Monday, July 18, 2011

Live: Ringo Deathstarr, Heaven, Dead Leaf Echo

When: July 3
Where: Shea Stadium

How do I get so far behind on these?!

So some shoegaze bands played a show.  The Vandelles played first which is weird because they never play first and are far too good to play first.  So anyway, I missed their set as did most people.  LAME.  Anyway, some of their badassery was captured on video, which is cool but may make you (me) regret missing it all the more.

The next band to play was called Heaven.  They're a sort of obscure shoegaze supergroup with a member of Ambulance Ltd and one from the Big Sleep/Snowden.  Someone was telling me they had a member of Swervedriver, but I don't think that's true.  It does look like two members played on Swervedriver's Adam Franklin's solo record so that's probably the origin of that story.  One of them has also played with Dean & Britta (of Galaxie 500/Luna) so basically, what this means is that in their niche genre, they're about as pedigree as you can git.

They're newish and they were pretty good.  Interestingly, they were by far their best when they were doing more ambient, hazy muzak than when they tried to get all songy.  And this is coming from someone who has absolutely no patience with that wishy washy stuff.  Which means two things: 1) they were really good at that wishy washy stuff and 2) they were really not great at more beat+plus+melody, faster paced songs.

At their subtler moments, though, the band was transcendent.  Really spiritual stuff.  Which is why I started like shoegaze in the first place (well, that and it's loud).  It was in these moments when the not-very-groove-centric drummer was at his best, laying down massive slabs o' drum.  Likewise, the vocals shined in these not-trying-to-be-catchy moments - there was something very genuine and natural about them.  [video]

I wrote up Dead Leaf Echo pretty recently and I don't really have anything to add.  It's just nice to finally see all their pieces fall into place.  By the way, if you were wondering where the awesome bass was coming from (as the people behind me during the set were), the band is sans bassist, but their stuff sounds way better than your average prerecorded bass line.  That's because they stacked several layers of properly studio-recorded bass on the track.  Then, they routed the recording through a proper bass amp in addition to the PA.  Which is freaking brilliant.  It was, in fact, the best prerecorded bass I think I've ever heard.  [video]

Of course, all of the bands were just building up to Austin-based shoegaze gods Ringo Deathstarr.  This band makes me swoon.  Their guitar can obliterate your speakers and ear drums.  (In the best possible way.)  This rich guitar, full of phantom melodies and shifting pitches, is straight out of Loveless, but the vocals are more tuneful that My Bloody Valentine's, a lot closer to the good old pop tunes of the Jesus & Mary Chain (who ripped them off the Beach Boys, but that's neither here nor there).

"Jasper" once asked an Austin shoegazer of his acquaintance about the band and was informed that everyone in Austin thought they were a joke and "that girl doesn't even play an instrument" or something like that.  If that was ever true, the joke's now on him.  "That girl," bassist Alex Gehring, is sick.  She's an absolutely great bassist - her lines simultaneously groove deeply and punch you in the chest.  As is typical in the genre, the bass carries a lot of melody while the guitar becomes sheer roar.  Meanwhile, electro/dance-derived icy beats from drummer Daniel Coburn make the whole thing sound a lot like "Soon" (you know, that last song on Loveless that's everyone's favorite MBV song ever).

But what's really great about Ringo Deathstarr isn't that they write amazing songs and get mindblowing sounds out of their instruments.  It's that they're genuinely insane.  Cracked.  Unhinged.  Pure batshit out of their mind nuts.  Which is what made this one of the most punk rock shoegaze shows of all time.  I mean, first of all, in direct defiance of the name of the genre, guitarist Elliot Frazier at several points leapt into the audience midsong.  Then at some point, they invited a bunch of people up on stage (primarily from the previous bands) and somehow things devolved such that both the guitar and drums had been seized by people who weren't in the band at all and the music fell apart in chaos.  But that's not the insane part.  The insane part is that after the song finally stopped breathing, Gehrig insisted that her two bandmates return to their instruments to finish the song (which had veered in the direction of crazytown before its as-recorded coda).  Coburn, I believe, thought the set was over and had gone to the bathroom so the band announced that they would wait (and therefore all of us would wait) for the drummer to return to the stage.  So everyone stood around awkwardly for a few minutes, and then Coburn showed up and they immediately launched into the song where they'd left off.  For about twenty seconds, until the song was over.

I mean, who does that?  Only a true genius.  And only by accident.  It was, obviously, one of the best endings to a show I've ever seen.  And I've seen a lot.  [video]....[more video]

No comments: