Photography by Philip Cosores
There is a sort of community present at a Rentals show, this all-inclusive vibe that fans feed off of to feel like they’re all part of the band. Leader Matt Sharp fans this flame, both in his interactions and his candid quips about band life and his personal history. At the midpoint of the set, Sharp sat on a monitor and gave a Kanye-length speech about his music-listening history, how artists like Ray Davies, Black Sabbath, and Robert Smith all came into his life at various times and made all else dissolve away with the power of their music. He then likened his relationship to Lucius to this affect, a convenient connection being that the duo of singers from that band, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, were in attendance and playing as part of The Rentals for the night, as well as having played a role in the recently released Rentals album, Lost in Alphaville.
For a band that has only released three LPs in 20 years (though there have been numerous EPs and other endeavors), with only one continuous member — specifically a guy whose greatest musical contribution to the world is his work on bass in another band: Weezer — The Rentals seem to draw people in that have had this sort of tunnel-vision musical relationship with the band, similar to Sharp talking about being a middle schooler and defending his love for the Kinks to his friends or taking his bass cues from Geezer Butler or stealing every advertising poster for the Cure at Dodger Stadium he could find in the ’80s during the Disintegration tour. There might not be a lot of Rentals fans (the Fonda couldn’t even draw enough to open their balcony on Friday night, particularly surprising considering it was the first Rentals show in the project’s home city in seven years, and featured a particularly strong supporting bill of We Are Scientists and Ozma), but the ones that made it out on Friday night, we of the super-fan variety, hung on every song, old and new, and validated Sharp’s decision to reignite the project after nearly a decade of sporadic EPs and a lack of touring.
Opening the night with a pair of tracks from the recently released Polyvinyl LP, fans were treated to their first glimpse of this one-night-only Lucius-featuring Rentals lineup, which also boasted Keith Murray of We Are Scientists on guitar along with Ryen Slegr of Ozma, Lauren Chipman, Nedelle Torrisi, Shawn Glassford of STRFKR on bass and keys, and drummer Jared Shavelson. Despite what Sharp would later call “20,000 people on stage” when forgetting Torrisi in the band introductions, new album standout “1000 Seasons” sounded record-tight, with Sharp frequently venturing to the tip of the stage to stand tall over his enthusiastic fans. Sharp clearly enjoyed the love, his exaggerated stage motions employed to earn a reaction, one that surprisingly didn’t get old throughout the set.
Sharp’s contributions to Weezer in their best years cannot be understated, and The Rentals have always worn his past as a badge, taking their sound as a sort of alternate history approach to what could have been should he and Rivers Cuomo have remained in the band together. Unfortunately, neither has ever been as strong without the other, and though they have reunited in the past, both remain on their separate professional paths. Sharp’s willingness to surround himself with talent is an asset for The Rentals, and an encore that included now classics “Friends of P” and “Getting By”, along with a “Ghostbusters” cover that morphed after a couple runs through the chorus to feature “Keith Murray” as the answer to “Who you gonna call?”, served to highlight both Sharp’s songwriting and band-leading abilities.
Supporting players becoming worthy stars on their own is not exactly unheard of (Dave Grohl, George Harrison, Mikal Cronin to name a few), but Sharp is unique in how closely he has stuck with what fans loved about the first two Weezer albums. Probably more so than Weezer. And for the influence of early Weezer alone, maybe The Rentals should get a closer look than most people are willing to muster. The several hundred Sharp-a-maniacs in Hollywood on Friday would likely agree, leaving the night on a high after Sharp and the Lucius ladies wound up in the crowd, surrounded by the reason The Rentals continue to be a band. Sharp has never seemed to need a large audience for his work, but the adoration from those fans he does have seems to be essential.