Thursday, November 12, 2009

Live: Lightning Bolt + Black Dice

When: 10/30
Where: Above the Auto-Parts Store

My first trip to Todd P's new space, just around the corner from Market Hotel, was a bit disappointing. The space is huge, which I suppose isn't inherently bad, but I got into indie/DIY shows to get away from places quite that big. Not that it's an arena, but it looks like it could hold about 1,000 people. That's a lot.

It's on a second floor and the few small windows at one end of the room may not be opened, lest the music disturb the neighbors. With a low ceiling and brick and concrete walls, the room got pretty warm, even for a cold night. And by warm, I mean you'd be drenched in sweat (yours or someone else's) after about two minutes. The same factors also mean bad acoustics, especially since, for no apparent reason, they put in a corner stage. With the harsh angles, the low ceiling and the rough, hard building material, the sound is as much din as it is music. But oh well.

Lightning Bolt and Black Dice are either the two best bands for this kind of acoustics or the two worst. I'm not sure. Both bands work more with noise than with tunes or even beats. And that's not all they have in common - Hisham Bharocha of Black Dice was an original member of Lightning Bolt during its brief days as a trio. Apparently, they were too musical for his tastes.

Black Dice are the kind of experimental band I can't get behind. They just make loud noise. Sometimes there is a pulse, but never really a beat. There is never a melody, and the extremely rare riff is usually just repeated eight hundred times. It might be good for what it is, but it's not music.

There were clearly some people in the audience who connected with Black Dice and were genuinely thrilled about it, so clearly they are not failing. While there's always a degree of Emperor's New Clothes syndrome* with any experimental band, that doesn't explain all the crazy kids pushing to the front. So good job, Black Dice. I can't be a fan or even understand what's good here, but clearly, the band is doing what they want to, and if it's getting folks excited, that's rad. [MySpace]

Lightning Bolt are more up my alley. They are noisy and chaotic but there are both riffs and beats, even if they are jarring, violent, asymmetrical ones. They play a drumset and a heavily distorted bass, both really loud, and sometimes the drummer makes vocal noises with a microphone he holds on or in his mouth with a mask. Niiiice.

The half of the room towards the stage was PACKED with moshers. Unfortunately, the mosh pit was just too big. With rather poor visibility and the mosh pit achieving critical mass and just moving in unison left, then right, it was kind of hard to enjoy the show. People climbed up on everything they could find to see the duo destroy their set, including one gentleman who watched wrapped around the top of the room's one beam holding up the ceiling.

There's nothing that can be done about shows like this. Sometimes a lot of people want to go see a band, and when that band is as adventurous and brilliant as Lightning Bolt, that's a good thing. And if people want to mosh and have fun, that's an extra good thing. But in a room that large and hot and sweaty and crowded, especially with chaotic acoustics, it's impossible to really watch or enjoy a band, no matter how awesome. [MySpace]

*Emperor's New Clothes syndrome occurs when a large number of people become convinced that if they do not like a band, they have unsophisticated taste. They then overcompensate by praising the band's wacked-out bullshit, convincing those around them that if they don't like it, they have unsophisticated taste. You can see it's a cycle.

If you don't know the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, this dude comes to town and is like "hey Emperor, for a gazillion dollars, I can make you the best robes ever, and they have the magical quality that they are invisible to fools." Well, as you might guess, the emperor ends up paying the guy and walking through town naked because everyone (His Majesty included) thinks everyone else can see the clothes, and that they must be fools. (Incidentally, when I was a kid, this story inspired the most mortifying Halloween costume my mother ever made me wear. I'll leave the details to your imagination.)

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