The Letter Openers Bring Déjà Vu at ‘Go With The Atmosphere’ Release Show

The Letter Openers - All photos by Notes From Vivace
The Letter Openers - All photos by Notes From Vivace

Photos and review by NOTES FROM VIVACE

LOS ANGELES – I don’t recall when I first came across The Letter Openers. It might have been as early as 2005, definitely by 2007. The band was part of a close knit group of bands that formed the Kiss or Kill club scene. The scene grew out of frustration with the Sunset Strip pay-for-play policies and the hipster crowd populating the Silverlake clubs.

The Letter Openers - All photos by Notes From Vivace
The Letter Openers – All photos by Notes From Vivace

Within Kiss or Kill, I always thought The Letter Openers held their own unique status among a largely punk crowd. They were hard rockers with lead singer Mac Dunlop having a 1970s rocker image. His deep vocals commanded the attention of the audience.

The band broke up around the time that the Kiss or Kill scene ended. Flash forward over a decade and I came across the band again in late 2019 at The House of Machines. I did one of my Instagram interviews with the band and Dunlop had this to say about how the band came back together:

The Letter Openers – All photos by Notes From Vivace

“A couple years ago, Martin Ransbury and I reconnected and started jamming on some of my new songs. We weren’t planning to re-form The Letter Openers, but that’s what the new music sounded like. So, we decided to revive the name, brought Matt Peter back into the fold, and drafted Jon Rygiewicz in, to play drums. We started playing out a year ago, and have been gigging and recording ever since. As far as what keeps us coming back for more…I think we really enjoy playing together, have a decent amount of overlap taste-wise, and we still get along pretty well.”

The Letter Openers – All photos by Notes From Vivace

All that history led to a Saturday night at The Redwood Bar & Grill where the band celebrated their Go With The Atmosphere album release. A number of familiar faces were in the crowd from that time of my music life. Some of the individuals I had not seen in perhaps a decade. Others, well, in the randomness of Los Angeles, I run into every so often. For example, a few months back, I left Harvard & Stone after catching a band called Pagoto, I walked towards my car, a couple blocks later I turned my head to the right, and I saw someone I know drinking a beer at a Hollywood Blvd bar.

Bloody Westerns – All photos by Notes From Vivace

The other bands on the bill included Bloody Westerns, Aurora Sect, and Space Horse. There was a definite homage to the Kiss or Kill scene there. Aurora Sect includes Daniel Tatomer on vocals who used to be in a band called Silver Needle while Celeste Kim on keys used to be in a band called Underwater City People. Those were two of my favorites from those days. (The Letter Opener’s Rygiewicz was also in Underwater City People.) The band’s songs have hypnotic rhythms that get you smiling. The band Space Horse includes The Letter Opener’s Peter. The band wanted to make sure that people knew that the band name was Space Horse and not Space Whore. They’re that punk band playing in the backyard at a Summer pool party. Bloody Westerns gave the night a country kick-off.

Aurora Sect – Photos by Notes From Vivace

Other than running into music friends, other moments from the night had me in deja vu. The Redwood Bar & Grill tries to hold to a strict time slot schedule. Since things were just a touch behind schedule, bands needed to cut a song or two from their setlists. And it also meant that bands needed to go on and off stage as quickly as possible. It was all hands. It didn’t matter if you were in the band or not, if you knew how to handle music equipment, you joined in bringing things to the stage or off the stage.

Space Horse – All photos by Notes From Vivace

It is just a distinct memory of mine from those Kiss or Kill days, bands helping bands. In fact, one of my most favorite memories is of a band playing a set and the guitarist had to deal with a broken string. The guitar was quickly replaced, but off to the side a member of another band (okay, to be clear, another member of the band Underwater City People) re-strung that guitar and got it all tuned up. Those just aren’t moments I see that often these days (though I will say that drummers tend to look out for drummers; if something goes wrong with a drum kit, another drummer will rush the stage in the middle of a song to help fix the situation).

Space Horse – Photos by Notes From Vivace

The Letter Openers hit the stage just a touch before 11:30 p.m. with an introduction by another Silver Needle alum, Johnny 99. The band started off their set with “Camerford, Where Ya Been,” which is the opening song from their new album. A song with heavy retro rock beats and gritty vocals. The band gives you the impression that if they worked at Record Safari or Permanent Records Roadhouse, they’d casually come up to you and slip you an album from a forgotten rock band and insist that you give it a listen. The band also played songs from their 2005 debut album.

Space Horse – All photos by Notes From Vivace

One of those songs was “In Circles” that goes at 100 miles per hour while avoiding police detection. The crowd demanded an encore. Before launching into “Special Things,” Dunlop told the audience, “Thank you all, good night. Have a wonderful night. Thank you for coming out. We love you. Thank you for supporting us. All of you have been here for a long time. A long long time. We love you.”

Bloody Westerns – Photos by Notes From Vivace

The Letter Openers setlist: Camerford, Where Ya Been, Hurry Up, Don’t Get Me Wrong, Birds of Prey, Studio City, Careful Sun, In Circles, I’ll Keep Holding On Encore: Special Things.

Space Horse setlist: If Loving You is Wrong (I Don’t Wanna Be Wrong), Holy Rollers, Getting Over, What are you Afraid of?, Baby, You’re a Sore Sight for Eyes, Moonage Daydream (David Bowie cover), Garage Against the Machine, What’s in the Bag?, Everyday Ghosts.

Aurora Sect setlist: Coyote, Caterwaul Fooled, Flurry, Deep in the Night.

Bloody Westerns setlist: Theme for a Bloody Western, Tiger, As Above, Holograms, Decline, Ella Mae, I Get Low / Reprise.