by Jack Diablo
Venue: Shantytown Pub
Date: July 2, 2009
I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but the best part of doing these reviews is showing up with little to no expectations and being completely blown away. Discovering new and awesome bands is what makes this the best job in the world.
Jonathan Snider and Logan Owlbeemoth put together one of his magical assemblages of experimental music at Shantytown on July 2nd. The shows they throw are a guaranteed good time and always interesting and unique. For this occasion, they booked a couple of touring bands all the way from California, but no show at Shantytown is complete without at least one Duval act to warm things up.
The ever-evolving Telepathik Friend got things started. Joining Logan on stage were some familiar faces from affiliate acts, Erzulie and Omebi. Even though you may come to recognize the songs, you can be sure that no two TF shows are alike. Sometimes, it’s in the form of extra bodies on stage or perhaps an added prop, but there’s always a new element brought in to spice things up. Following Telepathik Friend was the solo keyboard space-drone of Omebi.
Shantytown is a bare bones joint which means bands are responsible for their own sound, so it’s rare that a band will go through the effort of messing with lighting and the like. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t those willing to go the extra mile. Bands like spaz-core trio National Dairy are fortunate to have a friend in local artist and business owner, Ian Chase, who helps the band create a more dynamic environment in which to play their off-kilter music. This band is perhaps a bit more than most can handle but they pull a crowd and hold nothing back. As the Touchton brothers enter a zone of musical communion that surely requires an extreme level of focus and that unique, unspoken communication only accessible to the blood-related, Chelsea wanders the floor like a lost child, screaming teeth-grinding banshee mating calls. Guitarist, John Touchton shreds effect-heavy guitar riffs while Butter smashes cymbals between blast beats.
The first of the out-of town bands, Religious Girls, had so much equipment that they took up the entire inside of the small boozehole. Only a lucky few were able to secure a front row view of the madness that was to ensue. The rest were forced to remain in the backyard and listen through the door. Watching their sound check was a performance unto itself as they toggled switches, adjusted levels and modulated the microphones to produce just the right kind of unintelligible sounds. To be honest I can’t even appropriately describe what occurred over the course of the next thirty minutes or so. All I can say is that by the end I was splattered with orange paint and could only think to myself, “Eat your heart out, Animal Collective.”
It’s pretty unfair that any band that comes out over the next few years who pushes the envelope in terms of sonic experimentation and manipulation will suffer from comparisons to the aforementioned. But those that can successfully shake the “poor imitation of” label for that of “more daring” or even “the next level” will probably benefit from the association. That being said, what I really liked about Religious Girls was how the group was set up, performing as much like an ensemble as a band, if not more so. Rather than assume the standard stage arrangement, each member manned a station of percussion instruments, synthesizers and assorted electronic doodads around which the audience gathered shoulder to shoulder in anticipation of what these kids were about to unleash.
The beating of the scattered floor toms and un-miked gang vocals provided a primal, almost tribal counterpoint to the digital melody of the keyboards and the distorted vocals. It was another of those inspiring performances that causes you to fantasize about raiding a pawn shop or used music store for all the broken, patched together percussion instruments you can find and start your own experimental ensemble. The orange paint came at the end of the performance when a member smeared it on the faces of those in attendance before squirting a glob on his tom. At the climax of the finale, the paint went everywhere. We’ll see if it washes out or not.
Following these Oakland boys were Our Brother the Native of Ann Arbor, Michigan. They relied more heavily on samples and loops than Religious Girls, which isn’t as fun to watch when you can’t actually see the music being made, but it was still a worthy performance.
I have to say that it was one of the best shows so far this year. The caliber and creativity of underground bands who travel and play for next to nothing never ceases to amaze me when they put on performances like this one. And who doesn’t love a free show?
Show Review: Our Brother The Native, Religious Girls, National Dairy, etc.
by Jack Diablo