Led by singer/provacateur Cynthia Sley and guitarist Pat Place, Bush Tetras rose to prominence in early-'80s New York alongside Liquid Liquid and other punk-funk outfits. Deprived of late original bassist Laura Kennedy, the group returned to the West Coast for the first time since 1981 last night. (Even that, Part Time Punks promoter/DJ Michael Stock explained, was only after five years of begging emails.) Ostensibly, the gig was part of a promo ramp-up to celebrate the proper release of their grunge-era Happy! LP, shelved for 15 years by their major label. The band is also riding a sizable ripple of dancefloor popularity following a superb "East Village" remix of their churning "Snakes Crawl" by Irish DJ Phil Kieran, which is now a staple of sets by techno-OG Laurent Garnier and nu-disco nu-jack Filrouge.
Sley and Place indulged cowbell, maracas and glockenspiel on noisy-disjointed funk songs that showed the sizable crowd -- which included Vincent Gallo in a patched tweed sportcoat and John Frusciante in an argyle v-neck; what is it about LA winters that makes people dress like Oberlin professors? -- that their sound is about "spanning time." The only obvious concession to the band's history was the closing "Too Many Creeps," the closest the BTs had to a hit back in the day, a good half-decade before most of the Echo audience was born. Any nostalgic afterglow was immediately stubbed out by their encore, a raw-powered version of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey," and the most timeless curveball of the night. Bravo, welcome back, and hopefully LA won't have to wait, as drummer Dee Pop joked, until 2027 for the next gig. (New York, on the other hand, gets two chances when the band plays the Slipper Room March 29 and 30.)