s h o w
t r i a l s
mutant press/the hungry ghost
4 may 2oo2
the gig... hmmm... was kinda odd... lots of smoking... mostly the audience (not really enuff to be considered a crowd) was very young... ppl playing chess... but mostly smoking... so of course i get the usual headache & hungover feeling the next morning that i always get when subjected to too much smoke...
the 1st guy, blake chen (aka the hungry ghost) played acoustic guitar and was accompanied by drum machine, bass & keyboard sounds all emanating from his laptop... it kind of astounded jerome, who had dragged out all of his midi gear, but in my opinion the potential of the equipment was under-utilized... he more or less used it as a cheesy-sounding drum machine... including searching for a tempo at one point... chen's voice is in the husky johnny cash-lou reed limited range mode... i was more curious about the ways & means of how he got an ad on mtv than with his music... most of the kids cleared out shortly after he started playing to go fight out back and probably get high... [sentenced to community service at the local gothic cultural youth center]
jerome (aka mutant press) got a little better reaction... his boogie old-school punkrok had some toes tapping... and some devil horns flashing when he would go into an effects-ridden guitar solo... he had his midi stuff working efficiently, and was able to bring up various keyboard sounds which really fleshed-out the sound... his stage presence was a plus, and he even got some people to do the response part on "white guys in suits" (who fucks up the world?)... after having heard most of his releases, it put the mutant press into a context that makes more sense to me... especially the covers...
that's my story... and i am sticking to it... [apparently, all suspects have alibis, so sentencing suspended until another day]
the monokulators/axis of evil
8 june 2oo2
the elbow room, ypsilanti
my first visit to the elbow room... missed the first band (flapjack)... axis of evil was hardcore punk in tie-dyed black... the crowd was so small, they tried to rile things up... to no avail... the drummer and guitar player reminded me of the brothers that fronted the 70s detroit band stonebridge... they could play, but... the visual focus & (attempted) charisma was left to the singer & bass player... i dunno, folks, they were just kids, playing at being punx, what, at least a quarter-century after it might have mattered? not so much rebellion as pallid homage to the las vegass punkers of the 70s by now... maybe they should listen to some 60s punk and gas it up a bit with some serious driving stupid riffs... they're just kids, playing... aren't we all... [no sentence due to apathy]
this night belonged to the old guys... to hell with the connections to past legendary michigan punk bands (violent apathy, meatmen, the fix, just say no)... i am excited about these guys... harry k. hairy's project seems to provide him an outlet for his wicked set of obsessions... he started out the show in tails and wig, waving a conductors baton, as he promised an evening of mellow jams... the masked hired-gun guitar player, (the kid of the bunch) tosses off a riff from a yes song to scare the crowd... then they careen into some manic punk rok with ken doing his patented kinetic spastic animatronic dance while he bowls over an unsuspecting tiny audience... bassist mike "stabber a" achtenberg plays w/his back to the audience, working with drummer rudd to lay down the rhythm for the dual guitars of "olaf" bour & "eddy the mask"... after a series of ripping fasthard songs, harry stumbles offstage & the band goes into a spacey instrumental time-filler while he changes into...
dr xeron!!! wearing a mexican wrestling mask, rubber gloves lab smock, cape & big rubber rain boots (fuk yah! my fave touch)... slowly ambulating towards the mic... the monokulators go into full sci-fi space-rock mode... xeron wielding a toy raygun, which he intermittently holds against the echoed-out microphone and points at the audience... who can't seem to fathom what they are seeing... the reaction is great tho... each surprise is met with laughter and applause... the next incarnation of the singer is as a google-eyed frogman... the theme song is a kinda ubu-esque nuevo wavo wacko number... finally he reappears in pajamas & monkey mask, clutching a small stuffed monkey... singing about "we are the apes" (something like that--someone is the ape)... then taking off the mask for "alco-holiday" while drinking at length from a (vodka?) bottle... he looks every bit the escaped lunatic...
i have to say, i have known most of these characters longer than i want to admit... even played with some... it is a wondrous thing to see harry's fertile imagination unleashed... great also to see mike having fun with his new 8-string kramer bass... rudd & olaf seem a little dourly out-of-sorts, but it all works, somehow... i hope they keep playing and getting tighter... a cd release would be an amazing document... for quite a few years i have hoped to see ken find himself a project like this to harness his unique and wide-ranging visions... unimpaired... if you get the chance to see them, do not pass it up... [the court sentences the monokulators to audio & video recording during alternating sessions of insulin & electro shock treatment]
dirtbombs/quintron & miss pussycat/violent ramp
14 june 2oo2
magic stick, detroit
violent ramp started up just as i arrived (good for my short-attention span) & was a fast, hard, brutal, unforgiving crash of bodies, strings, sticks & boards. a ramp was placed right up against the drum kit, so often one of the several skaters rolling back & forth between the crowd & amongst the band would go right up and at the drummer. the "ann arbor 3" set up in front of the stage, providence-style, and proceeded to pummel the crowd into submission with a perfectly-timed set of skate-thrash tuneage.
after a break which was overly-long for my tastes (what were they waiting for, anyways?), miss pussycat & quintron began with the puppet show "the mystery of squirrel ranch" (too bad alexia couldn't be there- she has this psychic connection thing going on with the squirrel population). it was charming, in a unpretentious & humorously-conceived presentation of puppet characters and audio accompaniment. a unique presentation... the only cringing moment was the "indian" characters, who lapsed into unfunny (too me-boohoodoo) stereotypes a couple of times. then came the "dance party", with miss pussy cat playing shakers and dancing & providing backing-answering chorus vocals, and led by the keyboards & drum-buddy plus vocals of mr. quintron. sadly, much of this set was marred by a (reverb?) feedback that made it hard for me to listen very closely. the duo claims new orleans as their home base, and they reflected that in a party party dance dance jump up and get on it build-up-to-a-frenzy almost tent-revival atmosphere. which, by the way, the crowd seemed to eat up, all the way, jumping and pumping their arms to exhort quintron, expecially in the last part of the show. all the same, and despite my preference for n'roleans loonitix like huey piano smith, the repetition of one or two-word vocal chants over & over was more annoying than catchy to my ears. i also was fairly unimpressed with the modern-day vanilly fudge organ flourishes. i did kinda wonder if a live drummer would have kicked the rhythm section into a place where quintron could have concentrated on fronting the act more.
the headliner was the dirtbombs, the double bass, double drummer monstrosity of a showcase for the talents of the legendary mick collins. i copped a place right up front after another long between-set interlude (what is up with that?) so i could keep an eye on my runaway success of a lost little brother t. jackson potter, who emceed much of the proceedings and played a vicious and cool fuzz bass. collins is a monster, and with the ample talents of the band to give him a base to launch from, his sweet guitar tones 7 excellent songwriting had the women in the stick ready to climb the stage and shake (which they did before the nite was over). i was a bit confused by studio fixture jim diamonds lead guitar instrumental showcase, which seemed misplace, but overall the dirtbombs delivered a rousing climax to a varied lineup of energetic and audience-friendly bands.
nate young/john olson/aaron dilloway/dr. gretchen's musical weightlifting program
17 june 2oo2
an evening of hanson records/american tapes friends & relatives, beginning with doc gretchen, who did a brief set of mildly manipulated pickup sounds emanating from what looked at first glance like a pedal steel. closer examination showed the tabletop string device to be more akin to tony conrads long string instrument, only on a much smaller scale, and with what almost looked like a driftwood neck & recycled strings. the bow laying beside it never did get applied, as she tapped with a finger slide and then went to her suitcase of fx units to amplify the resulting signal into a piece of gently revolving sound and feedback. it did remind me of the marina rosenfeld set i witnessed in buffalo last november, especially in the restraint shown in striking the table & strings, and in how often she just let the sound billow out for a few moments. my first encounter with the program, and an all-too-brief one. guess it is better to be left wanting more, eh?
next up (after a puzzlingly long break) was aaron dilloway, who sat behind his equipment and ground out a deep and buzzingly distorted set of interesting sounds that brought to mind kevin drumm and peter rehberg. unfortunately, one of the p.a. speakers was rattling and cutting in & out, but i had quite a fine seat and was able to bathe in the waves of well-controlled noise that panned back and forth quite nicely in the stereo spectrum, when the equipment was working. it seems appropriate that this was set in an art gallery, as one peered over their spray-painted, stickered & remodelled tape decks and various sound processing units gathered together, to be reminded of a contemporary found-object art exhibition. excellent set from aaron, overall, i was very impressed.
another [seemingly endless] interlude of bad deejay thru crap speakers was endured before john olson began his set. he concentrated on high end sounds, causing much of the ccrow to grimacingly plug one or both ears. fortunately, i had moved back and away into a chair and was spared any ear damage (i was prepared with ear protection tho-- and was tempted to toss some out and see who resorted to them). i have a personal preference for low end sounds over the upper reaches of the frequency spectrum, so i was not as enamored of this set as i was with aaron's. there was interplay of pulsing and "beating" caused by two soundwaves very close together in frequency, but it was very subtle within the overall loudness and brutality of his presentation. puzzlingly, he never did get around to picking up the sax which was in a stand nearby.
byt the time nate young finally played, i was definitely stressed over the wait between sets. i have enjoyed about the performances by wolf eyes, et al, that there seemed to be a minimum of this kind of stretching out of a show. i guess it has to be taken more as a social gathering than as a straight concert performance, complete with snack table, and seemingly responding to the need for long breaks to smoke outside of the venue. anyways, eventually young did begin his set, which was comprised of mostly vocal sounds processed thru yet another suitcase full of customized small-scale electronics and effects pedals. his set was very successful, as nate has built up quite a following and had the full attention fo his fellow performers. recitations were obscured (and impossible to understand anyhow- seems that nate sticks to a trademark cheapo microphone) and processed into beats and rising and falling tones. there was enuff change of the textures and levels of the sounds... plus a few stops and starts, perhaps, to get his bearings, which helped to break up the audio assault. made me wonder if this is what wolf eyes sounded like when it was a one man band.
young people/tamion 12"/crack w.a.r./sliki
19 june 2oo2
strange, strange lineup at a show that i attended by last-minute impulse... things started out promisingly enuff, as sliki was playing when i came in... duo electronix with some beats but more emphasizing very creative sonic applications. it was a bit of an ominous omen, tho, cuz there was a laptop on the table... plus actual keyboard stands in evidence. the plasticity of the sonic fx & the spareness of the duo lineup made this a standout for me, for the evening.
next up was crack w.a.r., who seemed to have the most merchandise (at verra, verra reasonable prices too) and i was able to find some info on them beforehand. i was a little edgy about the thing as i saw the looks of the ppl setting up... kinda... mature (i should talk, right?)... luckily, they donned masks (!) for the performance and it became appparent that the front-women were the focus of the thing. they looked very much like sisters, in size, hair, dress. as they drum machines kicked up, it actually sounded pretty good... for beats. the ladies dancced a little, talk-sang a lot... some of the songs were fairly clever. the vocals were kinda weak. i did not buy anything (despite the temptation of the split 12" with wolf eyes).
i was thinking the night was over, and then i find out 2 more bands were playing. hmm, late night on a skool (work) day for the kid... hope it is worth it. after a wait tending towards the long side, the male half of sliki fires up more straightforward beats while the woman who took my money at the door comes out and grabs a mic and... more inaudible vocals... but most of the crowd is dancing like this is making them hot. on the second number, another female vocalist comes out (in an unfortunately-fitting dress) and joins the dance-beats-rap-singsong party. lots of cavorting with the friends and acquaintances who are bunched around the group. it was somewhat entertaining... not really anything i would go out of my way to see, tho... the audience was pretty enthusiastic, so my anti-social attitudes seems to be an ill-fit as well.
an even longer wait while the young people get their instruments together. speaking of unfortunate fits... they didn't really seem to belong on the same bill... the female front-person vocalist-violinist was pretty good, what i could make out of her... but there was an all-too-precious art-guitar vibe being wrung by the primary guitarist, who played some, made noise some, and all in all seemed to be pretty full of himself. maybe i just don't know who he is. the sidekick 2nd guitarist-occasional percussionist sat behind a drum kit and played textured distorted guitar parts... sometimes playing simple beats on one drum or the cymbals. i kept thinking, it is as if these folks lost their drummer somewhere. the instrument changing (drums) made for awkward transitions between numbers... there was also some pretty sad strained tuning sessions going on that weren't too impressive. the singer was polite & thanked the other bands, saying they were all awesome, and the guitar-dude said that they were about to crank up the awesome quotient... i had to groan inwardly, knowing from experience that anyone who needs to say such a thing out loud would be very unlikely to live up to their self-billing. i do give respect for the interesting arrangements, but gtr-man could use a nice long drink o'humble. [i sentence this band to wear an electronic tuning tether]
~ r e b e l g r i s w o l d
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