Sage Against the Machine bandmates are native plant nerds by day, punk rockers by night

Jeanette Marantos, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Lifestyles

In a cavernous convention hall in Northern California, at the end of a long, loooong day of important, yes, but eventually mind-numbing presentations about native plants, nearly 200 scientists, botanists and students had had enough. It was pushing 9 p.m. and everyone, exhausted from paying attention, was edging toward the doors and the beckoning bars. That's when six native-plant nerds took the stage, plugged in their musical instruments and sonically set the room on fire.

L.A.-based band Sage Against the Machine played with a driving, unexpected intensity and enough volume to make your chest hurt in a hard-to-pinpoint style. Was it punk? Rap-metal? Early Doors? Frontman Antonio Sanchez stepped to the microphone in his signature below-the-knee baggy shorts over leggings and monarch-butterfly-wing earring, his head bald save for a slicked-back streak of silver-black hair, and began shouting out lyrics in a blend of caressing wail and shriek.

Suddenly a rather subdued group of serious academics and researchers at the California Native Plant Society's 2022 convention in San José turned into a mosh pit of bouncing, frenzied fans, screaming lyrics back at the band and dancing the way people dance when they don't know any steps but they have to move because they're too joyously possessed to stand still.

It wasn't just the throbbing music that hooked them. It was the sly, salty lyrics, full of in-jokes and puns and references only fellow native-plant nerds would understand.

The other day I was watering my lawn

The government told me I was wrong.


They said, "You're gonna have to turn your irrigation off."

Sanchez crooned the slow opening to one of the band's most crowd-pleasing songs, "Kill Your Lawn," speeding his delivery to squeeze the increasingly complicated lyrics into the meter:

They told me to kill, kill my lawn

But those native plants are such a yawn.


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