The Sasquatch Festival: Day One
The Gorge; George, WA


we were, roarin' down I-90 like a magnetic bowling ball catapulting toward
sheet-metal pins. Stoned. Ripped. Wasted. Er, St- ... St- .. on- ... erp,
[cough] ... -oned ... wasted.

Headin' to Sasquilla with our tires manically skirting the highway and our
heads in the drunk tank, it wasn't long before we found trouble burbling in
the underbelly of the small-town animal. Well, trouble is a relative word, but
at the very least the situation was uncomfortable. Specifically, the owner of
a small bodega [Beau - Day - Gah] wouldn't allow my colleague and I to use the
bathroom after a looooooong search turned up no gas stations. BALLS! We got
over that one quickly, as a Mexican restaurant manager nearby gladly

"SHOOOR, of COURSE you can use our bathroom! What do I look like, some sort of
heartless savage? Just purchase our most-expensive dish and you can use our
facilities all you want ... A-HA-HA-HA! I KID, I KID ... Do your worst, Alfred
R. Poodanger!" [quote edited for funniness]

We had more trouble checking in at our campsite. Approaching the Man in Charge
yielded an awkward conversation that would taint our enjoyment of the site's

Billy T. Burglebum, site manager: "HEY!!! YOU KIDS READY TO PARTY!!!"

Gumshoe: "YEAH!!!"

BTB: "WELLLL... not here. We pride ourselves on a clean, sanitary site with
little-to-no distractions, mmmk? Haha, didn't mean to get your hopes up! And
hey, you can holler all you want until 10 p.m., but then it's LIGHTS OUT,

He might as well have given us the ol' ‘We don't take kindly …' line. What did
we expect? My dingleberry for a companion reserved us a spot at Stars 'n'
Stripes RV Park, otherwise known as a small-town republican stronghold
disguised as a campsite. No shit. We might as well have painted "Liberal
Jagoff" on our chests and walked around handing out PETA pamphlets for all the
sympathy we were going to get. An explosion could have been triggered at any
second. Little did we know that magenta-necked camp counselors and stringent
site policies would be the least of our hassles.

During our three-day excursion to the 2006 Sasquatch Festival, aka South by
Southwest for Hick Dummies Stuck in Washington and/or Canada, we
performed/witnessed the following acts:

— saw 17 bands

— scissor-kicked two helpless sunbathers

— ate 3-and-a-half pounds of M&M/peanut/raisin trail mix

— shit eight-and-a-half staplers

— were told that "only 20 people are allowed to photograph Arctic Monkeys"

— became discouraged by how good Arctic Monkeys were in lieu of the photo ban

— used the word ‘Malkmus' out of context enough to Malkmus a friggin' Malkmus

— endured 67 pelts to the skull, care of bite-sized hail

— watched helpless and pantsless as a Canadian dude asked for a jumpstart
while we were taking off our rain/hail-soaked clothes once ... DAMN CANADIANS!

— waited in vain for "Bela Lugosi's Dead" to kick in 14 times

— made terrible "In da ‘Haus" jokes, complete with inappropriate German
accents, for four full hours after Bauhaus' set

— ate, between us, 17 granola bars from the press tent … in one afternoon

— missed Rogue Wave and nearly removed my own spleen with a pair of garden
sheers in a jolting fit of despair once

— commented on how Death Cab are "a cutesy band even manly men can get into"
seven times while trying to look manly

— threatened to murder our camping neighbors while they sat and listened
intently thrice

— took an ice-cold coin-op shower due to no change twice

— considered guiltily masturbating in one of the Gorge's outhouses five times

— took cover with hundreds of others under a tiny overhanging roof once

— saw several out-of-control Canadians chanting "Go Oilers" in unison nine

— listened to the new Tool in the parking lot once [with my metal Super

Needless to say, this wasn't your typical concert experience. This wasn't a
casual roll in the hay; this was a soggy, bloated, three-day poundfest. At
times our "vacation" resembled a struggle for survival, and at no time did we
ever smoosh our bums into the grass and relax. How could we? Too many bands,
too many stages, too many changes in weather; too-too much.

When we arrived in the parking lot it was tempting to turn back while we still
had our dignity. With TV on the Radio belting some awfully sour vocals clear
into the parking lot, one could only imagine how bad it would get once we
stood face to face with the beast. A few rad-ish drum jams aside, TV on the
Radio blew big-time ass, proving once again that indie hype means less than
the fuckwits that create it.

After our first monstrosity, we figured things could only improve. Oh, what a
smelly sack of shit assumptions can become! Thinking HIM were either a) a
Canadian post-rock superband or b) a teeth-gnashing grind-metal group, it was
tough not to be curious. When their Johnny Depp-in-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean
frontman finished applying his Hot Topic eyeliner and made the stage his
strudel, it was apparent HIM are actually THE SHITTIEST BAND ON THE PLANET.

Talk about pocket-rocket-rawk; this glorified hair band sounded so unoriginal,
so alarmingly bereft of an identity I don't even know whom to compare them to.
Andrew WK? Naw, not commercial enough. Early Poison? Naw, not gay or shiftless
or unoriginal enough. That terrible Creed-esque band I saw a few years ago
that featured former Nirvana drummer Chad Channing? Bingo!

Let me lay it out for you: Freewheelin' rock/metal with catchy synth parts and
anthemic choruses. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, it sure did to the kid
next to us. He was raising his goblet of rawk to the sky and heil-ing his
devil horns. It made me feel guilty for taking notes so deprecating you could
almost smell the lemon-acerbic "wit" wafting from the ink. I even pretended to
care so's not to put the poor dude out. But pretty soon I couldn't help
myself: I jumped up, grabbed my crotch and screamed out a classic Grim Reaper
soprano scrotum scruncher for no reason other than to imitate a band I respect
much, much more than HIM. Man, they were SO BAD. I really can't emphasize this
enough. Fuck, I wish you were THERE, dude, so you coulda seen it for yourself!

Despite the tragedy of the above-mentioned ballgaggers, the first day did more
to justify our attendance than any that followed for one reason, and one
reason alone: FUCKING BAUHAUS!

Sounding like a gloomier version of Echo And The Bunnymen's "Show of Strength"
with a gloomier version of Neil Diamond straddling a mic stand for
accompaniment, frontman Peter Murphy and Bauhaus parlayed their knack for
gloriously repetitive rock into a dynamic performance. They may have
"invented" goth after forming in 1978, but in a live setting their post-punk
side protrudes more than any other entity. Murphy's jockeying for stage
position was a pleasure to behold, all naive, childlike spin cycles (with arms
flailing) and gratuitous grandstanding that could only come from across the
pond. The bass and drums were stuffed so far in the pocket it's amazing you
could hear the blokes, and their songs used rather redundant rhythms and riffs
to lure all onlookers into a flame-ridden frenzy. A lot was expected of the
reunited quartet, and Bauhaus filled the crowd's early Eighties prescription
with purple pills to spare. Bonus: They didn't really have much new material,
so the set consisted mainly of older joints, keeping the ‘Rolling Stones after
Tattoo You came out' factor to a minimum.

Closing out Squatch's first night, Nine Inch Nails hauled a huge stage set-up
and did a workmanlike job of mauling the many plot points of their
ever-expanding cadre of electronic anthems. As desultory as much of their
material is, Trent Reznor and his hired goons — Twiggy Ramirez and drummer
Josh Freese among them — sacked the crowd repeatedly while occasionally
reverting to the elements we all wish Nine Inch Nails would trim. YOU know
what I'm talking about: Those in-between songs that sound like bad Ministry or
decent Killing Joke, with snappy choruses and digital gadgets the world caught
up with years ago.

However, with razor-edged tracks like "Burn" cutting through the clutter like
a hot knife through a cut of semi-nutty edam cheese, it was impossible to
remain embittered for very long. And the light show, my stars the light show!
Shifting from strawberry fields to leopard skin, the constantly fluctuating
patterns skittering around the stage were enough to grrrrant NIN the benefit
of the doubt. What's more, Reznor sounds exactly the same as he did
back in the day, his vehement vocals on "Closer" justifying the tired croaks
and gurgles of the backing tracks. Coming up short when weighed on the Bauhaus
barometer, Nine Inch Nails fared better than one would have guessed at a show
primarily focusing on indie-rock, though it was clear many attendees were
there largely to see Reznor do his thang and planned on packing it in after
one day.

And with that, the first painful entry in my Sasquatch Festival 2006 Diary
scrapes to a hault. Little did we know it would fast become the day we had it

(Day One)
(Day Two)
(Day Three)

Frog Eyes / Sunset Rubdown
Schubas; Chicago, IL


Wolf Parade's Apologies to the Queen Mary was my favorite album of last
year, a title that was cinched after seeing the band live at Chicago's best
small venue, Schubas. It was at this show that I realized who the heart of the
band was: Spencer Krug, the phenomenal voice of "I'll Believe in Anything,"
one of the best songs I've heard in a long time. For the entirety of that
show, I was unable to take my eyes off his passionate, intense singing and
keyboard playing. When I found out he had another project, Sunset Rubdown, I
couldn't wait to hear it, and the recently released Shut Up I Am Dreaming
has not disappointed in the least. I haven't been this excited about a
musician since I discovered the Dismemberment Plan in college. When I heard
Sunset Rubdown was touring with another band Spencer's been associated with,
the wonderfully bizarre Frog Eyes, I couldn't wait to see that intensity on
stage once again.

Even with those high expectations in tow, the show proved to be the best I've
seen all year. The venue was full, but surprisingly not sold out, for Sunset
Rubdown's set. After a prolonged sound check, the show kicked off when Spencer
got behind his keyboard and said, "This song is a Wolf Parade song, but before
that it was a Sunset Rubdown song" and proceeded to play a stripped-down
version of "I'll Believe in Anything," just him and the keyboards, while I
proceeded to drop my jaw in disbelief and amazement and possibly wet myself. I
still can't believe he started out the show with the original version of Wolf
Parade's best and biggest song, and I couldn't be happier that he did. The
song quickly bled into "Snakes Got a Leg" as the rest of the band joined in
(made up of Jordan Robson-Cramer and Michael Doerksen, who switched on and off
between guitar and drums, and Pony Up!'s Camilla Wynn Ingr, who added
additional sound effects, bells and backing vocals), and the next 45 minutes
of music were pretty unreal. Spencer put on much of the same humble,
passionate, super-intense performance behind his keyboards that I loved when I
saw Wolf Parade, eventually picking up this ratty looking mini-accordion held
together by duct tape for the stunning epic, "The Men Are Called Horsemen
There," which made for a great visual spectacle. They also played a brand new
song (something about "chaos") that was possibly, dare I say it, better
than anything I've heard of theirs yet. There's just something about Krug's
unique and powerful voice that makes it hard for me to concentrate on anything
else — it's like nothing I've ever heard before. He could put the phone book
to song and I'd pay to hear him sing it.

After Sunset Rubdown's set, the ongoing trend of recent buzz bands
overshadowing the headliners they tour with (see: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and
the National) continued as the crowd shrank substantially, which is really too
bad for those people who left, especially since the two bands' sounds
complement each other so well. With Spencer joining his former band on the
keyboards, Frog Eyes put on an at-times hilarious and equally intense
performance somewhat fueled by the self-deprecating angst that singer Casey
Mercer spilled forth between each song. The first thing you notice about
Mercer when he steps on stage is how little he looks like a frontman. He sort
of looks like Philip Seymour Hoffman — more specifically, the creepy, Lara
Flynn Boyle-stalking Hoffman of Todd Solondz's Happiness, because
Mercer is creepy, let me tell you. When he's yelping and howling during his
bizarre and exciting songs, his bright red face scrunches up and his whole
body seems to tremble and shudder as he's pounding away at his guitar and
waving his finger in the air like a madman. In between songs he'd either
regale us with some ridiculous tale that made no sense or endlessly mock
himself ("You're old and no one wants to see you play!"), Spencer ("Why don't
we do things like Wolf Parade!"), or an audience member ("I just drank tequila
for the first time!" after she yelled out "Wolf Parade!"), and he'd do it in
this really high-pitched, evil-sounding whisper. Meanwhile, his band seemed to
sort of look around nervously in the background as if they weren't used to
seeing this odd behavior on a daily basis. Beyond all the theatrics, however,
Frog Eyes sounded really great, and the lengthy, brand new song they ended
with was weird and ambitious and fantastic, giving me high expectations for
their next album. To my delight they eschewed the encore, instead opting to
join hands and take a dramatic bow before leaving the stage.

Sigur Rós / Amiina
The Lyric Opera House; Chicago, IL


After taking an elevator up to the
balcony accompanied by a tuxedoed usher while polite applause rippled across
the theater for openers Amiina, I knew this wouldn't be a typical rock show.
In a venue that regularly hosts performances of Die Fledermaus and Cosi fan
Tutte, Sigur Rós' epic compositions and enormous sound still seemed fit to
share the stage, even if the fans in attendance were not typical of the Lyric
Opera House's usual black tie audiences.

The four Icelandic women of Amiina wowed the crowd with their skills on the
strings, incorporating bells, electronics, and even the saw into their short
opening set. The strings were the focus of every song, with the quartet
sitting in a small square atop a tall platform, seemingly unaware an audience
existed. As each song progressed, various members left the platform to
smoothly wander the stage from instrument to instrument, building the sound
gradually in the typical post-rock style Sigur Rós made popular. Amiina's
sound was also very reminiscent of another Icelandic band, Múm, especially as
the precious tinkling of the bells were looped and layered through the Apple
computer that rested incongruously on stage. After thanking the audience with
some very adorable broken English, the band wrapped things up with an
uncharacteristically danceable song with a serious beat.

After taking in the beauty of the Lyric's interior and hitting up the nicest
bathroom I've ever used at a concert, the lights dimmed and the curtains drew
back to reveal Sigur Rós positioned behind a sheer white screen. Easing into "Glósóli"
from their latest album Takk..., the shadows of the band and their
instruments moved across the screen as they played from behind, while faint
gray video of leaves blowing and feet stomping projected onto the stage. The
sound grew gradually, eventually filling the entire room with the final
minute's heart-pounding drums and singer Jon Thor Birgisson's piercing voice,
every note of every instrument crystal clear. As the song finished and the
crowd cheered, the screen rose to reveal the band, the women of Amiina perched
on their platform in the familiar square position, Jon standing awkwardly in
front of the microphone at the center of the stage with his guitar and bow in

After that stellar beginning, the band's set focused primarily on songs from
their most recent albums, the rockin' Takk ("Hoppipola" and "Sæglópur"
were definite standouts) and the far more mellow and sedative () (Yu-si-yo!),
which often left me wanting to close my eyes and just take in the sounds in
peace. The lighting very much complemented the show as video continued to
stream on a screen behind the band; the greens, blues, and reds flashed across
the stage in perfect timing with the music, while the shadows of the various
band members could often be seen along the theater's side walls. Meanwhile,
the band stood rather rigidly on stage, with most of the movement coming from
the sways of the members of Amiina as their arms flowed with the bows of their
strings. Only once did Birgisson speak, and whether it was broken English or
unintelligible Icelandic (or maybe Hopelandish?), no one in the audience was
quite sure what he said.

After briefly leaving the stage to more of that polite applause, the screen
lowered in front of the band again as they returned to the stage to close out
the show with "Untitled #8" from (). Building their sound very
gradually while the lighting strategically revealed the silhouette of a
different band member each second, the band eventually made its way to a
booming ending as strobe lights flashed across the audience and forced me to
turn away my eyes and plug my ears while Birgisson's ear-splitting siren voice
soared above the massive wall of sound. Blind and deaf, but pleased, I watched
as Sigur Rós dropped their instruments and left abruptly, returning to the
stage seconds later for a final bow to their thrilled audience.

Rodrigo Sigal / Steve Yépez / Various Contemporary Composers
DePaul University; Chicago, IL


Encuentros, organized
by DePaul Music School professor Juan Campoverde, is now in its second year
and has expanded to two full nights featuring contemporary music by Latino
composers. The first night focused on multimedia works interspersed with
electro-acoustic pieces. Rodrigo Sigal was the only composer present at the
event and took on the responsibility of running the show, segueing between
pieces and controlling the levels of the eight speakers that surrounded the
audience. The live diffusion was not as impressive as it seemed at first,
though; there were only two channels of audio being output from the computer,
each going to four of the speakers, and Sigal could only control the
spatialization of those two channels, not introduce new sounds to the audience
live. The technological side of the evening felt further compromised by
Sigal's use of the free version of QuickTime. As the pieces were played off of
his computer, the top bar as well as the icon bar was visible.

The first piece of the night, which ran independently of the supplied program,
was "Snout" by Ricardo Giraldo. The multimedia piece used quick, almost
stop-motion edits of close-up shots of a dog as well as video of the ocean as
its primary visual sources while the primary sound source appeared to be
strictly canine. The fast edits of the video were matched by the audio
portion, which featured a pointillistic collage of dog growls, snuffs, and
other sounds. Of the two most traveled categories for this kind of work,
ominous and ambient, "Snout" fell into the more ominous camp, particularly in
the climatic portion of the piece, which was denoted by sharper sounds and
strobe-like images of the dog's teeth. The images were treated with a filter
that increased the contrast and made the white fangs stand out against the
darker background. The focus moved back to the treated shots of waves
crashing, and the piece ended.

At this point Sigal segued into a tape piece by Alejandro Viño called "The
World We Know." This piece seemed much more in the pop realm than most of the
audience seemed to expect. As I listened to the metallic clanks, drill sounds,
a baby crying, and, I am 90% certain of this, an "Unh!," I was reminded of the
cheesy, proto-techno type tracks a friend of mine used to do in high school.
Viño's work was decidedly more professional, but the feeling of dressed-up pop
music shone through the composer's stated purpose of exploring the clichés and
traditions associated with rap and hip hop. That's not to say it was not
enjoyable or lacking in complexity, either. The drum and bass breakbeats would
at times begin to play over each other, creating polyrhythms and the thought
in my head that this is what John Cage's aleatoric "Imaginary Landscape No. 4"
would sound like if it were performed in Chicago on a Saturday night. The
eight speakers worked quite well for this piece, though more for the depth and
life they added as their outputs phased and added a slight delay effect to the
listeners' ears, not for the diffusion. The piece ended as it had begun; the
layers began to fall away, and the steady, beating pulse that had sustained
throughout disappeared, leaving what once again sounded like a sparse
collection of unrelated clanks and bangs.

The second video piece of the night was Dennis Miller's "Vis a Vis." A change
from "Snout," "Vis a Vis" was ambient with its primary video source
unintelligible, though I'd venture to guess it may have been either video test
patterns of simply abstract images run through video filters. Similarly, the
audio portion of the piece seemed either electronically created through FM
synthesis or possibly a combination of that and some vocal sounds. Possibly
the result of antiquated equipment (the program notes mentioned that Latin
American countries rarely have up-to-date technology for this kind of work) or
a lack of creativity on the composer's part, the piece seemed little more than
a reworking of John Chowning's revolutionary "Stria" set to abstract video
that was obviously processed using recognizable video filters. Compared to
Giraldo's "Snout" and even Viño's pop-sounding tape piece, "Vis a Vis" came
across as amateur-ish. The only sense of form was given by the introduction of
a gray area to the sea of floating, spinning, undulating colors that sustained
through the piece.

The next piece that left a mark on me was one of Sigal's tape pieces, "Mambo a
la Braque." This piece was entirely based on samples of others, centered on a
mambo by Damaso Perez Prado. Every two bars the mambo would pause for a break
and a quick burst from a symphony, and then it would return to the mambo. The
samples built in layers with piano sounds, baritone saxophone, and percussion
all playing over, around, and in between each other, their layers
differentiated by their individual fidelities, ambience, and equalization. I
spoke to Sigal the next night about this piece to gain a greater understanding
of his intent. Taking the idea of quotation within a piece to an extreme,
Sigal wanted to use clips of different musical styles as a way to expand the
meaning of his work. Quoting, or in this case, using samples of different
styles, drew certain ideas from the audience about what they knew of that
style. By layering these samples/styles/ideas in a surrealist juxtaposition,
Sigal hopes to challenge their conceptions of what would be considered
well-understood forms in other circumstances.

After almost an hour of multimedia and tape pieces, the audience was ready for
a step in the live direction and was awarded with a piece for flute and tape
by Sigal called "Sonic Farfalla," performed by DePaul student Steve Yépez. The
piece made use of several extended techniques, most notably flutter tongue as
well as key clicks and whisper tones. The piece once again included a drum and
bass portions that faded in, unrelated to the flute part and layered over each
other, creating a three-part polyrhythm. The tape also had a very present
flute part on it. Some of the parts were reversed and used percussively, but
other parts were of an unprocessed flute, and toward the end the sound of a
muted trumpet could be heard coming out of the speakers. I generally have a
prejudice against pieces for mixed media since my feeling is that tape is
static and therefore can't truly interact with a performer, but I do
understand that certain sounds can only be achieved in a studio setting and
cannot be created live. Following that logic, unprocessed instruments have no
place on tape in a mixed media piece. Listening to the piece, I also began to
question the compositional process that Sigal had spoken of earlier, beginning
with the acoustic portion first and then writing the electro-acoustic part as
accompaniment, as this piece's tape part was far more interesting and Sigal
amplified it over the live flute.

The final piece of the night was "Blink," another multimedia piece with the
video done by Ricardo Giraldo and music done by Rodrigo Sigal. Once again
falling into the ominous realm of multimedia works, this piece began with
reversed sounds and FM synthesizer tones playing, accompanied by black and
white video of the inside of an abandoned building. The immediate feel was
that of a low budget horror film along the lines of The Blair Witch Project
or Saw. The piece developed into more than that, though, as the video
switched to color and the exterior of the building was shown followed by
several other buildings in similar disrepair. Samples of a classical aria and
trumpet piece drifted through like the memory of better times as the less
obviously assembled sounds continued. The video eventually went to black as
the trumpet piece came to the forefront and cadenced with ambient sounds
floating around and eventually fading away. I later found out that this piece
is somewhat political, reflecting Giraldo's disillusion with the civil
conflict in his native Columbia, focusing on the long-term destruction it has

Overall, the night was an interesting experience of work that far outshined
the student multimedia performance held at DePaul a few weeks earlier. Still,
an amateurish feel lingered through the performance, mainly due to the
conspicuous presence of the computer's tool bar and the overbearing hip hop
and drum and bass influences in several of the pieces. Multimedia works are in
the process of fighting an uphill battle to claim legitimacy in the many parts
of the classical music world, and when a performance put on at a
university-level music school that is run by composers with PhD's still comes
across like this, legitimacy is not gained. Performances, practices and other
precedents need to be established for the presentation of works like this, as
the works themselves are relatively free of classical structures. The first
night of Encuentros was presented in a way that felt like a slipshod
classical performance, and it did not work. People did not know whether or not
to applaud between works, especially in the sometimes long pauses. In most
cases there were not performers and the composers were not present, so who
would the applause be directed towards? If works are going to break with
classical styles as much as these video and tapes pieces did, then their
presentations need to break with classical practices as well. Otherwise, isn't
it only half new? Still, there was a second night to resolve these questions,
and I eagerly looked forward to it.

The Fall / The Talk
Stubb's Barbecue; Austin, TX


Fall have so much material that the small chunk I own seems to be strewn all
over my apartment. As a result, when I returned home from The Fall show, my
roomie was shocked that I hadn't been fanatically talking up the fact that I
was going to see this band whose merchandise he has been forced to look at all
year. My only explanation was that I didn't know what to expect. Although I'd
consider myself a pretty big fan and I'd heard that they could be brilliant,
it would be more likely that they would be in shambles. Nonetheless, I had
been nervously looking forward to my first experience with a band that I
consider no less than legendary.

The show was in downtown Austin near where I currently work, so I was able to
spend a leisurely evening out before heading over to the venue. I convinced a
friend whom I'd turned onto the band via the albums Hex Enduction Hour
and Levitate to join me but made it clear that I couldn't vouch for a
stellar performance. The band played at Stubb's, the venue that has recently
housed LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, and The Arcade Fire. The catch? The Fall
were playing the inside bar, which houses a fraction of the amount of people
the main stage does. That didn't deter The Fall, though; they still charged as
much or more than those bands.

Well, we missed the first band, The Talk, but arrived in time to see a
videographer "open." He was actually pretty great, manipulating images and
sound of Elvis, Freddie Mercury, Barbara Streisand, and Michael Jackson with
thoroughly hilarious results. Then, finally, the band took the stage and
ripped into "Hey! Fascist," an earlier tune recorded as "Hey! Student" but
revived in fascistic sheen this evening. Fittingly, some unknown guy sang the
first few lines, giving Mark E. Smith ample time to saunter out and mumble out
a few chants of "Hey Fascist-ah."

You may have noticed that The Fall's last few albums have featured a number of
raging rockers with huge riffs that sound like songs that a drunk could really
pound his fist to, namely "Theme From Sparta F.C.," "Pacifying Joint," "What
About Us?," and "Assume." Well, that drunk was pretty much Mark E. Smith, and
of course, he treated us to all four of these songs. In an album context, they
work pretty well, but when they comprise the bulk of a short set, it truly
sounds like a bloke just wantin' to shake his fist while he rocks out.

Onstage, Smith spent the whole time skulking around with his eyes
three-fourths of the way closed, grabbing other band members' microphones for
the sole purpose of singing into two microphones at the same time. When he
wasn't singing, he was looking at the gear and obnoxiously chewing gum that
wasn't there. After about 30 minutes, he left the stage to let the band finish
a song that was only half done. They came back for about three more songs,
though he didn't perform on the last one, which was obviously not an
instrumental. The band itself performed pretty energetically, especially on
the fantastic "Aspen," though they all looked like they really, really hated

While this may sound horribly dissatisfying, Mark E. Smith played the
character of Mark E. Smith to a tee, and I couldn't have been more delighted.
When audience members started angrily yelling at him to play more songs, I
couldn't help but feel like they were naïve newbies who had bought 50,000
Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong
and thought there was really a chance they were
going to hear "New Face in Hell." However, I reconsidered my glee when talking
to a guy from Melbourne who had seen the Fall many-a-times in the '80s and
ribbed my friend about being too easy to please and placing Smith on an
undeserved pedestal.

In the end, I would have to say I enjoyed the set, but not on the one-to-one
level of "this was a good performance, therefore I liked it." Rather, it
provided another enjoyable piece to the immense and baffling puzzle that is
The Fall. In fact, it got me excited enough that I put on the Peel Sessions
Box Set
first thing when I got home.

Bell Orchestre / Snailhouse
Wexner Center for the Arts; Columbus, OH


Orchestre was pre-empted by singer/songwriter Mike Feurstack, who can
regularly be seen as guitarist/vocalist for Wooden Stars but who, on this
night, played a handful of songs under the guise of Snailhouse. The music
wasn’t groundbreaking or revolutionary but was still pretty and distinguished:
all members of Bell Orchestre also joined Feurstack for several songs prior to
their set, and then Feurstack returned the favor by diddling with electronics
during the Bell Orchestre set. Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed
Parry, upon leaving the stage after the group had finished backing Feurstack,
stood about 5 feet to the right of where my girlfriend and I were sitting. He
really doesn’t look a whole lot like Napoleon Dynamite when you’re that close
to him; he also lacked his trademark black glasses, an absence that prevented
anyone from mistaking him for the lanky Mormon. Yet another few feet away,
some guy was wearing the ever-present Vote for Pedro t-shirt, as if to rub
salt in the deepest of wounds. Parry briefly chatted up a friend who had
arrived, and after meeting his sister (and bowing politely), he took his leave
and headed to a quasi-backstage area.

Those mistaking Parry for the heart and soul of Bell Orchestre are sorely
mistaken. He’s obviously an integral part of the greater whole, but this
evening the subtle spotlight shined a little brighter on violinist Sarah
Neufeld, who also plays a big part in making The Arcade Fire so impressive

Pre-recorded oceanic sounds preceded the quintet as they carefully made their
way through the darkened performance space; small lights at each group
member’s wrists led the way. Neufeld was placed firmly in the center of the
stage with Parry to her right and a French horn and a trumpet player to her
left, the drummer behind her, and Feurstack to the drummer’s right, almost
hiding behind Parry. Parry played upright bass for a majority of the
performance, an instrument he not only played to perfection but also slapped
and pummeled during the “rock songs.” A majority of the songs were from the
band’s debut LP, Recording A Tape The Colour Of Light (Rough Trade),
and there were little surprises and variations in the performance of each
song. Neufeld is easily the center of attention for each song, as she plays
beautifully and thrusts her squat, sturdy arms into the air and saws at her
instrument as if she’s been tied to train tracks, a ferocious locomotive
barreling down upon her. The group played cohesively together, and each song
sounded as fresh as its counterpart on the LP. The only newish song played was
one Parry had recently commented on in interviews; during this song, the group
gathered together in the middle of the stage. The song was played without mics,
with Neufeld and the two brass players to Parry’s left. Parry played his
massive bass with the thin bow while the rest of the group kneeled on the
floor, clapping the floor once Parry had finished. Parry explained that the
song had been created at a “great old theater in Sweden when we were in
Europe.” And it did have a slight European vibe that well matched the other
songs performed. At one point, the group spoke at length about their newfound
hatred of all things Cleveland, a hatred discovered at a show a couple of
nights earlier at nearby Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom. They claimed that the
audience “hated them first” and that it was much nicer playing to a “quiet,
attentive crowd” rather than in a smoky dungeon where half the people weren’t
even paying attention.

A highlight of the show came near the end of the performance when the band
played what was announced as an Aphex Twin cover, a song that sounded
incredibly familiar and was played incredibly well. They ended the song with
what sounded like an electronic rubber band — stretched across the entire
stage — that snapped back and forth and continued to snap as the group members
quietly left the stage.

Ladytron / The Presets
The Metro; Chicago, IL


walked into the sold-out Metro just as the opening band was beginning their
set. I wasn’t expecting much from a band I knew absolutely nothing about, but
I was pleasantly surprised by the Presets, an Australian, electro-goth duo
clearly influenced by Joy Division/New Order; it’s the type of stuff the Faint
has been trying to do but has succeeded at only on occasion. The singer’s
Flock of Seagulls haircut, excessively tight jeans and ill-fitted t-shirt made
for quite the spectacle as he thrived around the stage, occasionally pushing
buttons on the electronic equipment that littered the floor. Meanwhile, the
drummer kept the pace alongside a booming bass that ripped through my insides
for 45 minutes straight. Further research revealed that this band has a debut
album coming out this month, which would definitely be worth looking into.

After a short break, Ladytron's four, disgustingly beautiful band members came
on stage joined by an additional drummer and bassist and proceeded to play
almost robotically. This fit their robo-sound very well and was pretty much
exactly how I would have expected them to play, though it did get boring at
times. I wouldn’t be surprised if frontwomen Mira and Helena were actually
fembots (fembots sporting very weird priest/nun-like clothing that only people
in bands can pull off), and watching them perform made me wonder if their home
country of Bulgaria is actually a land of gorgeous, fair-skinned, dark-haired
androids. Thankfully, the band broke the image in time for the encore, when
they began to show a bit of emotion and get the audience involved with some
dancing, handclapping, and an extended electronic jam of "Seventeen," by far
the most exciting moment of the night.

Ladytron's set leaned heavily on songs from their latest album, The
Witching Hour
, including highlights "Destroy Everything You Touch,"
"Sugar" and "The International Dateline," while still managing to please the
crowd with older hits like "He Took Her to a Movie," "Playgirl" and the
aforementioned "Seventeen." For the first half of the show, it seemed the
audience wasn’t sure whether or not it was possible to dance to Ladytron’s
methodical electronica, as heads bobbed and feet shuffled nervously.
Eventually, as the beer flowed and the end of the set approached, all
pretenses fell to the wayside as people began pushing up to the front of the
stage to flail wildly in my personal space, completely out of sync with the
music. The Metro’s recent (and otherwise welcome) switch to a smoke-free
environment revealed its sole flaw: no cigarette smell to cover up the sweaty
BO scent. Blech.

This is Your Captain Speaking / This Melodramatic Sauna
Pannonica; Nantes, France


This Melodramatic Sauna is a group
from Nantes fronted by 23-year-old Jonathan Seilman. They released their first
full record, et les fleurs eclosent à l'ombre, on Effervescence at the
beginning of February, and the few tracks I had heard prepared me for some
pleasant indie folk, and not much more. In fact, the performance blossomed
from its delicate folk roots into colorful bursts of polyglot pop – whenever a
song was in danger of becoming too pretty for its own good, the dainty
fingerpicking and plucked strings were inundated with strident keyboards and
eccentric percussion. Theremin, the rims of half-filled brandy snifters, and
even a length of twirling plastic pipe complemented the drums and packed the
songs' conventional folk structures with savvy appropriations of pop, funk,
and jazz. Seilman blew injured saxophone melodies that were looped into the
rising cacophony along with his guitar. His voice was breathy and fragile,
bordering on cloying at times, but otherwise serving as a cool balm that kept
the songs from overheating. After playing through most of the cuts from the
new album, Seilman and the string quartet returned for a bashful encore,
offering a reprise of "Stronger Strongest" before breaking down their
equipment and coming into the crowd to talk and have a few drinks.

This Melodramatic Sauna's genial folk calamities segued nicely into the
polished post rock of This is Your Captain Speaking. The Australian trio - a
drummer (David Evans) and two guitarists (Nick Lane, Steve Ward) - relied on
lanky riffs and loads of tidal delay to create thickly layered songs that
surged and spent themselves in 7-minute stretches. Evans pounded his kit with
energy and poise and frequently abandoned the skins to tap out melodies on the
xylophone to his right. "6 PM" started with the friendly mechanical ratchet
and ping of a typewriter before the guitars overlapped, crested, and slid back
toward silence. "Henry and Maximus" was my favorite number: a playful melody
and jazzy cymbals gave way to contrapuntal riffage and a series of hungry
crescendoes. One of the guitarists had an effect on his guitar that made it
sound like a cello, and with all the delay, the tinny clatter of his pick
against the strings anticipated each wash of vibrating bass by several
seconds. The Aussies also gave a brief but lovely encore.

After a long weekend at a festival dedicated to the obscene, provocative,
noisy, and just plain weird, an evening spent with artists focused on
songcraft and musicianship was a soothing pleasure. The lively, if somewhat
tight, performance confirmed my hunch: I'm going to be sure to look for more
from This Melodramatic Sauna and any other Seilman releases. Any fans of
Sufjan / Andrew Bird / Akron/Family should do the same.


This Melodramatic Sauna

Stronger Strongest

For Respect


Home and Away


Ô my sun



La Triste Comptine

Au Café

Fin de Partie

Encore : Stronger Strongest

This Is Your Captain Speaking

A Wave to Bridget Fondly


Henry and Maximus

Gathering Places
6 PM


Encore : [unfinished new song]

The Rolling Stones
Grand Stage Theater; Shanghai, China


Sometimes, they walk backward in
China. They swing their arms the same way as everyone else, and they look
around at the scenery just the same, and they have conversations about
pigeons, and they have conversations about metaphysics, and they put stupid
shirts on their dogs and walk their dogs in those stupid shirts. They do
everything everyone else in the world does; they just do it a little
differently. They have humongous shopping malls, and they have pop music ear-fucking you, and they have food courts and places where you can buy music and
movies; but the shirts there are kinda funny, and there's a vegetarian
restaurant called Happiness Comes From Vegetable Dish, and the DVD shop
already has Season Third [sic] of Arrested Development. Everything we have and
do, just a little different. In the country whose population would go on
exponentially if you counted all the Chinese in a line (babies, stupid), one-by-one, what do they give the world's largest money-making tour? An 8,000-seat
venue. China doesn't give a shit about The Rolling Stones.

The crowd was largely expatriates, with about 90% being white. The
Stones show was apparently a "be there or be rectangular" kind of event for
whitey, as many of the only Chinese present were either the new, upper-class
elite or on the arm of their vis-à-vis boyfriend. And I guess I really
shouldn't say "whitey," as there was an international zest to the attendees'
whiteness. Upon first arriving at the stadium, after having spent the day in a
city of over 19 million Chinese; packed subways, difficult-to-maneuver
sidewalks, taxis, bikes, mopeds, countless honked horns, pedestrian,
pedestrian, pedestrian, one starts to think a little bit more about this
anomalous event.

The concert itself was rather conflicting. Here are four of the men who have
made some of the greatest rock music in history — "Brown Sugar," "Get Off of My
Cloud," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," Exile on Main Street

men who typified
good pop music, and now we see their picture and we cringe at their wrinkles,
and we talk about how much fucking money they're making on this tour and
whether one of them will die at this show, and how The Rolling Stones are
exactly what many of us have come to hate about music. Big money, moribund
creativity, mass marketing, and corporate tie-ins. Everything that's wrong
with pop music today just walked onto that stage and is going to play a show
for people who have touted their music like an anthem since the '60s, and to
them it's just another show. The news has made a seemingly big deal about this
being their first performance in China, but it's not important. It's not
historic, and it's not monumental. The government wants the good press just
like the Stones want the good press, and what's good for the goose is good for
the geezer. We've all been duped into a massive, two-hour-long PR session that
has been orchestrated by governments, corporations, and men with secretaries.
Everything I have ever believed music was about is, to its bone, at its core,
opposed to these things. Yet here I am, and there they are, and really, all I
want to do is listen to the Stones. I want to close my eyes and be able to
imagine myself in the '60s with my eyes closed, standing at the back of some
hole in the wall listening to The Rolling Stones, but I am in a seat, and the
music doesn't sound live enough, and a big screen behind the band is always an
undeniable temptress. Don't think, just listen. Walk backward.

Mick was surprisingly nimble. He still managed some of his swagger and
presence from "Gimme Shelter," and he even made it come off as more "classy"
sexy than "creepy-dad-singing-to-his-daughter's-friends-at-the-pool-party"
sexy. What can I say? The man is a professional. When singing "Wild Horses"
with Cui Jian, China's resident rock icon, things were sappy, wind blown
(literally), and just what you'd expect.

Along with Jagger, much of the energy for the show came from that
aforementioned bitch of a big screen and her use of cameras and video. Fades
on the slow parts, cuts on the fast, zoom in, zoom out

the swoop, can't
forget the swoop

the staged moves, and, of course, audience shots. If you were
ever tired of the show, you could simply look up and see an amped-up, MTV
version of the performance. The sound was nice and clean; there were two or
three wardrobe changes, and the lighting was excellent. Everything you'd
expect from one of the biggest bands in the world.

They played mostly classics (duh) and were met with mild, grumbling discontent
when announcing they would be playing a new song. The supporting musicians and
vocalists did an excellent job of maintaining the sound of the Stones, even
though they received little regard. Keith played a couple of songs and managed
an audible "It's good to be's good to be anywhere," from that
somnolent voice of his.

I can't say that I wasn't impressed with the show. It was the Stones, for
Jeebus's sake. The music sounded just as good as it does on the albums, Mick
thoroughly awed, and fans could take pictures with their friends in front of a
Rolling Stones tongue-covered wall. Big, bright, loud

the show was everything
I've ever imagined a Rolling Stones concert could be. But the Stones have
turned into more of an event than a band, and everyone should really just save
their money. Wait until winter, light a heap of leaves on fire, and listen to
"Satisfaction" while smoke coddles your blushing cheeks.


1. Start Me Up
2. ---
3. Oh No, Not You Again
4. Bitch
5. Wild Horses (feat. Cui Jian)
6. Rain Fall Down
7. ---
8. Gimme Shelter
9. Tumbling Dice
10. Empty Without You
11. Happy
12. Sympathy for the Devil
13. Miss You
14. It's Only Rock ‘n' Roll
15. Paint it Black
16. Jumpin' Jack Flash

17. You Can't Always Get What You Want
18. Satisfaction

I.D.E.A.L. Fest
Lieu Unique; Nantes, France

[04-07-06 ; 04-09-06]

A weekend of the bizarre and the brutal. In France!

Whoa. What a crazy weekend. I danced, I grimaced, I laughed, I gaped. I
really, really should have had earplugs. Lieu Unique was one of my favorite
concert venues before, but after the weekend of bizarreness and brutality that
was I.D.E.A.L. Fest, it has entered my Pantheon of the Cool and now rubs
shoulders with breakdancing, suspenders, Louis Armstrong, Bjorn Borg, and my
high school English teacher with the awesome face whiskers. I'll try to
summarize the madness.

Friday, April 7

Pan Sonic + Hildoz Gundnadottir, Harry Merry, Jack the Rapper, Boy from
Brazil, Afrirampo

It all started on Friday night at about 9:15. Two serious-looking dudes with a
table of electronics equipment were stationed at the center of the huge, main
stage. An empty, wooden chair was at their right. Pan Sonic kicked things off
with a rumbling bombardment of drone and industrial beats. An AV display on a
screen behind them rested still and symmetrical as a black and white Barnett
Newman painting--until they started playing. Then the white zip down the
middle writhed and splintered, looking like a model of a tornado, or a
wobbling spinal column, or an epileptic python. Or something. It was hard to
focus on the spasmodic minimalism on the screen when Gudnadottir made her
appearance. The cellist occupied that empty chair in her stocking feet and
added an aspect to the performance that was at once malevolent and maternal.
She swayed and caressed her instrument, but the music coming from it
alternated from artful groaning to violent tablesaw screeches. Their songs
were smothered cataclysms that dwarfed the capacious stage. At times I felt
inclined to dance, but I was afraid of being crushed by the sounds if I made a
move. I tottered out of the room afterward, feeling like I had seen something
mythic and terrible and wondering how I could possibly make it through five
more hours of music.

Harry Merry quickly gave me the answer. This was my second Harry Merry
experience. The first came at Spellcaster's Lodge (aka Quintron's basement) in
New Orleans, and I am happy to report that almost nothing has changed in the
year between those two shows. Harry is still a very tall Dutch man in a sailor
suit who gives the strong impression that he is retarded or insane or both. He
plays impossibly sloppy keyboard and sings karaoke songs about postmen, bus
drivers, the daily paper, and unrequited love. Harry is one of those
performers who gets me all hyperanalytical and dumbfounded at the same time. I
could believe anything about him. Harry Merry has a Ph D in astrophysics? Of
course he does! Harry Merry is a naked roller derby star? Sure. Harry Merry is
just a Dutchman who likes making music and being silly? So hard to believe. He
bawks like a chicken, and he speaks like a six year old with Down syndrome. He
wears a sailor suit with a giant square collar! Who is this man! I don't know,
but somehow his awful, talentless music just makes people happy and becomes
catchy in spite of its clumsiness.

Harry was followed by a petite, Belgian man who goes by the name of Jack the
Rapper. Jack the Rapper likes costumes. He doesn't rap much. He just kind of
wiggles his hips and puts on funny hats. His lyrics include "Are you gay?," "I
like the pope, the pope smokes dope," and "Fuck the system." Sometimes he sits
on the ground and feels up a plastic Kawasaki saxophone made for children.
Sometimes I don't know what to think. He had on a homemade dress with giant
sewn-on lips and eyes. The lips looked kind of pouty because they were on his
little Belgian paunch.

After going from the sublime attack of Pan Sonic to the pathetically earnest
kitsch of Harry and Jack, Boy from Brazil got all nasty and over-the-top
erotic. He strutted on stage in platform shoes, skull and crossbone tights,
teeny tiny bike shorts, a leather jacket, and yes, an eyepatch. Those bike
shorts were stuffed with a banana, which he later threw into the audience.
Songs included "Pocket Rocket," "Rubber and Fur" and the mesmerizing
"America," in which his characteristically trashy lyrics and nasty gymnastics
accompanied projected photographs of handmade American flag crafts and women
in stars-and-stripes swimwear. Boy from Brazil stripped as the show
progressed, eventually wearing pretty much nothing more than leopard-print
bikini briefs and a gorilla mask. When the audience threw cups at him he
urged, "Not cups, bottles." He finished his set by looping the
microphone cord over a pipe and going about a quarter of the way toward
hanging himself.

I finished the night by heading back downstairs to the big stage. Afrirampo.
At the scheduled show time, I saw a drum kit and a guitar on stage and nothing
else. A woman in a purple kimono emerged from backstage and proceeded to make
tea. She sat quietly and invited people from the audience to come up and drink
tea with her. They did. This little ceremony lasted for about 15 minutes
before Afrirampo came on. Their outfits: shredded, scarlet robes that looked
like kimonos, but a lot sexier. They shredded. They shrieked. They fell over.
And they did it all again. I thought I had seen a guitar solo before. I
thought wrong. Sentences seem overdone when talking about these two. Words! -
fury; scream; apocalypse; glee; legs! poetry; righteous; bounce; karate;
distortariffalickticalamitonipponastery! Girls got muscles, girls got chops!
Go see Afrirampo.

Saturday, April 8

Chaddom Blechborn Experience, King Prestige, Gonzales, Dick El Demasiado,
Alexander Hacke, zZz, Kunt

Saturday night also began at the big stage, this time with Chaddom Blechborn
Experience, a duo of banjo players who like to ham it up. Their show included
some virtuoso bluegrass fingerpicking, a cardboard boat they rowed across the
stage using a banjo as an oar, and a medley that included "It's a Hard Knock
Life" and that Kermit the Frog song, which they introduced by rolling up the
bottoms of their overalls and saying it was a song about pretty legs. Clever:
Frog song; legs; France. French eat frog legs – I get it! Although the jokes
were a little lame, their fleet fingers were impressive. Imagine Benjamin
Franklin in hexagonal hipster shades furiously wiggling his fingers across a
homemade banjo next to a woman in coveralls with a tomboy haircut and a tooth
blacked out, and you have gone a good way towards having the Chaddom Blechborn

It appeared that Saturday was the night for the kooky to be downstairs and the
serious to be upstairs as I headed back into the small second floor room to
see King Prestige, which is more or less the house band at Lieu Unique. It's a
five member techno group with an equine fixation and a black on black on black
aesthetic. They had a long table set up with five lap tops and a mic. Each of
the computers had a chess piece decal pasted on the back. Of course, plenty of
knights. Their proficient electronica ranged from assiduous minimal stuff to
spacey horse disco including samples of neighing and galloping.

After King Prestige finished up I went back downstairs to see Gonzales, a
former DJ turned pianist. He had the most friendly and well-received stage
banter of the weekend, thanks to the fact that he was one of the few musicians
who could speak both English and French. He played a variety of jazz standards
and original compositions, with a lot of winks and nods and congenial
showmanship. While he slapped at the keys his face looked like he just smelled
rancid cheese, and his sweaty forelock swung around, creating this kind of
tortured artist / cabaret vibe that offset his amiable chatter between songs.
He made jokes about the slippers he was wearing and even got the audience to
hold up an ostinato chant while he and drummer Mocky grooved on top of it. It
was a charming performance and a good chance to take a breath before diving
back into the bizarre and brutal.

Next up was Dick El Demasiado, who played a strange mix of reggaefied, Spanish
hip hop that included a whole lot of theremin and got the little room dancing
and sweaty. Clearly two of the most committed performers of the weekend.
Though I was running out of gas, I appreciated the tightness of their set. And
the stocky middle-aged guy in the skeleton costume had pretty good flow.

At about this point, I was worried I would have to make some snarky comment
about I.D.E.A.L. Fest really being more like P.R.E.T.T.Y. G.O.O.D. Fest
because Alexander Hacke's metal dirges left me feeling a little cold and
tuckered out. zZz saved the day. A drummer and organ / synth player from
Germany, these guys go at their set with everything they've got, barely
pausing between songs. Their stuff is dancy, noisy, and sweaty. The drummer
had my attention most of the show (when my head wasn't banging). His hair was
a curtain of wet strings hanging over his face by about the third song, and he
seemed ready for a breather after he and his partner had capped off each
corrosive blast of dancepunk, but the organ player would have none of it. He
ripped right into the next song after about a three second pause and only left
his table to pick up the monitors and swing them at the audience as if he were
pouring the scratchy distortion from a big bucket. They ended abruptly, the
drummer threw his sticks at the wall, and that was that. An awesome pickmeup.

Saturday night ended with Kunt, two Australian ladies who apparently got high
marks at the Peaches School of Etiquette for Aspiring Provocateurs. Fishnets,
halter tops, armpit hair, and a drum machine are about all they bring on
stage. They set scratchy dance music to playing and wrestle each other, bump
and grind the monitors and generally gross out / seduce the audience. Someone
threw a yogurt on the stage, and one of the girls opened it, took a mouthful
and spat it on the people in the front rows. The concert program had promised
a grand finale to their act. The backing music for the last dance routine was
about the same as all the others – nondescript bootynoise – but the props beat
all. The yogurt-spitting one strapped on an awful, mangled, homemade, metal
dildo and then took a handheld belt sander and started grinding into the spike
protruding from her pelvis, sending sparks flying into the audience. She did
this a lot with a look of sheer masochistic glee contorting her lipsticked
face. Again: hyperanalytical or simply dumbfounded? Reclaiming female agency
through the dislocation of gender roles and an autonomous expression of
aggressive femininity or, "Holy shit!" Somewhere, Carolee Schnemann cheers. "Kunt"
is pronounced exactly the way you would think.

Sunday, April 9

OM, Six Organs of Admittance, Current 93

Sunday night started and ended earlier than the first two but still packed an
impressive amount of the bizarre and brutal into three hours. OM opened with a
handful of slowcore drones that had me questioning if I was listening to the
music they were playing, the left over distortion from five minutes before, or
the ringing in my own ears. I think they swallowed up their forty five minutes
of stage time with only three songs.

After yet another performance that carved out my insides and left me wobbling,
I was looking forward to Ben Chasny's set as a chance enjoy some creative
melody and good guitar playing. I expected to be comforted. Wrong. His first
piece was the most painful, evil thing I had heard all weekend. Don't let the
cute moonface fool you – he has a nasty side, and it hurts. He swung his
electric guitar around as if he were grappling with an evil android and
losing. Piercing feedback, distortion like gravel in a blender, pained
crouching on the ground. Yikes. Later, fingerpicking. The melodies and
viruosity I had been hoping for. But all with the knowledge that he was
capable of doing us significant sonic harm if he so chose. The set lasted a
short 30 minutes.

I knew Chasny was a frequent collaborator and an avid proponent of other
people's stuff, but I was truly surprised when I saw him join Current 93. This
incarnation (and I use the word on purpose) of the band included Chasny on
electric guitar alongside an acoustic guitarist, a cellist, a violinist, and
accordion and piano players. And then, David Tibet, the singer. His heartfelt
delivery of songs like "Whilst the Night," "Judas as Black Moth" and
"Tortoise" compensated for music that seemed alternately out of touch, over
the top, or maybe just right. Tibet's songs have lots of animals in them
(seahorse, raven, tortoise, butterfly, etc), and he likes to prance around and
imitate the movements of his creatures as he unveils their apocalyptic
significance in trippy, spoken word sermons. I could easily see this guy on a
corner in New Orleans handing out pamphlets next to sandwich boards with
misspelled Psalms taped to them. Apparently, we are all headed to a bad place,
and the flowers know about it, and Jesus does too, and so does David Tibet.
Here's to Christian music that ditches three chord Jesus-treacle and
underscores the weirdness and danger of it all.


A month later, my ears continue to ring, I'm dealing with a lot of castration
anxiety, and I can say that I have seen Afrirampo. Thank you, I.D.E.A.L. Fest.