TVD Live: Retra
and Death Machine II,
at Maui Sugar Mill Saloon, 7/3

PHOTOS: JULIA LOFSTRAND | A couple of years ago I sat down my favorite LA dive bar, Equal Parts, and ordered a very well crafted $10 whisky sour. I came to Equal Parts for the jukebox: Danzig, Patti Smith, The Talking Heads, ect. There’s nothing better than listening to The Stones’ “Sister Morphine” in a red-tinted, dimly lit bar, drink in hand.

But on this particular night, karaoke was ruining my sanctuary until this enigmatic androgynous being jumped on the bar and smashed “What’s Up” by the 4 Non Blondes. I peered up at her speechless as she stomped from one end of the bar to the other in combat boots and a fresh crew cut killing every high note of the infamous “and I said hey, what’s going on,” chorus. “Holy shit, she’s actually giving Linda Perry a run for her money,” I thought to myself. The packed bar gave her a standing ovation. I wondered about this person with this mega voice, but this is LA proper and good manners dictate not to be intrusive to the talent around us. I sipped my drink instead.

Flash forward to the night before our first 4th of July without Covid restrictions, and everything comes full circle when I walk into the Maui Sugar Mill Saloon to check out Retra, a rebranded version of the Glam Skanks who once toured with Adam Ant. To my great surprise, I find the Glam Skanks’ founding members Veronica Witkin (guitar, synth, vocals) and Millie Chan (bass, vocals) have paired up with the girl with the mega voice, Audra Isadora (lead vocals), and formed Retra. With Shaina Mikee Keiths on drums, Retra did what they came do: glam/soul rock the night out.

Resplendent in sequins from the days of Bowie, Grace Jones, and T. Rex, Retra’s musicianship revives Glam Skanks classics—the song “Bad Bitch” took on a new life as the new queer/queen of the avant-garde, front woman Isadora, proclaimed “gender is over” commanding all the “bad bitches” to the front of the stage. A cover of The Ronettes’ “Heatwave,” a splash of doo-wop, showcased the varied sides of Retra. Phone video recorders out in abundance, their energetic stage presence made us feel good to be alive as the packed bar cheered for an encore. After this first live performance, I expect to see Retra domination.

Earlier, Electric Children—a Silverlake garage rock band which is a platform supporting underground artists begun by Ramblin’ Eddie Lopez—took the stage with a small army of musicians that included Bill Bateman from the Blasters/ Flesh Eaters/ The Cramps on drums. Electric Children has around 50 rotating members and consciously avoids western media propaganda. Good luck finding any 411 on them, just head to their Bandcamp.

Death Machine II, a duo consisting of Michelle Balderrama (guitar/vocals) of L.A. Machina/ Brainspoon/ The Darts US and Nick Oliveri (drums/vocals) of Mondo Generator/ Kyuss/ Queens of the Stone Age took the stage to rage. Both members of Electric Children and Death Machine III, Balderrama and Oliveri’s set was tantamount to the heavy riffs and beats of war, bringing the energy of the night to a climactic end.

Recap of the night: it rocked—and it’s good to be back.



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