Best of the 2010s: Mike Krol’s Favorite Night of the Decade Was October 6, 2012

The LA garage rocker recounts a chance encounter with The Hives.

It was October 6, 2012. I had just moved to Los Angeles by way of New Haven, Connecticut about a year and a half prior, and was still getting my bearings on the city and what it had to offer. The act of moving to California blindly and abruptly was pretty spontaneous and uncharacteristic of my formerly cautious self, and with that move, I promised myself I would start living a little more in the moment and try to get out of my comfort zone and be the person I always wanted to be. But as the normal routine of working full-time took over, my friend group was still relatively small and most nights I kept to myself eating take-out dinners alone in my one-bedroom house and watching DVDs of Saved By The Bell.

On this particular Saturday, a good friend of mine, Benjamin Critton, was in town from the East Coast and staying at my house. We woke up around noon that day with no real plans, got lunch, and then kind of just bummed around the city for a few hours. It probably was around 3 or 4 PM. when I got a text from my friends saying that they rented a house in Joshua Tree for the weekend and were headed out there if we wanted to meet them. Ben had to fly out the next morning, so at first, it didn’t seem like it made any sense to drive two and a half hours out into the desert and not spend the night. On second thought though, we didn’t have any plans for the night and maybe this was one of those choices where I could do something a little crazy instead of sticking to what makes more sense. So Ben and I talked about it for a couple minutes as we sat in his rental car, and before we realized it, we were driving out of the city towards the desert. 

By the time we started getting close to the Airbnb my friends were at, it was golden hour and the sky was incredible next to the landscape of cacti and tumbleweeds. As we pulled into the driveway of a little mid century modern bungalow, my friends were on the porch talking to the Airbnb host and getting the keys from him. Just as we were walking up to the door and he was about to leave he said, “Oh, do you guys like music? You should go to this restaurant that has live music down the road. I think a band called The Hives are playing tonight.”

In my mind, I was like this guy definitely got the band name screwed up. There is no way that The Hives, a favorite band of mine since high school, is playing in the middle of the desert at a restaurant down the road. The guy left, and then I quickly pulled out my phone and did some googling. Sure enough, he was right: The Hives, from Sweden, who headline massive festivals, were playing a concert in one hour at a location 15 minutes away from where we were standing. We all piled into our cars, and immediately headed over to Pappy and Harriet’s down the road. If you’ve been to Pappy and Harriet’s, then you already know how magical it is, but for those of you who haven’t been, it’s a small BBQ restaurant with incredible food and an indoor stage and an outdoor stage. Within minutes of us getting to the venue, The Hives came out and started their set under the desert sky stars to a crowd of maybe 300 people tops. The show was fantastic, of course, and afterwards the band hung around the restaurant and we all got to talk to them and tell them what a crazy coincidence it was that we were staying down the road and just found out about the concert an hour ago. I got a photo with Pelle, and then after a big BBQ meal, Ben and I got back in his rental car and started the drive back to LA the whole time talking about what a surreal night it had been. It was definitely the best impromptu night of the decade for me, and one that I’m reminded of whenever I get an offer to do something unplanned and spur of the moment.

(Photo Credit: Brian Guido)

Power Chords, Mike Krol’s new Merge release, picks up where 2015’s Turkey left off. It traces Krol’s journey back to punk rock, harnessing both the guitar technique and the musical redemption referenced in its title. He’s wielding the same influences — Misfits, The Strokes, early Weezer, Ramones — but turning up the gravity and the gain. Indeed, Krol has gone somewhere new; yes, he bludgeoned himself with over-analysis and self-loathing, but along the way he stumbled upon a trove of intricate guitar lines and artfully mutating melodies.

Music ruined Krol’s life. And then saved it. In chronicling that process, Krol has made his best record — painful, voyeuristic, and angry, but ultimately transcendent and timeless. It is the sound of Krol giving in to a force greater than himself, as though the chords are playing him rather than the other way around.