Get Yourself a Human Barbell

By Jamie PeckJanuary 24, 2024

Get Yourself a Human Barbell

HIT BARGAIN, GIANNA GIANNA, SARAH REGISTER, Zebulon, Los Angeles, January 20, 2024.

For all the ink spilled over which of the two largest cities in the United States reigns supreme, after migrating southwest for the winter, I’m finding my life pretty similar to the one I had back home. My walk to the bodega is objectively nicer, and I will never get over the abundance of extraterrestrial plants, but I’ve seen enough familiar faces and places to believe that the cultural world I first sought out in New York spans both coasts. Seeing the mostly L.A.-based punk band Hit Bargain play a release show for their album A DOG A DEER A SEAL at Zebulon—itself a New York transplant—reinforced this belief. This Saturday night, kindred spirits across time and space gathered to celebrate art made by women in these trying times. 

Sarah Register—guitarist, sound engineer, and member of Kim Gordon’s all-female touring band—opened, leading an experimental trio including Sterling Laws on drums and Jane Paik on vocals. Register first got to know Nora Singh (née Anna Barie), the singer of Hit Bargain, in the first decade of this millennium when they were tearing up the Brooklyn DIY scene in their respective bands Talk Normal and These Are Powers. For a second, the pain in my back even went away and I felt like I was back at Monster Island Basement (IYKYK). 

Next up was the L.A.-based multi-hyphenate artist/filmmaker/dancer/preschool teacher Gianna Gianna, who delivered spastic deconstructed pop while wearing a similarly deconstructed tuxedo. Her voice went everywhere from low hiss to staccato yelp to operatic wail to even something that resembled rapping. Much can go wrong when channeling Kate Bush, but as a strange girl myself, my appetite for interpretive caterwauling is perhaps above average.

Around a very civilized 9:30 p.m., the band of the hour—consisting of Singh, guitarist Mike Barron, bassist Sean Monaghan, and drummer Anton Hochheim—took the stage. Named after a Chinese rice-wine spirit that purports to contain the penises of three different animals, their latest album detonates the claustrophobic feelings that proliferated during lockdown, like so many illicitly acquired fireworks. Wearing a T-shirt depicting Betty Boop as a bodybuilder in a “Dump Him” crop top, Singh cut an imposing figure as she launched into scorching album opener “Immaculate Vaxxer,” which manages to references endometriosis, abortion bans, COVID-19, and the Catholic Eucharist, culminating in the screamed chorus, “My body is not my own / It’s a host.” An echo effect made it all even more biblical as Singh wrapped the mic cord around her neck like a noose, ending the song with a bitter chant of “thoughts and prayers.” 

The band kept up this energy as they burned through much of the album, an artfully composed work of hardcore appreciable on several levels, not the least of which is libidinal. “At least we’re allowed to mosh again,” quipped Singh at one point after nodding to the horrors through which we are currently living. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen people mosh at Zebulon.” Singh is a pro at injecting moments of levity into otherwise serious material, hamming it up with a cheesy grin here, an ironic sneer there.

The grand finale came when powerlifter Annemarie Munn got onstage for album closer “A DOG A DEER A SEAL” and picked up the six-foot-tall singer, slinging her over her shoulder before lifting her off the ground as if she were a barbell, in a literal demonstration of “girl power,” as Singh continued to scream the words to the song. Tender and loving, yes—but also wild, badass, and more than a little absurd: a perfect summation of Hit Bargain.

After the bands, DJ Clifton spun ’60s soul records while old friends mingled and caught up. They may not exist always or everywhere, but spaces like these give me hope that we can carry our creative spirit into adulthood with us—regardless of where we ultimately land.


Photo of Annemarie Munn powerlifting Nora Singh 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

Jamie Peck is a writer, organizer, and podcaster based in New York City. She has written for Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Vice, The Village Voice, and more.


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