Rich tapestries, red carpeting, and chandeliers abound in Highland Park’s unassuming Garibaldina Society hall. The “Italian social organization that welcomes [those] who enjoy monthly dinner dances and activities,” according to its website, also boasts a Bocce court and claims to contain the largest dance floor in Los Angeles. But, until Shannon and the Clams took the stage on November 18, chances are it had never contained a mosh pit. The Garibaldina Society wasn’t ready for Shannon and the Clams, but it was the perfect venue.
Before the Clams started their set, nearly all the beer had sold out. Once on stage, it was quickly evident that the ballroom’s tinny speakers were no match for the band’s wailing spirit. But none of it mattered. The crowd was equal parts punk, rockabilly, queer, and whatever else, and all 900 of us came to dance with Shannon. The type of dancing, though, varied wildly. Witnessed at different points throughout the set: couples lovingly swaying together in a slow dance, multiple mosh pits, three crowd surfers, one stage diver, and one bra thrown at the stage — all on a Monday night.
The crowd reflected the cool hodgepodge that Shannon and the Clams exudes. The four-piece Oakland outfit is just as doo-wop and surfy as it is rockabilly and punk. This refreshing authenticity incites a mixture of excitement, nostalgia, heartache, and kinesis in the listener. The Clams (guitarist/singer Cody Blanchard, keyboardist/singer Will Sprott, and drummer Nate Mahan) dressed in ‘50s-inspired plaid suits and red neckties while bassist/singer Shannon Shaw rocked a platinum beehive and her own girly red neck bow. The band’s aesthetic combined with Garibaldina’s kitschy setting and the crowd’s cult-fan energy in a way that transported us all into an extended cut of the dancehall scene in John Waters’s Cry-Baby.
The band has been on tour opening for Modest Mouse and The Black Keys lately, so this rare chance to perform for more than 20 minutes enhanced the show’s genuine and happy energy. Shannon took a moment halfway through the generously long set to express her gratitude for the slot, the venue, and the crowd’s general kickassery. The band was obviously having just as much fun playing as the crowd was dancing and moshing. The mutual enjoyment and almost total lack of pretension made for a stellar set.
The Clams played a smattering of favorites from across its 10-year discography with a slight focus on its latest album, 2018’s Onion. There was a perfectly psychedelic cover of Zager and Evans’s “In the Year 2525” early in the set and a show-stopping (literally) rendition of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” to close out the energetic three-song encore. As the crowd wailed along with Shannon imploring us to feed our heads, we knew that our heads, hearts, and dancing shoes had gotten more than their fill on that unassuming Monday at the Garibaldina Society.