Before I get into the music let me first get this message out: if you’ve paid to get into a music venue for a show featuring live musicians, please SHUT UP. Music venues, particularly small ones usually featuring rock or other forms of music in a popular aesthetic, while often having a bar, do not serve the same functions of bars. A bar is where you go and talk loudly. A bar usually features some bullshit Pandora station being pumped through speakers, indicating that the purpose of the music isn’t necessarily there for the patrons to listen intently. For those who say that a musician’s job should be to command the crowd and shut them up, I’ll say yes, but with a caveat. When a musician plays in a bar, whose performance is a mere blip or outlier within normal operations, and NOT in a venue open solely for exhibiting performers, it’s on him/her to silence a crowd. When you’ve paid to get into a show and then decide to shoot your mouth off endlessly 20 feet from the stage, you’re wasting your money and doing a disservice both to yourself, the rest of the audience who actually cares to pay attention to the performers, and the performers themselves. If you want to talk loudly, go the fuck to a bar or step outside. Dropping $10 doesn’t entitle you to obnoxious behavior. Try actually engaging with what you’ve paid for – it does wonders for your experience. This, of course, also applies to the constant use of all of your electronic gizmos. Stop taking pictures and actually take in the show. Be engaged and responsive, otherwise you’ll have a ton of pictures from things you barely remember.
This miasma of clatter and din was most apparent during Circuit des Yeux’s set, a solo noise-folk performer combining elements of the Buckleys (both Tim and Jeff), PJ Harvey, and Nico. This was not a pretty, flowery singer-songwriter set. Often running her acoustic guitar through abrasive fuzz while, at one point, nearly swallowing the microphone while screaming into it, she brought an unusual but highly effective confrontational abrasiveness to the idea of the acoustic folk singer. Because her set was dynamic, the sound of the loud, drunk patrons often overpowered the quieter moments in her set. I would have loved her set a lot more had I not spent most of it choking on my own rage over the behavior of the crowd. In fact, just typing that sentence induced a rage flashback. That said, I haven’t heard anyone else really pull off what she pulled off.
Xiu Xiu was everything I’d anticipated, though I missed the presence of Angela Seo. They’ve been one of my favorites for many years. First of all, they were loud enough to drown out all those assholes in the crowd, so YAY for that. Second, percussionist Shayna Dunkelman added an entirely different energy than Angela or her predecessor, Caralee McElroy. Whereas Angela held perfectly the brooding nature of Xiu Xiu’s graphically tortured material, Shayna bounced and whacked drums with a manic pixie glee that seemed innocently joyful but with a hint of fem-dom sadism. Her energy seemed to carry over to Jamie Stewart who, in spite of the traumatic nature of the material, also seemed to be having fun. The big surprise of the night was their arrangement of “Sad Pony Guerrilla Girl.” On both the new album and the subsequent tour, Stewart abandoned guitars in favor of synths, oscillators, and sample pads. It was stark, confrontational, harrowing, and explosive – almost diametrically opposite to the warm but wilting original. “Stupid in the Dark” hit with even greater indignation and ferocity, and “A Knife in the Sun” quaked the ground.
Seattle’s Newaxeyes opened the show in a compelling nature with heavy beats and noisy soundscapes, apparently weathered some hefty guitar technical difficulties throughout the duration. Whatever broke, it didn’t affect the show. This is another in a long line of of those badass Cornish kids who seem to spin gold everywhere they go. Don’t miss these guys.