Monday, October 04, 2010

(above: Boredoms photo, w/ truncated drummer line-up, NOT taken from last night's show)
Some folks reading this were no doubt in attendance. I certainly was. It's mighty odd to find, in the year 2010, that a Saturday night's choice of entertainment in Melbourne involves a toss-up between the Boredoms and the Murder Junkies (GG Allin's old back-up band, sans GG.) I had no idea his band, still featuring his brother Merle and infamous nudist/pervert "Dino" on skins, had even ever played a single show after GG's death in 1993, let alone still had the act on the road 17 years later. Perhaps the saddest aspect to today's entry is the fact that, had the Boredoms not been playing the same night (and believe me, there was no competition), I likely would've attended the Murder Junkies' show. Only a bizarre sense of curiosity and even more bizarre sense of nostalgia can explain such a thing, especially so since I'm often embarrassed of my previous fandom for Mr. Allin (and I'd roughly chart such a period as being the years 1987-'95), and my retail experiences have tought me that not only are most of GG's dedicated fanbase more frightening than the man himself, but that there is nothing as sad, pathetic and perhaps just a little creepy than an ageing GG Allin fan. You know, the kinda guy - always a guy - who still holds GG's flame as a lost warrior in rock'n'roll's war against the jive and just can't let it go. Better yet, some of these people are my friends!
So, that brings me to the Boredoms, brought out as part of the Melbourne Festival, a use of tax-payer's money I can well approve of (they've also brought out John Cale, to perform his classic Paris 1919 album w/ a small orchestra. One of my fave albums, for sure, but having witnessed Cale stink up the stage w/ an uninspired performance - and a shitty "hot-shot" session-muso band of young hipsters, to boot - a few years back, I'm passing.) The Boredoms - with no less than 10 drummers - hence the 10/10/10 performance date, were a mere $20 and worth every cent and then some. I've written about the band before here, a review which, despite being a little half-assed, I still thinks stands as totally relevant, as too many people, at least from my skewered perspective, still falsely view the band as some sort of gimmick. In other words, they're "fun" and possibly a live experience to behold, but it doesn't necessarily mean they have the songs, or release records one would bother exchanging cash for.
Of course, that's a falsehood, but perhaps an understandable one, since when they were at the relative height of their international fame (let's say mid '90s when they were playing Lollapalooza and signed to Warner/US for Pop Tatari and Chocolate Synthesizer), their records weren't all that hot. Or at least not nearly as hot as they'd get, as their Super Roots series soon began, and they went on to release the Holy Trinity of Super Ae, Vision Creation Newsun and Seadrum/House of Sun between 1998 and 2005. In essence, the music's herky-jerkiness and jarring nature lacked the awesome groove they would soon find. So some friends of mine still peg 'em as a Z-grade Butthole Surfers (or even worse, as "Bungle-esque". More's the pity!), merely on the worth (or lack thereof) of those albums, a way-harsh - and totally incorrect - judgment on its own, but one which also gives the band no credit for the multi-dimensional psychedelic behemoth they have since become.
So anyway, I'm repeating myself a little (assuming you've read the link), so let's talk about this show. Or perhaps not. I mean, live reviews are kinda pointless, no? If you were there, you've already forged your own opinion of how the evening went, and if you weren't, the show in question is likely irrelevant. But in this case it was such a spectacular, in an almost Cirque du Soleil sense of the word, that it must be given creedence. Not only that, but this afternoon I received a text from a well-known musical hard-arse/hard-to-please type (or perhaps I just can't figure it out what does musically please him and for god's sake why... but I still loves ya) who complained that the show was boring and the band little more than a human drum machine w/ a distinct lack of compositional sensibilities and/or talent. I say a pox on that: the over-all power of the performance, the all-engulfing sound is what shook brains venue-wide. Which doesn't for a second mean it was one aimless, tribal jam. Far from it: it was stop-on-a-dime stuff, composed and performed w/ J.B.'s-style discipline which took all previously-unknown levels of musical intensity to Defcon 4 and had me stupidly watching them w/ a goddamn smile on my face. I don't believe a tear was shed, but the sense of musical ecstacy was something I haven't experienced in a live setting since Neil Young blasted out 45 minutes of blissful noise-rock in his second set at the Myer Music Bowl some 5 years back (I believe I wrote about it at the time. I don't particularly care to re-read it, but you might. A friend of mine saw God).
Consisting of four local drummers - Evelyn Morris AKA Pikelet; Matt Watson, 2nd-hand record dealer to the stars and member of Fading Fires etc.; Cameron Potts of Baseball and three-dozen other bands; and Rob MacManus from the Grey Daturas (at least he told me he was, though I couldn't make him out on stage) - as well as Boredoms members Yojiro Tatekawa (possibly the most technically gifted percussionist I've ever witnessed in the flesh, w/ the stamina to match), Yoshimi similarly on drums as well as vocals and keys, and master-at-arms Yamatsuka/Yamantaka Eye at the helm guiding the action, jumping and screaming, twiddling nobs and whacking a great, big ribcage-like one-man guitar army (perfectly tuned, mind you) behind him w/ sticks (see photo above). In addition there were approx. half-a-dozen "import" drummers from such bands as Black Dice and Oneida - all apparently veterans of the Boredoms' infamous multi-drummer performances the last few years, similarly keeping the beat. I heard a track or two from Super Ae - don't ask me for song titles - which were mutated for the show, and the sound was caught somewhere, for the most part, between what I imagine a really great Magma concert in 1973 might've been like (the kind of crescendos which feel like they're going to lift you through the ceiling), the cyclical groove of Fela Kuti and all those who proclaim him a god, and I'll even say this, despite my appalling lack of knowledge (and possibly appreciation!) for all manner of dance-oriented electronic music, I believe that certain parts were verging on what one might term as "deep house" or "acid house" (or perhaps it's referred to as post-dubstep/witch-house w/ a dash of chill wave these days... are you still reading this?). In essence, I wanted to dance, much like all those lucky folks up the front were, but I was caught up in the seated area and wasn't about to brave a solo white-man shuffle.
Of course, I do have to mention that the show went on for too long: sitting through a two-hour performance (the last half-hour of which was a totally unnecessary "encore") which begins at midnight is a big ask, especially for a sleep-deprived man such as myself, but I was in for the long haul regardless, especially after the first hour had so throughly fried my brain through the stratosphere. More than just a memorable, if fleeting, live experience, last night's show has convinced me of this: the Boredoms are visionaries, quite possibly the best band of the 21st century thus far (I eagerly await the debate); an outfit which has just given me new hope in these musically desparate times; and one splintering a whole new form of sound, the kind of which is capable of blowing my mind and getting me all hopped-up and excited about musical possibilities the way I did before the weight of the world crushed my spirit. Not bad for a night out on the town!

POSTSCRIPT: Below is a brief clip of the performance (including Yojiro Tatekawa being carried out on his drum kit through the crowd in the opening song), and I should note that Rob MacManus didn't play w/ the band, but instead they had some guy from Regurgitator (a band who musically blow horse cock, but I'll give 'em credit for having brought the Boredoms out in 1997) take his place. Enjoy.


Pussy Galore said...

Saying "verging on what one might term as "deep house" or "acid house"" makes about as mush sense as saying "verging on what one might term as "black metal" or "speed metal""......

Dave said...

Thanks, Jan. I care.

Steev Hyooz said...

I've been meaning to write a bit about the "Boadrum 9" show I attended last year, but this post pretty much sums up the experience. Definitely in the blissful-groove-trance category.

Cousin Creep said...


After reading this review, it prompted me to counter-phrase the old 'I may not know much about art...." line to "I may know a lot about art, but I like it more when they fund something I like".

Anonymous said...

Pussy has a point I tend to agree with. While it's convenient to use descriptive phrases, all these wacky sub-subgenres become babble after awhile and only really appeal to record collecting geeks. Music is music, but it can be helpful to say "psychedelia" or "bluegrass", etc. rather than "difficult music" (whomever made that one up should be fed his own writing, it would make him retch), etc. At the outside, the babble gets to be at the level of "rural outsider speedmetal" or some such nonsense.