Last Night From Highbrow to Lowbrow
posted by July 9 at 12:15 PMon
Joshua Roman @ Town Hall
The Black Lips @ Pony
I can’t think of a higher contrast than yesterday’s back to back offerings of Joshua Roman’s afternoon Town Hall performance of three concertos and the Black Lips’ secret show at Gay Raunch Ranch Pony.
First, Mr. Roman: I know next to nothing about classical music. My last closest exposure to it was likely some childhood holiday performance of the Nutcracker in Eugene, Oregon (Hult Center, represent!). So I’m glad that I had Jen Graves on hand to explain things—like the underlying conflict between the individual and the collective in Shostakovich’s Stalinist-era concerto, the final and the group favorite of the three (Haydn second, Schumann third).
Even without her help, I’m sure I would’ve appreciated that the Northwest Sinfionetta are all serious, talented musicans, and that Roman is indeed an incredible soloist—watching his fingers spider across the neck of the cello, I was impressed with just the sheer amount of muscle memory such a performance must require). I have never, and still don’t understand the apparently subtle art of conducting. Christophe Chagnard, wearing a red dress shirt and black slacks, was like a semaphore flag whose signals I could not interpret. Sure, he arced his arms and pointed his baton in time, but the language of it all was impenetrable to me.
I’m on more familiar ground with Atlanta “flower punks” the Black Lips. For one thing, I’ve seen them before. For another, I go to shows like this one—in a sweaty bar basement, after dark, fueled by cheap beer and aided by a smoke machine—all the time. The Black Lips’ charm was lost on me at their last Seattle show at the Crocodile—the stage was too high, the crowd was too calm, and the sound was possibly too good. The four piece’s skuzzy, psychedlic garage pop almost demands trashier, sweatier conditions, which made the downstairs of Pony, where the band played a “secret” show last night, the perfect place to see them.
NRDLNGR and the Girls opened for the band. NRDLNGR’s beats sounded tight as ever, and he delivered his rhymes and punch lines right on the beat. For a dude doing joke raps about his meth lab and his infantilist sexual exploits, he takes his craft pretty seriously. The Girls have simply never sounded better than they do now—taut and tense but still beer spitting and fun.
At Pony, the Black Lips played crammed on a low stage in the corner, surrounded by fans, dripping with sweat (it gets hot down there), and with brick, spray painted plywood, and wheat pasted gay porn as their back drop. Their fuzzed out moonshine stomp and dirty bubble gum pop sounded sublime in that ersatz basement. It was like seeing them for the first time (“Dirty Hands” was a revelation). They’re playing Seattle again in the Fall with the Spits, and I’ll be there, even if it’s at a proper venue.