Boredoms Present: 88 BoaDrum
Williamsburg Waterfront; Brooklyn, NY

I love the Boredoms; I love outdoor concerts; and I love weird, ambitious art projects. That's why I was so sad when I missed the Japanese noise legends' 77 BoaDrum performance last July. I had RSVP'ed (though, I later heard the RSVPs didn't count anyway, so people who had driven out from halfway across the country on the strength of online confirmations couldn't get in), but I woke up on the day of the show with a massive headache. At the time, I didn't think 77 minutes of drumming was such a great idea.

So this year, I was excited to hear that there would be an 88 BoaDrum, and I resolved to go, even if I was afflicted with tuberculosis or pneumonia. I knew that I wouldn't be seeing the Boredoms themselves (although they composed the piece, they were taking part in the Los Angeles performance), but Gang Gang Dance conducting the show seemed a fitting substitute. And thankfully, I felt A-OK at 8:08 PM on 8.8.08.

The Williamsburg waterfront was a perfect place to stage 88 BoaDrum — tranquil and expansive, with a gorgeous view of Manhattan. An audience of thousands clustered around the spiral of 88 drummers, with the members of Gang Gang Dance on a slightly elevated circular stage in the center. Among the assembled musicians were Animal Collective's Panda Bear and Geologist, TV On The Radio's Jaleel Bunton, Magik Markers' Pete Nolan, and a slew of other impressive folks. I was a bit disappointed that Andrew W.K. didn't reprise his 77 BoaDrum appearance, but hey, you can't have everything.

What happened once the performance began is difficult to explain. At 8:08 on the dot, everyone hushed up and listened as Gang Gang Dance and the drummers started to play. The band's guitars, electronics, and ghostly, wordless vocals guided the percussionists through 88 minutes of experimental composition. It was the kind of music you can lose yourself in — although I often chastise myself for not paying close enough attention to sprawling, instrumental music, I've come to the conclusion that the experience of losing my concentration and allowing my thoughts to wander is part of the pleasure. Like a more traditional, classical piece, 88 BoaDrum swelled and faded, moved gracefully (and sometimes purposefully abruptly) from loud and attention-grabbing to soft and pensive, as twilight yawned into starlight.

The final 10 minutes of the performance were a brain-boggling cacophony of multi-colored strobes, staccato drumming, and otherworldly wailing. It was legitimately disorienting, but it also put me into a trance-like state. I don't know how else such an intense, bizarre experience could have ended. When it was all over, I just sat on the grass for a few minutes, too knocked out to stumble to the exits.

It occurred to me later that a few thousand young people had just sat through 88 minutes of instrumental music and, judging from the silence and transfixed stares of everyone around me, loved every minute of it. Now, I'm as guilty as anyone of complaining about image-obsessed hipsters in Williamsburg and the shallowness of my generation as a whole. But 88 BoaDrum gave me a semblance of hope. If we can appreciate an hour and a half of noise and music together, we can't be all bad. Right?

[Photos: Sean Ruch]

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