For Subba Cultcha
And so, friends, we go bravely into the breach once more. The booze 'n' blood splattered noise party that is All Tomorrows Parties' annual Release The Bats is upon us again like a still-warm technicolor zombie drug bastard lurching from a pukey Shoreditch doorway. The promise of a free ATP chalet for the best outfit is enough temptation for a good proportion of the assembled hipsters to make the effort, and the bands don't let the side down either. First stop on the highway to hell: NYC's Lightning Bolt.
Lightning Bolt: "Do You Don't Me Want Me To Love You?"
A masked man pummels the drums like they're trying to take his life. Another masked man wrestles his guitar, flipping out tangled distorto-riffs and chunky chords. Both are positioned on the venue floor, surrounded by the zombified audience. From the balcony, we're afforded a decent viewpoint of the action; the slightly polite moshing from the assembled noisenik sausagefest; the regularity with which the guitar's headstock nearly gives someone a facial gash they won't be able to peel off; the entertaining panic of the security guards as they realise the band have no protection from an increasingly active crowd. Every song sounds like a speeded-up, beaten-down, messy version of the Beatles' Helter Skelter. Good shit.
Pissed Jeans: "Do You Love Me?"
Pissed Jeans win the wooden spoon for fancy dress, but are saved by a frontman who's all twitching, seething awkward angles, knees and elbows and hips and shoulders. He's clearly graduated the Nick Cave school of showmanship with honours, and his band from The Birthday Party school of nasty old bastard fuzzrock. Heavy, sludgy riffs ripple outwards while he rants and wails and paces the stage. This is nasty, violent music: more good shit.
Wooden Shjips: "Dangerous Magical Noise"
Slowing things down a bit, Wooden Shjips run riot with a choice selection of bass-led grooves and hazy psychedelia, coming on like Spaceman 3 playing the blues. I can't remember if they dressed up, but there was at least one awesome beard on the stage, so they're let off the meathook on that front. I'm not massively into their set, but am very aware that they're occupying the "Deerhunter slot"... said band played here last year and quickly went from zero to hero when I heard their recordings, so Wooden Shjips are a band I plan to check out again soon.
Les Savy Fav
Les Savy Fav: "It's good to be alive, but it's better to have died.."
The rock 'n' roll spectacle of the night comes from Les Savy Fav, who proceed to tear it the fuck up with more gusto than anyone could reasonably expect from an aging, bearded, pot-bellied frontman. Within the first song he's in the crowd, then he's simula-boning a decorative zombie mannequin, then pogoing in his pants... song two and he's off around the vast Forum balcony, the mic lead taut above the rictus grinning heads of the audience. Before the gig is out, the air is full of flying toilet rolls, and he's doing a coordinated dance with a fan dressed in a paper mache Les Savy Fav head. I can't really remember what it sounded like, but this was fucking rad.
Steve Albini's Shellac win the costume prize, easily. Their drummer is a hissing dracula who stalks the stage between apoplectic explosions of rhythm; the bass player chugs along dressed as a green, bolt-necked Frankenstein, and method acts through the show, emitting no words except for a deadpan "RAAARRRRGGGHH". Albini is a lurching mummy, bandaged from head to toe, with his glasses operched on the end of his bandaged nose. The music spits and snarls despite the comedic get-up, misanthropic and endlessly, powerfully negative. The lyrics cancel themselves out regularly: "this song is for our sponsor / we don't have a sponsor / this song is for a special girl / there's no such thing as a special girl". Shellac is relentlessly, refreshing nasty, from the counter-intuitive rhythm changes to the scowling, menacing guitar lines. This music bites and leaves a mark.
Om close the night, but the room is emptying faster than a mass grave on Halloween, so we decide to catch them another time go pouring out into the night alight with excitement at the spectacle we've just seen. Roll on ATP, and roll on Halloween 09.
Top two photos courtesy of Nick Helderman.