by Daniel DiMaggio

Temple Of Bon Matin, Kites, Mouthus, a bunch of other bands – 18 Wooster St. in New York, in what appeared to be a very large cargo/truck garage, Sunday, July 11, 2004.
When I arrived at this thing, I saw that I had gotten into more than I bargained for. Had I actually read the press release announcement for this thing instead of just looking at the bands listed, I would’ve seen that the entire event was primarily “a multi-media installation by the collective Dearraindrop this summer at our 18 Wooster space. Filling the gallery with sculpture, video projections, paintings and drawings, the group will transform the space into a mythical, psychedelic fun house. Massive sculptures such as a tee-pee village and a giant sphinx will fill the platforms and tunnels of their maze, a hyperreal surfeit of imagery glowing in neon and blacklight… The rest of the gallery space will be filled with strange sculptures and twisted Americana: A Tower of Babble, a hyperreal three-D op-art labyrinth, paintings on the mezzanine by Robert Kitchen of the artists and their circle, an undead tee-pee village (housing videos and dioramas and still-smaller tee-pees), and a giant crystallized rock face of the Mad Mountain King. Myths, symbols and cartoons take on a life of their own, with the horror of basic concepts in meltdown. Winking, jabbering, and hieroglyphic, this hall of horror vacui will be an uneasy dream squeezed full of monsters and American archetypes: a fucked-up summer wonderland.” This meant that nearly every square inch of the cargo loft/airplane hangar looking thing where this event took place was covered in brightly colored sculptures and wall hangings created in what I feel more or less comfortable referring to as the Providence art style. I’m inferring this mostly on the basis of some sort of Providence, RI underground art/comics periodical I picked up once. The drawing style on a lot of these pieces was pretty similar – very busy, with a preponderance of cartoonish characters and bright fluorescent colors. Additionally, on many of the wall pieces there were cut up advertisements and album covers, along with other popular culture references, all evidencing a collagist aesthetic very much in line with the aforementioned comics influence. There were also a fair amount of 3 dimensional pieces, with sculptures and some walk-through exhibits placed at various points on the space’s several levels. These included a tall totem pole-like construction made with an array of different objects, including old children’s keyboards and other found items, as well as the misleadingly titled “Makeout Tunnel,” which was actually a crawlspace wallpapered with lots of comic strip type things, leading to a blacklit room in which they were screening a fast paced cut up animation set to the music of Lightning Bolt, natch. Craazy.
       So anyway, as far as the bands, I was surprised when I walked in cause Elvish Presley were playing and I thought they played the day before (this was a two-day weekend event, but I only went to the Sunday. The day before had some other bands, I forget who). I knew it was them cause I recognized both of the guys from USAISAMONSTER, and I knew Elvish Presley featured members of said band. All of the band members were dressed in funny clothes which I thought was kind of stupid until I realized that they were supposed to be dressed like elves, leading me to believe that Elvish Presley is a concept band of sorts. This was supported when the front man of the group (who I think is also the drummer for USAISAMONSTER?) referred to himself as Elvish Presley. So it’s as if he is Elvish Presley and the rest of the band is backing him up. Ha ha. I can fuck with that. I got there at the end of their set so only saw one song, a longish number with a chugging twin guitar rhythm and lyrics that dealt with trees and nature, if I remember correctly. Elvish Presley did some good soloing and after the set was over encouraged the audience to go camping out in nature because “there’s a lot of stuff going on out there that you’re not going to see anywhere else.” This is totally true.
       Next there was a band who, by process of elimination, I’ll assume were “the Tokeleys.” I liked this band pretty well. They were somewhat out of place in the day’s lineup, being several normal college looking kids who played pretty straight indie rock in a vein similar to Pavement or perhaps Archers of Loaf. I liked their songs quite a bit, even if I found the appearance of the members themselves to be somewhat distasteful. They had good strong choruses and stuff, and nice two-guitar interplay. After them a band played that I initially thought was Knifestorm but was in fact I think called “the Ground Monkeys.” This was an okay duo of noisy electronics and a drum set, which alternated between beat based and free playing. This band wasn’t famous either. Then there was a male/asian female like organ-synth pop duo called I think Kocho-Bi-Sexual (I have a feeling that name would be moderately funny if I got whatever it was referencing). They sang some songs that were ok but pretty quiet so I couldn’t hear them that well. I had also drank a beer by this time, so I was getting pretty tired.
       Temple of Bon Matin were up next. They were certainly the only group of the day’s lineup that one might conceivably refer to as ‘legendary’. I think I might do that. To my knowledge, the group’s lineup has been pretty fluid over the years, with the constant being drummer/leader Ed Wilcox. With his position as leader cemented beyond any doubt, Wilcox seems to have constructed a portable set of drums and bells that he hangs around his neck and beats on as opposed to using a more conventional set as he has in the past, or like he uses when he plays with the Arthur Doyle Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. The sound achieved by ToBM that day was comparable to the wall of reverbed stew that is the ADEAE’s stock in trade, but without Arthur Doyle so, uh, more focused and less boring (the Wire comparing the ADEAE’s Conspiracy Nation to Black Flag was perhaps the most erroneous Wire comparison ever). The instrumentation if I remember correctly was drums, guitar, bass, sax, synth, and vocals. The sax was especially good as the guy stood a little bit away from the mic, so that coils of free sax playing would enter and retract from the mix periodically, depending on where he was moving and on the volume of the other players. Mr. Wilcox’s drumming style is also quite interesting and deserves to be noted. Rather than providing a conventionally rhythmic basis or even abstractly propelling the music through free percussion currents as would a free jazz drummer, Wilcox bangs on his drums with fluctuating intensity to control the course of the music. While this style could be considered comparatively simple or even crude, the striking figure that Wilcox cuts while battering and at the same time carrying his array of percussion while simultaneously hollering into the microphone is hard to argue with, and the effect of his techniques on the music are apparent and quite impressive. In French and other romance languages, the translation for drums is batterie, and this romantic derivation of the Latin root certainly makes the most sense when watching Wilcox in action.
       As mentioned, vocals also played a very large role in the music. The vocals were done by Wilcox, and another lady. Here I was sort of confused, cause I know an integral part of the band is the famous Leslie Q, who I think married Ed Wilcox and subsequently became a fixture in ToBM. However, that lady who I thought was Leslie Q stayed more or less to the sidelines for the majority of the performance (I think she was the one on guitar), while another lady also sang and was standing towards the front, trading off passionate avant-blues field hollers with Wilcox. Leslie Q should keep her eye on those two. I was thinking that elements of the whole bluesy yelling thing were kind of gay, but then a more concrete bassline laid down by the standup bassist about halfway through the set implied something of a blues-based hard rock context. I say implied because the band stayed playing free for the most part, and remained primed for takeoff. I’d say this was probably my favorite performance of the day. Mad people left during this.
       Next up was Mouthus. At this point I was thinking that the whole show was moving along pretty well, not knowing I’d be there until like 11:00 or something. Mouthus are creating something of a stir lately, with their recent debut CD on Psych-O-Path Records, which I think is run by one of the guys from Sightings. I’ll assume that it’s the balding guy who isn’t Mark Morgan, as this guy showed up for Mouthus’ set in this show, adding credence to my thought that theirs is a mentor/protégé relationship. Mouthus are two guys on guitar and drums. The both have pretty bad hair, one notably so, and the other one with hair about as bad as mine, which is just kind of bad. They use their instruments to create free floating clouds of hostile noise. Don Rettman compared an earlier performance of theirs to “later Blue Humans.” Uh… Their set was pretty solid, overdriven electric guitar used to create pure noise and drum attack, and then the guitarist switching to plugged-in acoustic and impressively achieving almost equally noisy results. Based on their relationship with Sightings, I’d say that Mouthus could be the 50 Cent to Sightings’ Eminem, except that at this point 50 is many, many times better than Eminem, but I like Sightings more than Mouthus.
       At this point the most unfortunate event of the day occurred. The next act “Slo Jams” took the “stage.” This was a bunch of young people dancing and doing a rough sort karaoke to R+B/hiphop songs, one of which was a modern hit that I recognized at the time but now forget. They would pass around the mic and say “yo, yo” and other shit and try to be funny, while their friends danced around. I initially thought these people might be the members of the aforementioned Derraindrop art collective that hosted this whole thing, but now I think otherwise, as said collective seems to be sort of respected (they worked with George Harrison! according to their press release), and these kids were straight up f*gs. They also threw around newspapers to be crazy and made a mild mess. Jeez.
      Then Knifestorm played, which was so so. Like he was ok, it was a one man electronics setup. He twisted some knobs a bit, and made some slow moving feedback noises. Some of them were real high so I hit up the homemade tissue earplugs. The set was not too long, which was a plus. Then came Kites, one of my three personally most anticipated acts of the day. Kites is (I feel stupid calling a single person Kites) notable not least for integrating lyrics and acoustic song forms with noise/electronics. Live this divide was perhaps more palpable than on his Load full length from last year, but this was due mostly to logistics. For example, since it was only one guy, he had to put down the little baby guitar he was playing before picking up the electronics, and then he could only do electronics cause it was just him, etc. So yeah, the first song he played was acoustic and quite sparse, played on a strange thin-necked guitar that had only a few strings. Then he set up his electronics, and the remainder of the set, which I think consisted of only one more ‘song’, was performed with the vocals run through a mic plugged into several pedals and noise boxes. I found this piece, even considering its rather obvious president/war references, to be the most affecting part of the performance. Mr. Kites would flip switches to create loud washes of noise alternating with more subdued feedback moments in which he sang lines about crawling across the desert and other stuff. He started to like ‘get into it’ and freak out towards the end, and he threw his mike stand which was kind of gay, and he swung his mike around by the cord. I would’ve gotten hit by it had I not moved back, I guess.
       My impressions of Kites on a personal level were further developed by the next act, who I think were Dreamhouse. So what they did was like play under a giant tarp, and everybody had to go under it to watch them and hold up the tarp so it didn’t fall on them. Thus, standing around outside the tarp, I couldn’t see what was going on inside, only that the tarp was moving around. I didn’t want to go inside it as obviously I imagined it to be a gay fest on par with the earlier Slo Jams set. I went in just to see though, and it wasn’t that bad; people were basically just holding the tarp up and not doing anything out of line, and Dreamhouse put forth an acceptable bass and drums free noise racket. Anyway, where I’m going with this is that Kites himself was standing under the tarp, off to the side. From both the heartfelt and frantic emotions put forward in his set and his good looks, I developed an idea of Kites as an angsty and sensitive young man. I have developed a theory that when individuals of this type are seen enjoying life and laughing, it’s really cute because you can see them forgetting their inner turmoil for a time, and finally feeling happy and enjoying the moment. Like, there’s this video of Conor Oberst that I saw once on the Bright Eyes website where he’s at a block party, smiling and clapping along with some little kids singing “YMCA.” It’s super cute. A similar effect was created in this instance, as Kites was smiling and enjoying the festivities from the sidelines, momentarily free from his troubles.
       Now I would have left after Kites, but, admittedly, I was sticking around to wait to buy records from him and he was taking his time about going to his van or whatever and getting them. After Dreamhouse, the next and next to last band Feathers began to set up. Their equipment piqued my interest, as it was comprised of typical psych-folk instruments – a sitar, some hand drums, bells, acoustic guitars, y’know. I am sucker for all that stuff, at least in theory, so I decided to stay and watch them too. Man alive was I glad that I did, cause Feathers were certainly the surprise of the day for me and vied with ToBM for “most impressive act” status. I know nothing about this band, though I’ve subsequently gathered that they might be from New England someplace. Their style was indeed large group psych-folk, not that different in theory from other current bands, except for the quality of the songs. One song in particular (which was the first song of their 3-song set and also on the CD-R they were selling) blew me away, figuratively speaking. It’s called “Past The Moon” and is mad beautiful. Live, a different band member sang lead on each of the three songs, these lineup changes presumably corresponding with whichever member authored the song in question. “Past The Moon” was sung by the most questionably scarf-wearing member of the group, and what’s more was sung in a near-silly falsetto that was dangerously close, voice-wise, to Devendra Banhart territory (he’s ok but I hate his smug attitude and earrings). However, the pure greatness of the song rendered all of this irrelevant. Check these lyrics to the chorus: “We will come full circle and believe me you’ve been saved/You’re a living vision of the people in the grave/There’s a bell above the sky that’s ringing upside down/It’s mirrored in the waters who are shaking underground.” Now imagine these framed in a strikingly beautiful melody that approaches euro-classical clarity in its contour and logic, and features several unexpected and ingenious chord changes. The performance (I’m basically talking about the CD now, it was more or less the same thing), however, is very loosely and naturally executed, with sawing strings, bells, violin, and acoustic guitar (the stuff I mentioned before), and, by the end of the song, a ragged female chorus capable of imparting Manson family jams-caliber chills to the listener. Feathers thereby effectively bypassed the stiffness that is a problem with some other groups of this kind (here I’m thinking mostly about Espers, who I also like, though I wish the girls didn’t have such high voices as I can't understand one fucking thing they’re saying on their record). Maybe I’m just so excited about this cause I haven’t listened to those Tyrannosaurus Rex CDs I bought yet, but I doubt it. Buy the aforementioned Feathers CD-R by any means necessary, though I don’t have any idea as of now of how you’d do that. Oh, so yeah, and the rest of the concert was good overall too.


DERRAINDROP: "Additionally, on many of the wall pieces there were cut up advertisements and album covers, along with other popular culture references, all evidencing a collagist aesthetic very much in line with the aforementioned comics influence."

MOUTHUS: I think their hair looks terrific!

FEATHERS: "...a sitar, some hand drums, bells, acoustic guitars, y’know. I am sucker for all that stuff...."

DREAMHOUSE: So that's the tarp thing he was talking about.

Ones/Saccharomanic Targets/2673/Vampire Can’t – Tommy’s Tavern in Brooklyn, New York, Sunday, December 12th, 2004
I missed Ones on account of getting to this show late. That was a real shame too, as they were one of the acts I wanted most to see here. I had only heard them once previously, when their cassette was played on the radio, and thought that it was the Toni Laakso 7” cause I ain’t listened to that in a while, but it was in any case, as I remember, a very pleasing section of free music, sounding like it was performed with some wind instruments, and recorded / processed in a way that incorporated tape cut-up techniques. I think I might buy it, but it was released in an edition of only 19. 19 is a pretty small run for a tape, don’t you think?
       So the first band I was able to see was Saccharomanic Targets. But wait, let’s back up. The venue where this show took place, Tommy’s Tavern, is one of my favorite places to see concerts, the 3 subway rides it takes to get there notwithstanding, though I guess this isn’t an issue for people who live in Brooklyn, like I bet most of the people at this show. It’s like a straight up bar with a pool table and stuff and then another room in the back where the performances are. Once I succeeded in buying a beer from the bar, but I didn’t tonight cause I had to take the train home and you have to be alert for that shit. No jk, not really. You just have to stay awake so you don’t fall asleep and wake up at the last stop in Trenton, that is bad news. Anyway, because of this set up, you get some people that are there just to go to the bar and not to see the show, like the middle aged Russian-looking man who walked around dancing to himself to the disco type music that the between-set DJs were playing and who I think at some point was trying to hit on Can’t, though I may have misinterpreted this. Then there was another guy sitting at the bar telling this lady in a very forceful and meticulous manner about the commissions he makes at his job working for Hugo Boss. And he was really into it, he must really like his commissions. I would too, I guess. Also, not at this show but at the same place a few months ago, I played pool with an old man. That was pretty weird. Members of groups such as the Double Leopards, Mouthus, and the Magik Markers, as well as solo artist Prurient, were at this concert.
        So I saw Saccharomanic Targets first. They were the only act of the night who I had not previously heard of. In addition to this, their press section on the email show announcement had no good namedrops and I think it might’ve even mentioned something about techno or beats, so of course my expectations were pretty low. They just seemed like some random guys, y’know? Well, turned out I was incorrect and was actually kind of impressed by this group’s performance. The band is just two fellows who, I might venture to say, are “going for” a “Black Dice type of thing.” Not so much in terms of actual sound (I’m actually not really clear as to what Black Dice sound like most of the time), but moreso in that that it’s two guys trying to make interesting and flowing instrumental music with unusal but generally not offensive sounds. They started off with a drone/noise section which, had it been the entirety of their performances, would’ve been totally acceptable. However, they then switched from what were presumably electronics (at this point I moved to a different spot so that I could actually see the people in the band) to what would be their primary instruments for the rest of the set: drums and, uh, keyboards or guitar, I forget. From that point on the performance was marked by a pounding rhythmic backdrop comprised of both electronic and live bass and percussive elements and overlaid with guitar and noisy stuff, I think. It doesn’t sound that cool when I write about it but it was pretty good at the time. Also, aside from a few false ends and startups with the heavy rhythm part, the performance was a good length and wrapped itself up before it went on for too long.
       After that I went and got a sandwich from the small supermarket across the street; it had turkey and cheese and mayonnaise, and I also got a bottle of the fairly new, I think, blood orange flavored Snapple. All of these were pretty good. As I sat and ate them I eavesdropped on some conversations and then it was time for the next set, from 2673.
       2673 is just one guy, who I like cause he is, I’m pretty sure, from New Brunswick, which is near where I live. Actually, there seem to be a fair amount of noise performers coming up from that area recently. They have been reviewed in places like Blastitude (that’s this) and Byron Coley’s column in the Wire (including 2673 himself). Except that it seems like every time this happens the release reviewed doesn’t have any info and the reviewer is like “don’t know who these people are or where to get this” so maybe they need to work on that. Anyway, 2673 used what I’m beginning to think is the classic set up for one man noise, namely no input mixer and effex pedals. His set certainly fell under the category of one man noise and as such was immensely enjoyable. It had the high pitched feedback squiggles and quick jumps and juxtapositions that mark a lot of cut-up noise, and was all performed with the air of a man who takes what he does quite seriously, in a good way. And again, set wasn’t too long, good length. As an aside, this got me thinking that maybe someday someone will do KBD/Pebbles style compilations of one man/one woman noise tracks. It would sort of be the same idea, like all of the tracks collected would be, to an extent, variations on a very loose theme. That would be awesome, I hope someone does that.
       After this it was time for the headliners, Vampire Can’t. This group is so named because it’s the collabo between Vampire Belt, the duo of young celebrity drummer Chris Corsano and less famous guitarist Bill Nace, and electronics and voice performer Jessica Rylan, aka Can’t. Having bought one of the Vampire Belt CD-Rs at this show, I’ve since then found out that the music Corsano and Nace played on this date was less rock-flavored than their recorded work, which was probably due in part to Can’t being there, as her other stuff tends to fall more on the free electronics side of things. Corsano played a couple of beats over the course of the set, but more often the musicians fired up and down freer rock/jazz/noise avenues. Actually my favorite part was a fairly brief episode of quieter improvisation, where each player concentrated on getting less conventional sounds from his or her instrument(s), creating sort of a moving collage of sound textures that effectively contrasted with the all-out blasting sections which were inevitably worked up to. It was also one of the only times that you could hear Can’t clearly, as in the louder parts her electronics were often drowned out by the men. She still made her presence felt though, cause you could hear her vox a lot and also she danced and threw herself around while singing. I would call her a very animated performer. Nace played very hard and apparently by the time the set was finished all but one of his guitar strings were broken. Towards the end of the last piece, he held the end of one of the broken strings and dragged his guitar across the floor of the whole room, through the crowd, and out the door to the bar and back, which made some good noise. Corsano was good too, of course, and played electric bass with a drumstick on his lap instead of drums during the aforementioned quiet part. Also, I like Vampire Belt because the track titles on their first CD-R, Dead Is OK, seem to all be Steve Lacy-themed, while those on their second CD-R, Moth Lake, are Archie Shepp-themed. Awesome.

VAMPIRE CAN'T: Bill Nace on guitar. Everything is psychedelic.

2673: Couldn't find any performance pix so here's some of his cool artwork instead from Everything is psychedelic.