Christmas tree into the crowd. The final riffs rang out as the Douglas fir made its rounds, the entire band leapt forward, and we hoisted them above our heads. With the closing sample ringing out like a sonata, the band crowd-surfed into that 70-foot wave just like Bodhi from Point Break: maybe to juke the feds, maybe to die in the whitewater, but definitely to show the world that the human spirit is still alive and eternally annoyed with you.


Photo of Dangers onstage 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

David Diaz is a writer and educator living in Los Angeles, CA, who holds an MFA from CSU Long Beach. His poetry has been published by Tia Chucha PressSan Pedro River ReviewQuerencia Press, and Tiny Splendor, and his freelance journalism can be found in Locale Magazine and L.A. Taco. 


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