“The LAFMS is stupid”- Danny Gromfin

“The LAFMS is stupid”


While preparing for the 40 year career overview of the LAFMS, “Beneath the Valley of the Lowest Form of Music”, at the BOX Gallery in Los Angeles in January 2012, world famous artist and LAFMS-adjunct member Paul McCarthy uttered those words when describing the LAFMS in the context of helping set how the show should be presented. In fact, he said “it’s fucking stupid.” But McCarthy’s “stupid” describes something not negative, damaging, or destructive; rather in his description he was describing the circumstances that led the LAFMS from their earliest beginnings to the present day. How did these musical nonconformists somehow make it, across forty years of history (since 1972), to become admired forebears of a brand of avant-garde music and art that is so singularly, well, “stupid”?


The atmosphere in the United States that allowed the LAFMS to flourish and percolate in the early-‘70s was at the same time marked by the culture clash of war, violence, and economic malaise on one hand, and post-Space-age hubris in the form of over-sized gas-guzzling automobiles, mind-numbing Saturday morning cartoons, pre-packaged/instant/microwave food on the other hand, with an overall sense that what was being portrayed in the nightly news only scratched the surface of how bad things had become in the years since the post-World War II economic boom. But there were these people and a shared love for all kinds of interesting music.


In the forty years since the formation of the LAFMS, the natural cycles of bust and boom, conservatism and liberalism, hate and love, war and peace, etc. have played out. The people making the music and art and homemade instruments and records and cassettes are all pretty much the same people. They have soaked up influences, ideas, theorems, strategies, likes and dislikes, values and attitudes along the way that have kept the LAFMS stupid. So, for a bunch of talented, highly regarded musicians a world away in Berlin to reinterpret some very underground musical pieces in a giant venue as part of a real music festival??? Well that’s perfectly stupid!


I recall looking into Paul’s eyes when he said the LAFMS was stupid, and I knew exactly what he meant. Impossible to ever put your finger on, but a fitting description from someone who knows what stupid is when he sees it. The people in the LAFMS are some of the brightest, most talented and smartest people I’ve ever met. But the LAFMS is stupid.


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