Review: L7 at the Black Cat, 9/18

On September 18th, L7 returned to DC at The Black Cat. The opener Tarah Who? started off the night with a burst of energy and woke everyone up on Monday night. Questioning if the audience could give them more, the bands led an exciting evening of audience participation and engagement.

L7 arrived on stage and asked how many people were seeing them for the first time. As I raised my hand and noticed the mix of people with their hands up, I realized L7’s lasting impact on music. From older adults who never had the opportunity to see them in the 1990s to people like me who grew familiar with L7 more recently, everyone was eager to see the female rockers.

My favorite thing about seeing older bands are the crowds: Gen X adults watch as today’s high schoolers mosh like they once did to the same band. There were high schoolers and women in their 50s yelling the words “You’ve made my shitlist!” in unison as Donita Sparks, Jennifer Finch, and Suzi Gardner sang the iconic line from their hit “Shitlist.”

L7 also tested the audience as they questioned their energy in the no-barrier and open venue. After singing one of their most famous songs, “Andres,” they asked the crowd if that’s all we had. As the songs fluctuated in energy level and content, the mosh pit of high schoolers came and went, but each member’s musicality was constantly obvious. I appreciated how all band members at one point took the lead for a song, a phenomenon I have noticed in multiple riot-grrrl/ female punk bands. The camaraderie in all-female groups is evident  in their live performances.

Another memorable moment was L7’s performance of their 2017 song  “Dispatch from Mar-a-Largo”. Jennifer Finch creeped up to the mic and said, “He’s back….” as the band started the anthem against former President Donald Trump. As someone who listens to a lot of older punk songs about presidents like Ronald Reagan, I appreciate when songs are written about modern day issues. The band proved that it can stay relevant after 30 years.

L7 remain trailblazers in the punk rock, grunge, garage rock genre. I was lucky enough to snatch a setlist thrown in the air at the end of the show (something I try to do at every concert but never have success with). My 17 year-old-self who listened to L7’s 1992 album “Bricks are Heavy” on repeat during the COVID-19 pandemic was not disappointed. After ending their hiatus in 2014, L7 is still around to rile up crowds as they did in the 90s. Now, they do it for an intergenerational audience. I saw a dad and his 8 year old daughter, with headphones too large for her head, and wished I had women like L7 to look up to during those developing years.

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