"Take the hair and turn it white, Take the hair and turn it white, In the desert underneath the night, Twenty kisses with a butterfly knife." 

If you can imagine a striking young blonde woman wielding a guitar strung around her body while repeatedly purring those four lines (from her song "Butterfly Knife") like some kind of twisted schoolyard chant into a microphone at the conclusion of a smoldering, noisy rock and roll song, then you get the idea of how Erika M. Anderson spent last Friday night at The Echoplex in front of large crowd of her Los Angeles fanbase. If you're seeking a different kind of alluring visual, then try imagining Anderson singing the infamously scatological lyrics to The Violent Femmes' "Add It Up", which also very much happened, witnessed by those keen enough to catch her on her current tour.

Anderson, rapidly becoming known to the masses as EMA, treated the LA crowd to a little under an hour's worth of music from her recently released debut album Past Life Martyred Saints (available HERE on Amazon for just $6.49). As good as the album itself already is, the live renditions of these songs seem to pack quite the extra punch.

(Above) Past Life Martyred Saints -Due to the alarming recent influx of musicians who, low on funds, decide to use prerecorded instrumentals in place of a backing band (making their performances seem more karaoke than rock show), I had, for reasons that are beyond me at this point, expected EMA to adopt a similar tactic for her live show. Not only did she bring along a full band (complete with duo distorted electric violins during "California"), but the whole thing had a 'Seattle in the early 90s' vibe going for it; only that Anderson is a lot more Kurt than Courtney or Kim.

Past Life Martyred Saints' lo-fi jams become radio-ready monsters when played live. "Milkman" could have been placed between "Bodies" and "Thirty-Three" on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness with its soaring guitar-driven chorus. A sea of noise and feedback helps the aforementioned "Butterfly Knife" expand into a lengthy experimental rock track, only that the term "experimental" suggests Anderson is still tinkering with her songwriting skills when she exudes vigorous confidence that she knows exactly what she's doing.

I'm not sure how serious she was, but at the end of her set Anderson mentioned a craving for smashing a guitar or two, and invited the audience to bring her an old guitar for her to smash on stage (or she'd even just let you do it for her) the next time she came to town. So, fellow West Coasters (or all of you from anywhere else), bring her your (or your little brother's) first Fender Squier or whatever your first guitar was and sacrifice it in the honor of Erika M. Anderson. Here's the video for "California", which looks and sounds like the decree of a revolution:

And here's a video of her "Add It Up" cover from earlier in the tour:

EMA hits the east coast for the rest of the month, apparently part of a three-letter all caps lock band name tour with MEN and CSS:

10/22 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
10/23 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Lounge
10/24 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
10/26 – Athens, GA @ 40 Watt Club
10/28 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
10/29 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues
10/30 – Austin, TX @ La Zona Rosa

Words & Photos By: Will Sellers
Graphic: by J. Thomas Codling

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