Allah-Las perform at Music Box

With a retro, California beach sound, Allah-Las’ music has been likened to that of The Kinks. Photo courtesy of @a__mix/Instagram

Eclectic rock band puts on rowdy show in downtown San Diego

Walker Chuppe | Photo Editor | The USD Vista

The atmosphere was that of tweed jackets, flared pants, handlebar mustaches, and the sweet jangle of guitar-driven garage rock. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the year was 1968. However, the scene was at the Allah-Las downtown show at the Music Box venue, and no time machine was needed. 

Since their founding in 2008, the Allah-Las sound has been likened to 60s rock bands such as The Kinks, The Troggs, and The Byrds—perhaps with a slice of Dick Dale’s iconic surf guitar tone thrown into the mix. Occasional criticism of the band comes from compartmentalization of their sound as unoriginal 60s rock rehash, but the Allah-Las incorporate their signature ,California beach tones into a modern rendition of the vintage genre. Reverberating, twangy guitar riffs, sickly sweet melodies, and raspy vocal harmonies punctuate the Allah-Las’ style. 

With their unique blend of old and new, the Allah-Las attracted a crowd with a similar vibe. Beanies, denim jackets, floral print, and a pair of beat-up Chuck Taylors seemed to be staples of the go-to outfit for the occasion. It was a good thing many of the concert goers donned layered ensembles; the line to get into the Music Box wrapped around the building, and although San Diego is experiencing an odd October heat wave, it was a chilly night to wait around for an extended period. The security to get into the venue was surprisingly strict—metal detectors and full pat downs were mandatory for every individual. However, the Music Box only had two security guards performing the scans for contraband, likely resulting in the long wait to get into the venue.

The Music Box venue itself was a nice place to see a show. The club features three levels for viewing the stage, and has a modern, urban ambiance. Sound quality was excellent—and not aggressively loud—which is often the case for many guitar-heavy rock or indie rock shows. As expected, drinks were on the expensive side, but not outrageous for downtown San Diego. 

Allah-Las put on a quality show at Music Box despite being late to the stage. Photo courtesy of @sarahdefnner/Instagram

Overall, the venue was decent, but should receive some criticism as well. The stage itself is not high enough off the ground, nor is the floor sloped at all, and as a result, fans are left with a poor viewing angle of the band or artist. Assuming that the venue controls set times, the Allah-Las started their set far too late into the night. The doors opened at 7, and the show was slated for 8 per the Music Box website, but the band did not start their set until approximately 11 p.m. It is likely the venue delayed the start to sell more drinks, but in any case, it was unacceptable for an 18-and-up show. The audience grew increasingly rowdy and inebriated, which led to many spilled drinks, mosh pits, and crowd surfers. For a reasonably mellow band, the crowd behavior was surprising, but likely facilitated by the late start. It was almost like attending a Slayer concert — not a concert for a surf rock band from Los Angeles. 

Despite the mellow nature of the band’s music, the crowd at the concert was rowdy. Nicole Kuhn/The USD Vista

Despite the rowdy behavior, which even the band themselves seemed confused about, the show was a blast. These days, it seems many rock bands are able to sound as good live as they do on their records, and the Allah-Las are no exception. In the good old days, it seemed rockers were notorious for being terrible musicians in-person, but luckily, the Allah-Las left that part of the 60s in the past. The band played many of their hit songs, such as “Catamaran” and “Busman’s Holiday,” which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed when they were not posting on Snapchat and Instagram. 

The setlist was full of head-bobbing jangles to dance to, and it was a great time from beginning to end. When the band formed in 2008, a couple of the members hardly knew how to play their instruments, but in 2017, the Allah-Las certainly put on a tight performance. The sonic ambiance placed the audience somewhere between sepia-toned downtown Los Angeles, and next to the waves crashing over the ever-grimy Venice Beach. It seemed like the crowd could have dispersed off to drive-ins and neon-lighted hamburger joints after the show, like something out of “American Graffiti.” 

Overall, the Allah-Las played a solid show at the Music Box, and at $18 a ticket, it was certainly worth the cost.