Correction (1/10): I just talked with Gregory Prout, a volunteer who manages the Ché Café's finances, and he says that the fundraising effort wasn't quite as successful as I previously reported. The I Promise music festival raised about $7,000, Prout says, and the venue has raised about $6,000 through other donation efforts. Jesse Kranzler, who's been integral to the fundraising effort and helped organize I Promise, told me that the total donations were around $17,000. In fact, Prout says that the total money raised strictly through donations is about $13,000, though the venue also has money in the bank from other sources. We're sorry for the errors. The Ché, however, has still been saved.
The Ché Café has been saved.
As we reported last week, friends of the cash-strapped venue have been leading an effort to raise $12,000 in funds needed to cover insurance fees, which are due in March. If they couldn't come through with the cash, the Ché would've had to stop putting on shows.
The fundraising effort culminated this weekend with I Promise, a three-day benefit festival that featured a cross-section of bands that are near-and-dear to the venue.
Jesse Kranzler, one of the fest's organizers, says it brought in about $8,000. The venue had previously raised about $9,000 through donations to a benefit website and other efforts, bringing the total donations to around $17,000. The surplus will help cover back-taxes and other debts, Kranzler says.
The sold-out indie-rock showcase on Saturday night, featuring noise-rock heavies No Age and Crystal Antlers, was the Ché's highest-grossing concert of all time, Kranzler says, bringing in about $4,000. I went on Sunday night for the experimental-noise show and the turnout was pretty big that night, too.
One of the highlights on Sunday was Realization Orchestra, a new band featuring members of Ty Segall and Weatherbox. They looked like DEVO in their purple jumpsuits, but their extremely weird, yet technically proficient, sound had more to do with iconoclasts like John Zorn and Captain Beefheart. They were clearly having tons of fun, which made their unpredictable compositions all the more enjoyable.
I was also happy to see L.A. spazz-rock legends XBXRX. The last time I saw them at the Ché, back in the early '00s, their singer jumped around the space like a freaky sprite, climbing the rafters and bringing everyone together in an epic group hug in a thoroughly chaotic 15-minute set that ended when one of the members broke his nose. They've grown sludgier and more metal in the decade since, but they still wrought absolute mayhem on Sunday, climbing the rafters, detuning their guitars and even stepping offstage to do push-ups and sit-ups amid the crowd. All the while, a guy in a wheelchair gamely held his own in the mosh pit. Awesome!
The big draw, however, was Health, a noise-rock band that emerged out of The Smell, an all-ages club in L.A. Their thrilling set featured a mix of spastic noise jams and nightclub-ready electro-rock anthems; masters of contrast, they let out jarring bursts of noise over sing-song vocals and pummeling drums. My God, what a sight to see they were. Their bassist whipped around his long hair like some kind of rock 'n' roll angel. Their savage drummer, with his big build and curly hair, had the look of an ancient warrior.
Towards the end of Health's set, Kranzler stepped onstage to let everybody know that the fundraiser was a success, tossing a handful of confetti at the crowd. After the show, people behind the fundraising effort were all smiles. The fundraiser didn't just save this all-volunteer, all-ages venue, they said. It reinvigorated it.