Last Night Words Fail
posted by March 22 at 1:24 PMon
Boredoms, Human Bell @ Neumo’s
Well said, Trent. It’s hard to put last night’s Boredoms show into words. I’ve been staring at this blank slate for a minute now trying to figure out a title for this post, and I still have nothing.
Let’s start with Human Bell, who are at least a little more comprehensible than the Boredoms. Human Bell is David Heumann of Arbouretum and Nathan Bell of Lungfish, a Dischord band that I never got into but that everyone seems to hold in high regard. The band name is, amongst other things, a play on their last names. Last night, they performed as a trio—drums, guitar, double-necked guitar, sometimes trumpet. They played on the floor of Neumo’s, lights turned down dark, roped off from the crowd like an exhibit at a museum. Their songs were slow-riffing drones carried by hard pounding drums. Before the last song, which featured some sqealing free jazz trumpet, one of the guys did a funny little jig. It was a good set.
But then it was time for the Boredoms. The set began with ringleader EYE holding two orbs of light, one in each hand, swinging them in slow arcs, holding them aloft, chanting and screaming, while the rest of the band sat ready, triangulating him between their three drum kits. It was dark except for those orbs, but every once in a while a digital camera’s lcd screen lit up—photography was not allowed at the show—and a beam of light would shine down from above the stage, security spotlighting the offender.
When the band kicked in, it was a rush—three drummers locked in frenetic synch, starting and stopping, leaving large gaps that were filled with either EYE or the crowd or both screaming. EYE hit the necks of the seven-headed guitar hydra with drum sticks, each neck seemingly tuned to a different chord, drumming out percussive progressions (a fifth person on stage seemed mostly to attend to this instrument, tuning the various guitars throughout the show). The guitars’ sound came as washed out, diffused, intangible tones and echoes, accompanied by EYE’s echoing shouts. It sounded like the band was perched on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a turbulent ocean, shouting into the wind and abyss, elemental and precarious.
Next to me in the crowd, a guy was holding his cell phone open for someone to hear the show. I can’t imagine they were getting the whole experience on the other end of the line, though.
Next, EYE crouched at a bank of effects and pedals, chanting into a mic and twisting the sounds into foreign shapes, while Yoshimi P-We played synthesizer, and Senju and Yojiro kept the drums rolling. Their sound kept running up to the edge then pulling back, swelling, cresting, and breaking like waves. After maybe 20 minutes of this, they pause, to massive cheers.
They launched back in with more echoing guitar bursts over propulsive drumming, the three drummers hitting the tight changes practically telepathically. Certain sounds or strains of guitar sounded familiar, but it was hard to recognize distinct songs—was that the riff from “7777” or “(two circles)”? Up front, a few guys slammed into each other while a giant flange washed over the crowd. During a lull, EYE howled one sustained note, and the crowd intoned along with him, resonating the whole room. If last night was a sacrifice, it was made at the temple of pure sound.
Next, EYE was waving some white, electronic wand, conducting crescendos and falls, then bending and stretching a synth tone by fiddling with one end of the device. There were laser bursts. There was primordial pre-psych. My notes became increasingly illegible. EYE said, “Thank you, Seattle.” They returned for an encore, drums slipping in and out of one last groove before the crowd emptied out, ritual performed, and returned into the world.