National Public Viking

Saturday, June 24, 2006

ZZ Toppin' pysch

|current sounds| Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice- Dead Lecturing 7.20.05 & Zodiac Mountain / Religious Knives- split tour EP

FRIDAY, 6/23

I somehow made it through another tiring Friday after getting home at 1:30AM (Bob and I did a live webcast of the Gomez/Bad Plus show and I actually had more fun "moderating" the live chat than the actual concert!). Delicious Vietnamese food was had for lunch at the redundantly named Cafe Deli: lemon-grass shrimp curry. Sarah's convinced I should write an epic poem about metro vs. bus riding.

Went, once again, to the Warehouse Nextdoor, this time for a night of drone. I have yet to make an "avant-garde" (for lack of a better term) concert buddy, but after one of the opening acts, Davey Wrathgabar from The Visitations, an Athens band, came up to me. I had forgotton that he was spending the summer deep sea fishing with his dad on the Chesapeake Bay. After the show, Davey even invited me to go deep sea fishing with them one weekend... why not? Sounds like fun.

I think the saddest part of the evening was the fact that the decent-sized crowd came only for one of the opening bands whose name I never caught (just because you're some hot-shot local band doesn't mean everybody knows you who you are... small bands please take note). It's probably better off that the trio never introduced themselves because I'm about to rip them a new one.

"Drone" is a genre I finally got into sometime two years ago more or less as a result of purchasing Fripp & Eno's Evening Star on vinyl (technically an "ambient" record, but the purpose is the same). Bands like Sunn O))) have certainly made drone not accessible but more understood than someone like, say, Keiji Haino's moaned masterpieces. D.C seems to lack the strong local music scene one always heard about, especially in the '80s and the mid-to-late-'90s; thus, this opening band seemed like the de facto "experimental" group. Athens is guilty of that when it comes to certain musical niches, too.

Don't get me wrong, the trio had some moments of deafening glory. Layers of loops built on each other with the occasional Robert Fripp-ian guitar lick and a distorted Earth-like climax of Black Sabbath riffery. I actually enjoyed that. My issue comes with the lack of purposeful movement. Okay, so you've got an arsenal of effects pedals and some nice, loud amps. Now convince me. The drummer spend most of his time creating "ambient" percussion with literally a box of gongs, cymbals, and clacking wood attached to string when all I wanted him to do was just freakout on the set. There actually was a moment when I thought he might as he hit the snare drum, but (and I hope I have misinterpreted this reaction) the Fripp-lovin' guitarist shot back a dead glance as if to say, "No." This happened three times.

What kind of musical relationship is that? Set up those kind of parameters before a show. Limits are fine. I give them to myself as a musician all the time. But do not bring the audience into it. That's poor showmanship, plus it makes for a less-inspired set.

The second opener, Chris Grier, played a 20-minute set all by his lonesome. The music was fine, though nothing spectacular: self-looped improvised post-rock with some Sonny Sharrock-like shards of sound. I would've stayed the whole time, but the shrill, treble-heavy tones were too much. I am no gear-head, but as an audiophile, I beg of Chris and all guitarists out there, do not play a single-coil pickup Fender guitar through a Sunn amp head. The sound is just grating, which I don't think Grier intended. Sell your Sunn amp head and buy a Fender Twin Reverb. You'll get the sound you're going for and not cause potential fans to leave the room.

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Religious Knives.

Religious Knives, which includes members of Double Leopards and Mouthus, put on a two-song set of droning psych a la Confusion Is Sex-era Sonic Youth meets the Velvet Underground (the latter particularly for the drummer's Moe Tucker-ish rhythm). I definitely got into the near black-metal dirge of Maya Miller's electric piano put through effects pedals. She moaned wordlessly as Michael Bernstein monotonally sang over an open-tuned guitar. Very rad.

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Zodiac Mountain.

Zodiac Mountain is a duo between Wooden Wand main dude James Toth and Clay Ruby (Davenport Family). Didn't really know quite what to expect, but as these two tall men picked up their guitars, the latter in a cowboy hat wrapped with a bandana, I got excited when they started out with a ZZ Top three-chord rocker. I don't even know why. About three minutes into it, Clay Ruby started pulling out some heavy psych-rock riffs and sang like a Southern rocker. Toth took this as a challenge and began solo-ing high on the fret-board for some of the most out-there pysch without drums I've ever heard. Davey and I begged for more after two ten-minute songs, but no dice. James was a really cool guy to talk to afterwards, though.

And since I have yet to put any pictures of myself on this, here's one on the metro:
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