EVA SAYS: Holy shit! I am so hyped up on Monster Energy Drink right now it’s not even funny. It’s 3:23 in the morning, I’ve smoked my third cigarette in a row, and I’ve just read this last sentence over five times. Whoever thought of giving out free mega doses of glucose and sucrose in sugar-water beverages to kids at an avant-garde, prog-rock, DIY West Philly show is either an asshole or a genius — I haven’t decided yet.
Luckily, the task ahead of me deserves all the energy I can muster because it’s all I can do to capture the magnificence of tonight’s performances. Along with the up-coming Sunday show, tonight’s lineup included some of the most experimental, forward-thinking bands of the week. So while the task ahead of me may seem relatively large, I find comfort in knowing that not a single one of tonight’s bands could care less what some reviewer has to say. And I prefer it that way.
That being said — I think I’m in love. I’m in love with Cheshire Agusta, Stinking Lizaveta‘s goddess-queen of drums. I’m in love with the reverberant cacophony made by Carlos Santiago’s violin. I’m in love with the mystic of Grandchildren’s SK1 Casio effect. Most of all, I’m in love with how excited most of these bands seem to be that dudes like Morgan, Emory, and Rosenzweig are putting shit like this together.
Needless to say, I love going to West Philly shows. I have yet to be disappointed by The Avant Gentleman’s Lodge array of talent or any of the other West Philly house gigs for that matter and I am continuously grateful for the outlet. I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve been disappointed reviewing some big show at the Troc or EC only to be aggravated by the New Jersey crowd, when all the while I could have instead been sipping on a Pabsts with some sweaty guy playing the upright electric bass two feet in front of me, so close I could smell his B.O.
In any case, I don’t know if I could even begin to use words to describe some of the music I heard tonight. Incendiary, tour-de-force, pulchritudinous- they all seem to fall short of the real thing. Unfortunately, I walk in late and only catch the tail end of Bear is Driving. From what I could see, which wasn’t much, there was some fantastic use of the triangle and way too much fog machine. But they did churn out a pretty effective cover of King Crimson’s “Red,” which proves they’ve got balls at the very least.
Up next is Normal Love (the only band of the night with a name that doesn’t sound like the title of an illustrated learning book for five year olds) and having heard them before, I know this show is going to be, how do you say?? OFF THE HOOK! It only takes seconds for the schizophrenic discomfort of their “melody” to draw chills from my skin- I mean that in a good way. Their music is the kind that’s just so perfectly discordant, so assaulting and soothing at the same time. And the thing that amazes me about these guys is the fact that they play with this totally controlled abandon, as if the perverse manipulation of their instruments is the most natural thing in the world. I mean, you hear this composure of noise coming from a guitar that sounds like nails on chalk and you’re thinking, “What the fuck are you guys doing looking at sheet music?!” Anyway, all I know is it makes my skin crawl, my heart palpitate, my body sway and by the end of the set my nails have been gnawed skin deep. Naturally, I could end this review with some catchy cliche like “there is nothing normal about these guys.” Ha. Ha. But fuck. I rather just tell you to go see them live so you too can experience what it feels like to be assaulted by noise. Now the only thing these guys need to do is officially change their name to Wolf Pussy.
Considering the crowd was smart enough to support Normal Love, you think they’d have the brains to stick around awhile. But for some reason the room thinned out shortly after their set and I myself was left wondering if the next two bands would be able to compare. But from what I can remember (I was two forties into the night the last time I saw them) Grandchildren was another band which had impressed me. But once they started, it seemed obvious to me that they lacked the tightness of the previous band. But that isn’t to say they weren’t exciting in their own right. A bit more melodious than Normal Love, though not quite as ambitious, this West Philly band still conjured up a dazzling panoply of sadistic sounds. Their noised ranged from dark, ominous jerks which took sudden turns to tuneful, almost poppy sounds. Unfortunately, their set was way too short for me to get into their music and I was left feeling like I needed more. Either that or my second Monster drink was kicking in, causing the life of my attention span to shorten.
Stinking Lizaveta, the last show of the night, was by far the most pleasant surprise. By this time, most of the hipsters had cleared out and what remained were long haired, flannel wearing metal looking kids. I must admit I was really enthralled to see a chick climb behind the drums, which is why I paid such close attention. Not surprisingly when she started kicking ass on her kit I thought for sure this must be some angry guy’s wet dream materialized. Together the trio was like a powerhouse of pissed off metal rock mixed with intense 60’s style stoner riffs with an intensity that caused even the eyeballs to vibrate. But it was their musicianship which seemed to really awe the crowd. Guitarist Yanni Papadopoulos made guitar strings disappear with those fingers and who ever knew that two sticks beating on some hollow plastic could make that sound. Mixed in with the most in sync bass player I’ve seen in a long time, the band was giving hard-ons to kids in the front row. I’m serious when I say I wasn’t the only one standing there with my mouth open, salivating. I admit, I was thrilled to be seeing someone who reminded me of Zappa playing blasting riffs like sounded like Thurston Moore meets Hendrix. They were playing so fast, so hard, so loud you couldn’t help but feel a loss of control. Naturally, shit got rowdy and some kids made some pathetic attempts at crowd surfing, but that didn’t last long. But perhaps the best part of their set was when they dedicated “Cyclone” to the recently departed Rick D. These guys knew exactly what they were doing and I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone wouldn’t stick around to see this show. Really guys, your loss.