The Drones
Pianos; New York, NY

Even if you write off their more somber numbers as too subtle, The Drones have great songs to draw on when planning a set. The high point of this evening, though, is not a spirited rendition of "The Minotaur" or a crowd-pleasing trip through "Shark Fin Blues"; it's "Six Ways To Sunday," a mainstay of The Drones' live oeuvre that dates back to their first independent release in 2001. It's a little more rough around the edges than the stuff they're releasing in 2009, but that's all the better in a live setting. The backbone of the song is guitar noise over a simple bass groove, which the band periodically cuts out, leaving two beats of plain old silent space that will actually make you stop breathing for a second if you're not expecting it.

The silence is so stunning primarily because, by this point in the set, you're so used to the roar of The Drones' guitars. Gareth Liddiard and Dan Luscomb have brought noise guitar to a certain level of perfection. Liddiard, in particular, employs both skilled fingerpicking and skilled footwork -- this is the first time I've ever seen someone successfully manipulate the tiny knobs on their footpedals with their feet while playing. It's a sight to see.

And while the guitars alone are reason enough to justify such statements as "The Drones should be much bigger than they are," my guess is that this feeling is stoked as much by the fact that their records come off as deadly serious in an age that's increasingly attuned to real talk about death, war, poverty, and the like. But if you're gonna remain human while you play a song like "She Had an Abortion She Made Me Pay For," you're gonna have to adopt a "fuck it" attitude. When they introduce "Oh My" as a song about the world's imminent demise, it doesn't come off dreary or pseudo-prophetic -- just a fact.

Towards the end of the night, there is some worry that the band will need to cut the set short in order keep their van from getting towed (thanks NYC parking statutes). They say "fuck it" (of course) and plow ahead into "I Don't Ever Want to Change." Luscomb's amp starts acting up. He could easily panic, slump off stage, or pout, but he instead has fun with it, playfully getting in the way by throwing his guitars onto the drum kit.

Since fiddling while Rome is burning implies a social irresponsibility that I don't think is warranted in this case, call this fiddling about Rome burning.

Photo: [Arny Raedts]

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