Asian Dub Foundation / Andrea Parker @ ARO.space - 3/26/99
Fugazi @ The Capitol Theater - 2/27/99
Love and Rockets @ The Showbox - 3/12/99
Plastic People of the Universe @ Sit 'n' Spin - 3/10/99
The Roots @ The Fenix Aboveground - 3/3/99
Asian Dub Foundation / Andrea Parker /
Audio Active / Hive
March 26, 1999
Like myself, the Seattle Weekly seemed to be keener on the Andrea Parker part of the show than any of the remaining acts. I had a little trouble buying a ticket and, when asked to verify that I had the right show, I stared at the ticket longer than necessary. I wasn't having trouble reading the print; I was just in denial. I know they print the headliners in larger letters, but wasn't this Andrea's show? I don't read The Stranger (Seattle's alternative weekly paper) enough obviously. They seemed keener on Asian Dub Foundation. Just another example of knowing the slant of your sources.
The show was broken down nicely--two live bands and two DJs. Before Audio Active and during the instrument swap, Hive filled the house with his flava of drum and bass. Toe-tapping enough, but not so that I'd recognize any of it or his style if I ran into his set again. Which is both good and bad; you don't clear the room when you spin, yet you don't really engender any kind of loyal following either if they can't remember your sound.
Audio Active--five fellows and a lot of hardware--were surprisingly entertaining. I have finally discovered the sweet spot at ARO.space and got a good spineful of the basslines, which helped offset the annoyance factor of the vocals. eP's Illustrious Editor summed them up well: some acts are better because of what you bring with you and what you take away afterward. On their own, they're simply competent. Throw in some electronic spikes and sizzles and a solid helping of industrial metal guitar and you can see that you won't go hungry, but it's not a spectacular meal that lingers on your taste buds for weeks.
Which brings us to the personal stamp and Asian Dub Foundation and Ms. Parker. After the second rapid-fire, dub-infused junglized song about police brutality, I had a handle on ADF's agenda. Agenda is probably too strong of a word, but rather 'impact' since their energy and intent had that effect on the audience. ADF mixes a lot of elements--Jamaican dub, Indian tablas, Middle East chants, punk, drum and bass--and throws it all into your face. It's hard, fast, and furious, and thoroughly danceable.
I would have liked to have heard more of her own stuff, but Andrea was quite aware of the vibe left in the wake of Asian Dub Foundation. She gathers up the energy still cycling about the room and throws it down on a turntable. She hits us with "Straight Outta Compton," and proceeds to remind us of her beginnings when there was just as much sound and effect as there was music as she makes the song lurch and snap at you. Touring the States to promote her recent DJ release on K7! Records, she throws out recognizable beats and samples, teasing us with just enough to feel comfortable before layering them beneath a slash of fractured metal, before tearing them away and spinning off into a heavy beat. Her DJ Kicks album is a great example of what she brings to a live set, melding the sounds of darkness and sputtering machinery and recycled voices from ancient transmissions to the familiar. It becomes a surreal evening. You know these songs, know them well enough to sing and move along. Yet there's something else here, some shadow which will haunt these songs when you hear them again.
That is the imprint of Andrea Parker. It's a sigil burned into your brain. Those of us at ARO.space that night were lucky enough to be marked.
photo by robert zverina
Committed To Excellence.
"Hello, we're Fugazi from Washington, D.C." And with that the houselights came UP, and Fugazi began their first show in Washington state since '95. Opening up the night with "Break" from last year's End Hits, Brendan Canty's staccato drum roll announcing the return of these DIY icons. Family life has kept the band from the longer and more intense touring schedule they've been accustomed to over the years, but these shorter outings affected neither their musicianship nor their performance. Fugazi were a well-oiled machine; in control and in tune not only with one another, but with the audience as well. And it showed. The all ages crowd at the Capitol Theater pushed and pressed each other to get closer to the stage. The band repeatedly stopped the show and told the crowd to step back and give everyone some breathing room. When a mosh pit formed early on and people began crowd surfing, Ian MacKaye lectured the crowd on respect, telling them to, "Learn how to dance." (which eerily resembled the words Mike Watt used on a similar crowd back in '95 at the King Cat Theatre when he was touring behind Ball Hog Or Tug Boat?) When a young girl passed out at the front of the crowd, the band interrupted the song they were playing--stopping the music on a dime--with MacKaye telling the security guard, who was trying to lift the girl out of the suffocating crowd (and nearly dislocating her shoulders in the process) to, "...just let her sit on the edge of the stage and let her catch her breath. She's only passed out." Staring out from beneath his sharp brow, MacKaye's intense gaze is not something to be argued with. The security guard let the girl rest on the edge of the stage and the band fell immediately back into the song they were playing--in unison and without missing a beat.
It's this intense passion and respect for all involved that have made Fugazi shows the stuff of legends; in sync with each other to the point where both band and audience are truly one collective. Throughout their three hour set they moved and segued between songs and albums without a setlist; avoiding repetition by letting themselves explore new paths; giving a sharper edge and more punch to songs like "Place Position," "Closed Captioned" and "KYEO." Bassist Joe Lally stepped up to the microphone for the slow, bluesy "Recap Modotti." Long time roadie Jerry Busher joined the band onstage to provide additional drumming on several songs, as well as playing trumpet during the encore of "Floating Boy." During the quieter "Pink Frosty" MacKaye once again stopped playing to address an audience member who kept shouting for "Waiting Room." "All of our songs are equal-opportunity songs," he rebutted, and with that the band continued on with "Pink Frosty." Fugazi moved and grooved along with the beat of an energetic audience, who themselves were keeping time with the band's every move. Guy Picciotto sloughed off his guitar and danced for several numbers, and Ian MacKaye was finally seen to break a smile during "No Surprise."
Fugazi encored with three sets of songs, with the first, "Arpeggiator," dedicated to Holland's The Ex, who shared the bill with Fugazi and whose own strong and unshakeable DIY ethic has been going strong for over twenty years now. The Ex's influence on Fugazi was noticeably felt. "Returning the favor," said MacKaye. Returning the favor is what Fugazi did all night long.
Love and Rockets
March 12, 1999
Earpollution night out
One of the nice things that has been said about Earpollution is our lack of musical rigidity, that we slash our way across a great many genres in our quest for a good listen. Here's a dirty little secret: more than half the staff could have written this review since we were all packed into the Showbox with about a thousand other folk. Shhh. Don't tell anyone. And if you do, say that it is the common link which brought us all together in the first place. [hey...how did i end up buying drinks all night?! --ed.]
Somehow Jeff and Mark got the short straws on this one. They were going to play it good cop/bad cop, but found there wasn't enough to disagree about to make that scenario work. Well, Jeff might have found Daniel Ash a little more smashingly exquisite than Mark did, but that is a matter of personal preference and this is, after all, a totally objective recollection of the night's entertainment. Though for the record, most of the fawning was done by other members of our party. The rest of us can simply dream of attaining such adoration from our fan-base.
Jeff and Mark on the Nostalgia Factor
Jeff: Jeepers Creepers. My thing for Love and Rockets is a rare emotion even for me, and I'm a total extrovert. But these three guys make me feel giddy, and that's just listening to them at home. Seeing them live is a complete meltdown for me. I have to push and shove my way to the front and make enemies with everyone around me to get there. But to this end: there is no other band that I would rather see live or get close to. I feel like I'm 18 all over again; Love and Rockets are like a fountain of youth to me. And I find it ironic that they seem to have this ageless factor. Kind of like Jagger or Bowie, they never age. I have always loved them and I always will. They play to the very center of my heart. I'm oversharing I know, but deal with it.
Mark: Uh, sharing, uh, okay. How about this? The last time I saw Love and Rockets was 1987. Portland. Schnitzer Auditorium. Essentially a sit-down concert hall. They treated us to most of Earth, Sun, and Moon, ending with the dancing bees and Daniel Ash doing Jimi with his guitar and a stack of amplifiers. It was my first introduction to noise as music. I felt so...so...avant-garde. The next time I saw these guys was the Bauhaus reunion. It was easy to forget that twelve years had passed--the Bauhaus songs even older--and they forged ahead in that time, both as Love and Rockets and as solo artists. You're so eager to have memory resurrected that you forget about the progress of time.
Mark and Jeff on "I can't believe they played that!"
Mark: "Kundalini Express," "Holiday on the Moon," "Ball of Confusion," "Mirror People." Did I miss one?
Jeff: Highlights for me were "Ghosts of the Multiple Feature," "Deep Deep Down," and how could you forget "No New Tale to Tell?" Actually, there weren't any real surprises for me with the set. But then, they could play a set of Maria Carey covers and I would be happy. I'll cover this more later but I think Lift is a brilliant move for them. And I was happy that they concentrated mostly on that album. How many bands from the '80s that are still around and tour do you walk in wishing that they would just play the new album? My only beef is that I would have really liked to hear material from Hot Trip to Heaven and Sweet F.A. [would have liked to have heard "fever," but "kundalini express" was sublime! --ed.]
Mark and Jeff on the Lift
Mark: The electronic elements of Lift hampered them slightly live, forcing them against a click track for a couple of the songs. But elsewhere, they elevated themselves, dissolving the structures from the album into rising, writhing curtains of sound...
Jeff: You're boring the reader, man. Cut to the chase! Lift is fucking awesome. The greatest thing about Love and Rockets is that they are super consistent. Love and Rockets have never really changed. David Bowie once said, "The future belongs to those who can hear it coming." This sums up Love and Rockets. They have a musical mission that they have stayed true to over the years. Sure, they've added and subtracted elements that suited their moods, but they always manage to keep that dark, deep thing that they are so good at intact in all of the their records. They heard the future coming with Lift and added modern electronics. Underneath it is still solid, pure Love and Rockets passion. It's one of the best damn records they have realized. It sure give me a LIFT.
Jeff and Mark on Orgy (the openers)
Jeff: Not enough naked people. I don't know much about this band, but I have heard the half-baked version of "Blue Monday." Marilyn Manson fans would probably like them. I'll say this though, Manson's cover of the Eurhythmics' "Sweet Dreams" is so much damn better than the original.
Mark: Orgy hasn't discovered that the volume knob turns counter-clockwise. Watching them is like wandering into a chat room and getting cornered by someone with a screen name of "ILIKGIRLS." They've got the caps lock down and they're going on and on and on. Subtlety comes when you discover something beyond the Boones Farm section in 7-11. Orgy is your six-foot-four nephew, come home after stumbling across the Clairol treatment aisle while out buying mascara.
Riffing on until they turn out the lights
Jeff: I could have watched Love and Rockets all night. Maybe they'll play my wedding?
Mark: But only if they take requests. [and bring their smoke and lights! --ed.]>
-Jeff Ashley / -Mark Teppo
photo by robert zverina
Plastic People of the Universe
The Plastic People of the Universe are strangers in a strange land. A
progressive rock band from Prague that formed in the wake of the 1968
Soviet crackdown in Czechoslovakia, they played illicit shows in deep woods
and remote farmhouses until finally in 1976 two of their members were
imprisoned for "disturbing the peace." The 1989 Velvet Revolution
vindicated them and made them heroes. Now well into middle age, they
reunited for their first and probably last tour of the United States.
"Nobody nowhere never got anywhere."
The grayhaired sax player Vratislav Brabenec reads from a card to announce the next song. On the back of the card is pasted a page from a family restaurant menu. At which latenight diner stop on their tour did this band from the Czech Republic see the menu and what was it about this idealized photo of fast food which prompted them to keep it?
PPU has never been taken in by appearances, neither the utopian dreams of communist orthodoxy nor the post-Soviet Horatio Alger lies of a free market economy. For former enemies of the state they are refreshingly apolitical, singing about ulcers and hangovers rather than spouting manifestoes. Their appearance is unassuming and a little bit worn; any one of them would look at home hunched over a city park chessboard. But like the old guy in a rusted junker next to you at a light, they may not look like much but they'll whup your candy ass off the line.
They sing in Czech but little of the meaning is lost even to their American audiences because the substance of their songs is the music, not the lyrics. The brief introductions are the only English that is spoken all night but it is enough. As with jazz it is the mere suggestion of a theme which sets the stage for the aural play they are about to perform.
After introducing the song, Brabenec removes his eyeglasses and hooks them over his music stand. He removes his glasses because he does not need them to feel out the notes with his fingers. And I close my eyes because I don't need them to see what Frank Zappa--who along with Lou Reed was an early influences on PPU--would have called "a movie for your ears," in this case with a script that could have been written by Kafka, a Prague denizen of another time.
Lead man Milan Hlavsa's bass has a Peter Gunn flavor, bringing to mind a midnight creep through cloak and dagger streets. The short violent strokes of Jiri Kabes' electric viola move through the mind's eye like a flashing knife. Somehwere down the street are faint tinkling keys of a gin joint pianola and a blues guitarist busks for nickels in the shelter of a doorway, his amp illegally plugged into a telephone pole. Subways, trams, the shuffle of feet are called to mind by the drumbeat. All of it sets up Brabenec's free jazz sax riffs which swoop in like angry birds to pluck out your eyes. Dream logic applies so although I am blind I can track their upward spiral as the blown notes crescendo and the birds disappear into the sky. I shake myself from the vision in time to see Brabenec convulsing with each soul-wrenching note as if each were his last gasp and he wanted it to make the maximum noise.
The song ends and the audience applauds. The movie screen behind my eyes is blank again. The band collects itself, sips on their drinks. Brabenec turns the page, ready to introduce the next song.
"There's a fly in my morning beer," he reads, and a new film begins.
photo by cecil beatty-yasutake
Yours truly got to experience some real Hip-Hop organic style. The Roots were in town; the show was entitled "A Common Evening with The Roots," but it was anything but. I should have known the night was going to be special when I spotted Black Thought, the
frontman and head MC of the group, outside checking out the crowd. He
talked to them, took pictures with them and shook my hand as I slipped him
a business card and told him I dug his group's latest joint.
A local female duo called Pieces of Soul opened for The Roots. These sisters were nice, their garb was straight Nubian, and the flow was pure, spoken word poetry, with local DJ extraordinaire Vitamin D providing musical backdrop. When The Roots finally hit the stage, the crowd went straight bananas and for the next two hours Black Thought and the gang, ?uestlove (drums), Hub (Bass), Kamal (Keys) and Scratch (Vocal DJ), ripped their way through old and new Roots material, never missing a beat. And just when they had you thinking things couldn't get any better, Common joined them onstage and added his fierce vocal flair to the mix. Highlights, please. That would imply there were lowlights and there weren't. The entire show was phat like their latest, platinum release Things Fall Apart.
Two years or so ago I saw the Roots perform at The Showbox for the first time. I wasn't big on them then but my brother assured me that would change after I saw them perform live. My impression from that night was ?uestlove was too funky gritty for words. Hub did things to a bass guitar Hendrix would have found inspiring. Kamal made me think of John Paul Jones and Rahzel is called the Godfather of Noyze for a reason. As for the frontman Black Thought, I remember feeling after the show that he didn't give me what I wanted; instead he gave me what I needed. Food for thought from a true MC who's deep on the mic.
I bought Things Fall Apart before the Roots came to town. It's the first Roots CD I've purchased. Don't get me wrong. I own a few 12-inch singles, but Things Fall Apart, their 4th album, is to me a near masterpiece of true Hip Hop music. You bet your bottom dollar I'll be adding the rest of their stuff to my collection before the year's end. They represent the real Hip-Hop.