s h o w
t r i a l s

melt-banana/the locust/converge/high on fire/lightning bolt/erase errata/mastadon/rah bras/the dishes/flying luttenbachers/guyana punch line/blow up/premenitions of war
5 july 2oo2
more than music festival (day 1), columbus, ohio

thanx to chris p. for driving to & from mid-ohio for this. the fest itself was pretty well-organized, the bands were kept to schedule, setups were expedited, and all this without any obvious security apparatus. i also really enjoyed the merchandise tables, so if a band did not engage my attention, i could flip thru a bunch of records. other than some indoor fireworks being thrown [luckily, no one seemed to have been hurt], it all went admirably smoothly. hats off to the organizers.

missed silencio, but hey, it was a long drive. premenitions of war was in progress as i arrived. overheard someone saying, "this band is going to suck." they did. pretty generic blur of hardcore odor.

blow up was next, with a drummer, 2 keyboardists, sometimes 3 as the guitar player switched off. sounded pretty garagey for using so many keyboards. not too bad, and since they were kept to only 4 brief songs, it was entirely digestible.

guyana punch line (advertised parenthetically as "x-in/humanity, which meaant zed to me, but mebbe it does to some of u?). another in what would prove to be a long procession of hardcore bands. a 4-piece doing the old slow/fast punker paradign with hard to hear guitar and a singer shrieking incessantly. no more for me, thanx.

frying luggenbatchers were next, minus one bass player, which left them as a bass/drum no vox duo (but for weasel walter's interjections of "is our other bass player in the audience?"). as a two piece, there was a distinct resemblance to the old yes rhythm section circa fragile... vigorous plus ambitious... and no jon anderson, to boot.

the dishes: 3 ladies + one boy drummer- it's a rock band, complete with cockrocker stances. the vocals reminded me of someone i couldn't exactly place... patti smith? gogos? i am not sure. pretty mediocre, at best.

rah bras: an unfortunate group, with resemblances to atomic rooster, even more the b52s, with an un-necessary hofner bass. the female singers voice crossed way, way over into annoyingly operatic. yuck.

mastodon: was looking forward to this one, being susceptible to spacey stoner guitar rock, and having enjoyed an mp3 via the worship guitars website (i think). heavy dual guitar throat scraping hairy stoner-rock from atlanta. it was good for awhile, until the sameness of tune after tune wore on too long. they can play, tho, and i was impressed by their attentiveness to other bands on the bill, which seemed to indicate an active sense of curiousity, so they will probably incorporate influences and grow. will keep watching.

i thought erase errata was an interestingly-personalitied group. saw them briefly at all tomorrows parties in la, wearing lots of flourescent tape over their garb. reminded me of something alexia would do. this time they came on in coordinated knit pantsuits & dresses. definite mutated 70s vibe there. these 4 women presented a contrast in stage demeanors, with the drummer & bass player intent on playing their parts in a self-absorbed way, the guitar player affecting a detached look while engaging in those killer parts that razor up your skull, and the singer hyper-engaged and put forth some incisive vocals. good reaction to this set. recommended.

my first encounter with lightning bolt was delayed due to equipment difficulties, but members of mastodon generously assisted in providing an amp. they set up off the stage, on the floor in their trademark style, and as the set finally got started, they demonstrated why there may be a ton of other bands mining similar territories (two piece, distorto vocals, furiously frenetic pace), they do it the best i have seen. the drummer is motherhuggingly on target, his kit sounds great, especially from 4 feet away with a crowd of sweating buoys & grills pressing and pushing like some compressed pit action all around. great drum sound, nails the vocals and kept prodding the bass player into "1 more" for about a good 15-20 minutes after they might have stopped. it was funny to hear the pa come on with music when they stopped, but since they weren't using the pa, only their own tower-stack o'amps, they just carried on and did their set until they were ready to be finished. bass player brian played a worn-looking bass with only 3 strings on it, but filled out the sound and caused much adulation all around him. hard to describe his parts, played with a split signal thru a distortion for hi-end, and thru the bass channel for low, and direct, hard-fingered riffs that made any thought of a two piece being a less than complete band sound fly away in the smoke bombs & fireworks that flew. ceiling tiles came down, much aggression was exhibited while these guys stood in the eye of this storm... obviously they are used to it. great stuff... more to come on these guys, as they visit detroit in a week or so.

high on fire: kinda mind-numbed hardcore-metal, inadequate and insufficient after l.b. sped-up black sabbath kinda rocksound, lotsa posturing, complete with punky meadows lips.

converge presented more anthemic modern-day could-be alternative-pop ('cepting the vox growls). hi-energy vocalist over a punk-metal rock hybrid that seemed all-too-common of a style over the day. much running around the stage, arm-pumping, hair-tossing. like hair on fire, the crowd seemed to eat it up, not impressing me with their taste. what hath the alternative radio format programming wrought?

the locust wore brown chador-style masks/headwear/costumes. a change from the run-of-the-mill hardcore lineup with the addition of afluently played set of analog synths. and again, the crowd dug it bigtime, but the harsh chanted/yelled vox and stacatto unison parts seemed overly familiar & one song was indistinguishable from the next.

billed as a "one-off appearance", 3/4 of melt-banana played, with a borrowed non-asian drummer. incredible guitar playing, showing how hardcore fast loud could be done with some freshness & vitality, due to his ability to do unexpected things with the 6-string. lots of slide, effects, but not milked, integrated finely with a set of merciless & relentlesssly great songs. the female vocalist also provided great relief to these ears after hearing one guy after another bellow all afternoon. the pick-up drummer held up well, too. made the whole trip worthwhile.

heathen shame/hall of fame
7 july 2oo2
cpop, detroit

i came to this show looking to see hall of fame, after having enjoyed the eponymous cd on siltbreeze [see review]. it was a good thing they played first, then, for me. samara lubelski carried much of the direction with her interestingly-structured guitar parts while dan brown provided more in the vein fo accompaniment with percussive guitar mixtures. they both sang, tho quietly, and it was hard to impossible to hear. while they played, i really listened to the interplay, which lay exposed without any chance to add to it via recording techniques, and i couldn't help but recall the guitar works of joe d'angelo, especially in samara's parts. i will look forward to another hall of fame release, hopefully.

kate village & wayne rogers played feedback guitar while greg kelley played heavily effected trumpet, resulting in a din which occupied a pretty narrow mid-range part of the sonic road. many ears were harmed in the making of this performance, and while it was enjoyable in a slight way to hear them having fun with their amps & pickups, it didn't really seem to make much of a statement on the techniques they were using. it was interesting to have just picked up the newly-released phill niblock cd [see review] which also incorporates layers of guitar-derived drones, and heathen shame are far more basic, betraying their garage/stoner band roots. my patience with this was not helped by the 45 minute interval between the end of the hall of fame set & the beginning of heathen shame, which seemed to me to be especially un-necessary on a working night.

missed double leopards, who played last, due to having to work in the morning... and some frustration with the long delays between sets.

neon hunk/hair police/nautical almanac/mammal/compomicro-dexall/son of earth-flesh on bone/death beam/sightings
8 july 2oo2
cpop, detroit

i didn't recognize this band (sightings) as one whose cd i had reviewed. live, they began playing pretty formless, wandering loud, "jams", which eventually coalesced into a pretty good p.i.l.-kinda remeniscent throb. they didn't sound anything like the cd, which is not a bad thing. they caught me by surprise, and looking back i like the whole idea better than if i had known who they were and what to expect in advance. i was impressed with how they pulled it together over the course of the set.

next: death beam, with ff's spencer yeh on guitar & screams. the drummer played a dual glass or plastic flute and there was a 3rd member on electronix. their sound moved into the audience well. very intense & hypnotic.

son of earth-flesh on bone stood out due to their quietly involved interplay & the film strip visuals. it is a generous thing to do for the audience to give them something to look at besides the knitted brows and clenched muscles of the improvising groups. subtle electronics, with acoustic instrumeents used very quietly, but with power, poise & grace. it truly sounded like they had played together enuff to mesh well.

san fancisco's compromicro-dexall followed with providence-style duo with one player starting on bass & vox, then moving on to guitar, and the other member playing an augmented drum set with keyboard effects. seemed to be largely a showcase for the drummer, who had a lot of cowbells and whistles. some day i will share my thoughts on keeping a drummer on a short leash as far as toys, but this is not the band to illustrate that with, as the set was well-done, and included a nice helping of humor, especially the "too many bunnies" cover.

this was my second time seeing the popular local artist known as mammal. this time he seemd to have better luck (or more experience with his equipment). a major crowd favorite, playing danceable, tho largely distorted beats with incomprehensible fx vox. seemed like many of the people in attendance were familiar with his many self-released tapes & stuff. still trying to figure out the whole, who is drunk, and who is taking the opportunity to get some licks in on the performer, as several blows were exchanged during the set between enthused audience members & mammal.

next came nautical almanac, who have captured my imagination with their loony art-terrorist customized electronics sets. there was a nice super 8 film by carly that was shown in miniature (for better resolution) and some frames were sacrificed on the floor that night. not only is the music ever-changing, and the performances unpredictable, but the variety in maskwear never fails to surprise me. imhofwiw: if you miss 'em, your loss. they played a short set (maybe 15 minutes?), and despite the calls for more, more... they graciously beckoned towards...

hair police... 4 piece, in peices by the end of the set, during, never relly had anything like a song in the mess... more like a local wrestling pier 6 brawl on the floor of cpop... might play better on an elevated stage. drums, bass, a tiny small guitar + vox & altered guitar-like stuff. 3 different members took turns on lead vocals (took me back to early 80s local hardcore in west mich.... but i digress). a lot of waving the instruments around, they are definitely not stressing their technical playing abilities... by the end of the show, the bass was unplugged, not that the guy playing it took any notice. a lot of rolling around on the floor. the drummer was the wildest, especially when he took his turn on the mic. another much-beloved band, but i was uninitiated, so i was just like... ohhhh kayyyy... i guess it was fitting for this happy assembly of like-minded touring parties.

neon hunk topped off the night with a set of densely constructed vintage synth & drum pieces, with mask mics squaealing away. i really enjoyed when jennifang's mic failed, and you could hear her naked, unamplified voice in the midst of the sound, as she groaned and screamed and tried to trigger the electrons to jump the short-circuit. they can play, and i appreciated their choice of instruments & costumes. good-natured, weird & home-made fun.

flying luttenbachers/wolf eyes/arab on radar/lightning bolt/the locust
14 july 2oo2
the oops tour, magic stick, detroit

flying luttenbachers were joined in progress, this time the 3 piece was intact (good to see that the missing bass player was ransomed alive), playing their by-now familiar (to me) set, except the electronic percussion seemed more noticeable. what can i say... oh yes, i made notes, what have we here? "king crimson-hard surfaces meet a decapitated yes." should i mention that bandleader weasel walter made the list of the top 50 assholes in music? for those who are about to bend over, we salute you.

wolf eyes played a discordant, noisier than usual set. as i keep trying to figure out what is going on each time i see them, this time i noticed aaron d. with a mic in his mouth, gnawing and murmering into it, looking like a chaw of tobacco. the set started slow with a lot of nigh pitched noise (an expression of discontent by the band?), nate's voice totally obscured and inaudible. then suddenly i see aaron peering under his hand out at the audience, eyeing his prey, then suddenly he breaks loose and runs across the stage w/ the yanked-out end of his mouth mic still hanging from his mouth & dives into the crowd, headfirst, closely followed by john olsen in a nice football-style x crossing pattern... coach would be proud, boys... leaving nate alone onstage... a few moents later they clamber back up to their respective places, and nate gives up and yanks the cord out & replugs it in minus about a boxfull of effects and the set gells into the thundering overwhelming raw wolf eyes beast. that we all know and love or hate.

the much-touted arab on radar was next. you know, i don't know, folks. the balck on black with mirror (or aluminum or metallic or duct tape in several places) motif did not impress me. nor did the guitar players stuff. and the singer reminded me of when a friend of mine was in denial about a case of crotch-crickets, cuz he just kept wanting to dig in and root around. they kinda looked like a chess club dressed up in their dads old motorcycle club gear. i guess mr. pottymouth is supposed to be some kind of wonderful leader of the no now brave noodle wave, but not this time folks. and i am still waiting for that guide for critics on how to make lester bangs proud.

having experienced lightning bolt a time or two before, i was prepared to seek out their setup out in the crowd well before the end of the aor set, so i could have a good place. these guys thrive on playing in the midst of the crowd, and they definitely caught quite a few people unawares by starting to play behind them before aor had even left the stage. very loud, a distilled sound utilizing the hell out of a well configured rig of bass/pa/ & drums & distorto-vox. have to thank brian & brian for being out on tour giving it up while their home base, fort thunder was being dismantled by the mall-loving powerz that be back in providence. one of the truly serious must-see live acts around. sez me & about a few 10,000 others.

since i really came for wolf eyes & lightning bolt, and having really seen & heard enuff to last me awhile of the locust in columbus (scroll up for review-look ma, no links), i was pleased to find a friend to talk to while i ignored the locust from the back of the magic stick. i couldnt truly ignore them, they were loud enuff that our conversation was parlayed mouth-to-ear style, but i didn't miss anything. for me, lightning bolt were the headliners.

no doctors/mechanik/mommy won't wake up/goat/malpa/black sand desert
12 august 2oo2
cpop, detroit

black desert sand was playing as i arrived. had time to walk up and listen for a moment, then walk around the room once & it was over. noisy electronix that seemed to flow, tho i am inclined to giem him a break since bds emanates from ferndale aka earpeace world hq. left me wondering if he quit out of frustration, but...

malpa also played a very brief set. took a quick look-see at his equipment, mainly gtr effects ("deathmetal") pedals and a very cool old mic. some distorto drum machine was applied. i doubt if it lasted 5 minutes. kinda reminded me of the strangulated beatoffs show i attended late last year, where the conclusion i reached was that they were trying to do the minimum possible to engage the crowd. but then sb were headliners and were playing for only the 4th or so time in a decade. this guy was an opener, and all 3 of the noise units here seemed to have this "leave 'em wanting"... well, not less, if not more? it was over so quick that there was not much to hear. again, i wondered if there were equipment issues being played out.

the goat guy was more intense. he had fewer pedals, which i took to be economy, but then i witnessed the single member tilting the table, pinball-style (ed- dated ref alert) pushing it until the cords were about to pull loose, when, again at about the 5 minute mark, after quickly sliding a more-valuable piece of equipment to a zone of safety behind him, he overturned the table. auto-destruction redux. the music/noise was unremarkable, but it did have a grinding momentum going well with the apparently desired aura of threat.

mommy won't wake up were the first "band" with more than one member to play. did someone say beefheart after (or during) a car wreck? they seemed to cultivate a kinda gonnie troutmask look, with the guitar/bass player playing in his underwear. sax constantly played free improv-sounding streams of tone before, during and after the songs. abused drumkit, vintage keyboards, and the skivvies guy on guitar then bass. sweaty, disjointed yet finding an off-kilter good-natured groob. raised the temperature a few notches. drummer was all over the place, pummeling his set, dropping cymbals on the floor, getting up and running circles. the whole approach was conspicuously weird yet somehow friendly. i felt right at home.

i managed to miss mechanik at the beginning of my trip thru kalamazoo in july, where he played club soda along with the monokulators & the impaler & hungry ghost (now you know why i missed him). the mechanik backstory: grand rapids' stranded space alien character who i have to believe has spent a lot of time in his room practicing these songs. they are kinda simple & lightweight, but he has a skill of extracting the most from his compact arsenal of keyboards, vocoder, rhythm machines, samplers, and he tops it off with a smooth choreographed set of simple dance moves & gestures which confirm his strong grasp of his material. final songs were duos with the sax player from mommy wont wake up, displaying the strongest musicianship of the night.

finally, last up was the thoroughly trashed/wasted no doctors... my fave part was the gtr players trying to play solos not even noticing that their guitar might be totally unplugged... didnt stop them from making the ol' punky meadows lips... started out like wannabee stones exile on main street going backwards in time to blue cheer (one song was a summertime blues rewrite) and finishing up with a yardbirds-style extended raveup in which it didn't matter that they never were in tune... the les paul sounded like a toy, when you could hear it... more than once i thought of spinal tap... lotsa posing and face gestures... and who the hell was the annoying road manager who wanted to be in the band and ended up at the bottom of the homo-erotik dogpile?

sudden infant/hearing trumpet/aaron dilloway
19 september 2oo2
cpop, detroit

i have seen aaron play quite a few times now over the last year, both solo & as part of wolf eyes & vioent ramp. i still am not too sure how he does what he does. there are mics which are inserted into his mouth, which he manipulates to get an over the top screaming texture, there are several tape machines, including 8-tracks, cassettes and an old reel-to-reel... and some sort of sonic destructing effects unit, all tied together thru simple mixers, radio-shack style. many people can put together a similar set up, but the way he layers and introduces the sounds, i think only kevin drumm has a like feel for bringing the sounds in, putting them over & then winding it down, before building back up to a racking, sweating, dangerous intensity. a promising opening to the night.

veteran of the detroit noise scene, presented here as a blindfolded duo grabbing stuff, tapes, cds, effects? from a confetti-filled wooden box. the building-up of the sounds from silence to a more cluttered confection of sounds was nice. after awhile it had gone on too long, without any perceptible change in direction to hold the attention. the best part was when sound man darin faded them out of the p.a. and unplugged them, while they continued, apparently completely oblivious due to being immersed in headphonic sounds. as darin held up their audio cables and gestured to the audience that this was their feed, there began to be a flow of laughter and appreciation of how funny it was that they didn't know they were done.

sudden infant is touring as a duo of joke lanz on electronics & turntables with nikola lutz on electronics & saxophones. lots of contact mics were in use, in the doll that joke played, in eggs and on the table worked by nikola. the doll was played in a veriety of ways, from manipulating what sounded like a finger piano inside to blowing on the mic and other scraping, pulling and pushing... the blowing into the doll-mic looked pretty strange, almost suggesting lifesaving or molestation. he also used mics, turntable & lotsa fx/sampler. nikola started out playing mucho processed saxes, varying that with scraping processed contact mic on table surface. good stuff, they made a lot happen with the emphasis being on their performance, not on the equipment.

subarachnoid space/paik/persona
5 october 2oo2
detroit art space, detroit

persona was playing as i arrived. i saw a lone guy dressed in black, an apple logo (powerbook>), a drum & other little boxes & wires on a table. at first i thought it was the pre-show dj set, but it was a full-fledged performance. lots of samples created, process, reprocessed, re-reprocessed, frozen, freeze-dried, deep-fried, served... very cold. funny bit afterwards where the sound guy admonished him to get a noise gate to keep the sudden level increases from blowing up his p.a. well, funny to me, it's not my p.a.

paik was a three piece, major space-rock instrumentals, sheets of heavily echoed guitar over minimal bass pulses, the drummer had a kettle drum plus one of the hugest bass drums i have ever seen on a kit, mostly played all the songs similarly, padded sticks, lots of cymbals, early seventies pink floyd spawn. after awhile, my mind wandered, and i found myselves carried along by the hypnotic song drones. i was impressed how they snuck up on me and took me with them.

i have a couple of subarachnoid space cds, plus quite a few mp3s on my (they like to put lots of live stuff up on their website). more space rock longform vocal-less instrumentals, by a 4 piece, 2 guitars (plus a bootfull of effects pedals-nothing played str8 thru the gtr), a very active bass player and a busy drummer. rather than seek to wend into the cranial passages with mesmerism, they overlay their sheets of guitar-derived sounds over a less laid-back rhythm section. subarachnoid space seem to have logged some major road miles, i figure they do a lot of taping and listening back to the tapes, so they have a more mixed bag of approaches to the basic space rock journey. which made me think: where are they going? this gig was clearly not the best they could hope for, the audience was rather sparse, and some didn't seem familiar with their music (i heard a couple people wondering out loud where the vocals were), so where does this long road lead? playing st. andrews? opening for phish at gte? in 20-30 years, having their own grateful dead-like arrested development obsessive fan base? stay tuned... speaking of video, both paik and sas used a video projection of various borrowed images, providing a psychedelic light show as a diversion. i think the band sometimes even looked to the video for cues, at times. made me wonder, if they ever did get some serious funding, who of their favorite looted video/film/animation artists would they pay to create something customized for them?

 ~ r e b e l   g r i s w o l d

d e s i d e r a t a number twelve front page | previous page | next page |