Live Review: Badflower at Saint Rocke

Badflower photo 1

The Players: Josh Katz, vocals, guitar; Joey Morrow, guitar; Alex Espiritu, bass; Anthony Sonetti, drums.

Material: Badflower are a conventional rock band whose only frills are the occasional guitar noodle and step on the effects pedal. They are equally apt to nod to Soundgarden (“Wide Eyes”) as they are Thin Lizzy (“Walking on Fire”) and Black Sabbath (“Animal”). Their lead single “Heroin” landed the No. 1 spot on Los Angeles radio station KROQ-FM’s Locals Only playlist after its first week of release.

Musicianship: Anchored by Katz’s and Morrow’s adept axe work, Badflower play with the confidence of musicians well beyond their apparently young age. The band has a knack for making commercial rock sound fresh again; it can whip out a surprise guitar flourish at will, even if it doesn’t dabble in time changes or challenging song structures. Katz’s emotive singing perfectly suits the band’s crowd-pleasing style, although non-fans might find it only tolerable in small doses.

Performance: With an explosive and engaging set, Badflower proved they have already outgrown bars like Saint Rocke and are primed to play arenas. Among the 50 attendees was a slew of early converts who recited song lyrics and showered the band with generous applause. On multiple occasions, the admittedly hoarse-voiced Katz encouraged people to step closer, and they gladly acquiesced. He delivered between-song banter with ease, and also had the stage savvy to thank crowdgoers including fans, his parents and engineer Eddie Jackson. They also trotted out some new material that clearly wasn’t fully fleshed out.

Summary: Badflower write guitar hooks and succulent melodies with the strength of a band 10 times its age. And in an image-conscious town like Los Angeles, Badflower win points in the optics department thanks to shaggy-haired, pogo-ing Morrow and Espiritu framing the stage. At least one song of theirs, “Spanish Fly,” is well-suited for a high-end car commercial. But with lyrics like “I’m your masochist, make me bleed” (“Animal”) and “I put a frame around you, made you mine” (“Save a Life”), the same can’t necessarily be said for Katz’s sometimes-lacking lyrics. While they are about as ready for mainstream-rock radio as a band can get, the tastemaker set should beware. Don’t expect the unfortunately named Badflower to dwindle for too long in the underground—for better or worse.

–Kurt Orzeck