Bebel Gilberto @ Commodore Ballroom - 7/01/2000
Destroy All Monsters @ Center on Contemporary Art - 7/14/2000
High Sierra Music Festival @ Quincy, CA - 6/30-7/03/2000
Legendary Pink Dots @ The Showbox - 7/11/2000
Kid606/Cex/Marumari/Zammuto @ The Knitting Factory - 7/09/2000
Mayhem/Hate Eternal/Exhumed/Nocturnus @ State Theatre - 7/14/2000
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult/Meg Lee Chin @ Catwalk Club - 7/07/2000
Roskilde Festival 2000 @ Roskilde, DK - 6/29-7/02/2000
July 1st, 2000
Vancouver, BC Canada
For such an exotic singer, I needed something a little more extreme than seeing up-and-coming bossa nova legend, Bebel Gilberto, squeezed into a tiny space in Seattle. I grabbed toothbrush and passport and went north of the border to catch the first show of her North American Tour at the Du Maurier Jazz Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia. Daughter of bossa nova master João Gilberto, Bebel carries the smooth tradition into the 21st century with her remarkably sublime debut album, Tanto Tempo. Live, she brings an extra level of sparkle and energy to the music that is lost in the sterility of the studio. Backed by a tight band of drum, keyboard, guitar, and flute, she charmed the assembled Canadians--who, rightly so, knew where to be on Canada Day. Performing most of the songs from her debut album as well as a few well-remembered favorites, she delivered an incredibly poised and polished performance for her first night out.
I spent the rest of the weekend being reminded of her album in all the windows of the local CD stores and I can only hope the fervor following her performances follows her on her jaunt across the continent. Truly an inspiring and remarkable show, I mark this one as one of those shows that was outside of my normal genres, but I am so glad to have been enriched by the new sultry-voiced queen of the Brazilian sound.
Destroy All Monsters
Center on Contemporary Art
July 14, 2000
I must confess, I didn't even know about the art opening at the Center on Contemporary Art for their 20th anniversary celebration; I just ended up there with friends. I had never heard of Destroy All Monsters before that night and I am extremely happy that I ended up there. Seeing Destroy All Monsters perform at COCA was unquestionably a gift from the gods of experimental rock music history or anti-rock music history, whichever you prefer.
Once inside the COCA, there were about a hundred people roving around looking at the inventive art and watching the experimental music event. Destroy All Monsters were spread out in the center of the gallery in what looked like a yard sale or a thrift store gone improvisational performance. Destroy All Monsters founding members Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, and Cary Loren reunited for a four-hour computerless multimedia performance. Kelley and Shaw's two ten-by-twenty-foot murals illustrated and documented the Monsters' seminal upbringing. There were the artist's videos playing constantly throughout the opening along with Niagra's recent paintings, prints, and photographs demanding attention from the walls. Tons of Mike Kelley's rag doll toys (featured on Sonic Youth's Dirty album) were strewn about the stage floor along with Speak and Spells, toy keyboards, talking toys and kids books, and some old toys I honestly haven't seen since I was in grammar school. They also played guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, as well as some homemade instruments. The whole performance was encapsulated by a painted yellow-lined rectangle that defined where the performers were and where the audience was to be. Destroy All Monsters were surrounded on all four sides by the audience, this layout made the multimedia performance work well.
While Destroy All Monsters performed, I couldn't help having the feeling of being born too late. These guys were defying rock 'n' roll clichés long before I was even able to say "Destroy All Monsters." Seeing all of their art surrounding them while they played made the show even more remarkable. The chaotic music and the punk art combined was physical evidence of the revolutionary music scene that they helped develop in Detroit and Ann Arbor in the '70s. All of the old flyers and memorabilia intermixed with the art really conveyed a sense of history to me. This was a dynamic music scene that a friend of mine, Steve MacKay, had told me about. Steve is from Ann Arbor and was playing his trademark baritone saxophone in a band called Carnal Kitchen in the early '70s, when none other than Iggy Pop and the Stooges enlisted him to perform on Funhouse. MacKay also toured with the Stooges and gained a strong cult following as a dynamic and innovative sax player. Steve MacKay is another important "forgotten hero" from the Michigan scene and the time before punk rock. Whenever he'd tell me stories from this Michigan music scene, I could only imagine what it was like. Destroy All Monsters helped me put all of his stories into perspective and the Monsters gave me even more respect for Steve MacKay and this important and under recognized music movement.
All of the art on the walls and the aesthetic of Destroy All Monsters had a familiar look to it. What I saw at the COCA were all of the things that come with knowing the music, image, and collaborators of Sonic Youth, the photographic esthetic of Richard Kern, and the drawings of Raymond Pettibone all rolled into one event. While Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Renaldo and Steve Shelly are known for breaking down the walls of rock music with strangely tuned thrift store guitars, Sonic Youth's defiant New York pop trash style, which has been so ingrained in the underground music world, has predecessors. Destroy All Monsters was doing it sooner. Not that this reduces the importance of Sonic Youth; it only deepens the history of the genre. It was exciting to see music and art that obviously influenced bands like Sonic Youth and Half Japanese. The only thing missing from this show was Niagra, the diva of Destroy All Monsters, who couldn't attend the event. Her presence would have made this performance event more monumental. If you missed the performance at the COCA you still have until August 31st to see the artwork and history of Destroy All Monsters and the rust belt music revolution of the pre-punk era.
High Sierra Music Festival
June 30 - July 3, 2000
Hey all you hepcats and crazy chicks out there, I want to say something to you (and it ain't plastics): High Sierra Music Festival! The name starts to say it all, but a lot gets left out of the picture so I'll flesh it out with the good, bad and trivial observances. I set out for Quincey, Cali with more than a little trepidation, although I should have saved it for the lead-footed return trip where I got a ticket for sailing my friend's Saab across the Nevada wasteland. So fine me. I drive a wheezy '88 Tempo and if I have a chance to drive 90-plus mph I'm all over it.
As someone who worked through a serious hippie (if there is such a thing) phase I worried a bit that I would end up milling around in a haze of cannabis smoke and tie-dyes with a bunch of Jerry-atric Dead Heads and candy kid posers. Well, I did, but there was so much else going on that I didn't mind. The spectacle reminded me of the old Oregon Cuntry Fayre, except that everyone here was invited to the night shows as well. It was a party 24/7 for the four days it lasted. The battle cry of the diehards punctuated the air at all hours of the day, night and even the mornings with: "FESTIVAAAL"--a reminder of why we were there.
Why were we there? For the music, silly, but it's also not that direct. I found the big name draws like The Radiators, Los Lobos, Leftover Salmon, and Jorma took a back seat in my highlights of the festival inventory. They got me to Cali, but bands I'd never heard of made it a great time. The big guys did well, so buy their stuff in any music store. [ earpollution would like to encourage you buy the music at your local, independently run music store. --ed.]
The Blue Rags had the eye of the tiger at this festival and get my vote for knock-down drag-out rockin'-'round-the-clock. They took their rockabilly boogieing to new heights and new sideways and new places that I'd never imagined. Even when they got lost they never stumbled, and just when you thought the thread was gone entirely, the hole they dug themselves into would burst out into the fresh air and sunshine...of China. What a gas. They accompanied the irascible Reverend Chumleigh in a hilarious all-night revival and Vaudeville show. For a teaser I'll tell you it involved an attempted underwater handcuff escape trick that would take much too long to describe, so see it for yourself at the next camp meeting. However, the album of theirs I chose to leave with was a disappointment though---The Blue Rags in New York has wasted-time interviews and poor sound recordings of them jamming on the subway and elsewhere. See them live and get a more polished record.
A very sweet voice and smooth grooves combined with playful lyrics to put ThaMuseMeant in the top 100 of my favorite bands at the fest. The bass player sounds like Patsy Cline and it made my day, night and heart flutter to listen to her. The rest of the band didn't slouch either with some fierce fiddle, mandolin, and guitar jamming. They summed up the festival spirit with their anthem "Grow Your Own and Pass It 'Round," which is also the name of their last album.
Big applause goes out to Joules Graves, a solo singer who accompanies herself with a djembe (no mean feat) for the really rousing sing-alongs. She's got boundless energy and it's impossible to not get worked up when she's on stage. To compare her or Libby Kirkpatrick to Ani DiFranco gives only the slightest hint of what they do. Libby uses her rich voice and guitar to spin some great tunes. The Yonder Mountain String Band jammed so hard I had to go soak my head to cool off even before I got out dancing. I thought they earned the psychobillyyondermtnslammgrass scepter for their show.
I had heard great things about The Slip and The Motet, but I ran short on time, energy, and options (I forget which) and never saw them me'self. Hugh Masekela was a great smooth jazz and jammin' change of pace. Los Lobos got on stage an hour late and cranked out a mediocre show. If you still miss Jerry G., check out the Steve Kimock Band for some airy, mindless noodling. He ended the festival and left me frankly disappointed and wanting anything more upbeat and inspirational for a final note in my ear.
My biggest complaint of the show was the lack of four or five more hours in the day to see the myriad of other bands and amusements or else catch twenty-three more winks. Thoughtless people combined with porta-johns to create some unpleasant episodes, but as any festival-goer knows the outhouses beat the alternative. Offsite parking was a minor inconvenience. The heat became overpowering at times, but thank god for the sod laid in the Music Meadow Arena and the shady groves scattered about the fairgrounds. I was jealous of the vendors and musicians for their grassy, cool campsites, but was usually so tired whenever I found my tent that I didn't mind the sun-baked, dusty spots where the pedestrians flopped. In truth we ended up in a great tent city neighborhood, camped next to the inflatable pool animal acid kingdom. Those guys from Berkeley were better than T.V. and sliced bread combined.
The timeless jester was omnipresent, spreading his vibe with wit and tricks. Mark Henson had a booth full of great images; some erotic, some sad social commentary. A bus on a meandering schedule took festers up to the Feather River to beat the heat at a swimming hole that sported two rope swings. That was another definite High light. In fact, if I had to pick a favorite aspect I'd say all four days were the highpoint.
photo by danny murphy
The Legendary Pink Dots
The Legendary Pink Dots are absolutely extraordinary live. This band has been around for so long dwelling in the depths of underground music, that it's a rare luxury to have them come to the United States. They came here all the way from Holland at the tail end of a world tour that started in January. The Pink Dots began making music in 1979 and have been consistently putting out intriguing albums ever since. They have such a large collection of work that is extremely daunting to buy one of their recordings; you feel as though whichever one you buy you are somehow missing the best one. They have 26 or 27 full-length albums and of all of the albums of theirs that I have (three), I didn't recognize a single song that they played at the Showbox or at the Fillmore in San Francisco in 1998.
Critics, fans, and quite possibly themselves have often categorized the Legendary Pink Dots as a goth band, but the reality is that they are a great deal more than just goth. The Pink Dots' music has a gothic overtone but is also very psychedelic, dreamy and surreal. Sometimes it's almost jazz. The whole feel of The Legendary Pink Dots and their music somehow coincides with the phenomenon that The Residents create; the two bands are oddly similar to me.
Edward Ka-Spel, also known as The Prophet, is the singer and original founding member of the Pink Dots. He delivers a very ominous tone in his voice when he spills through his poetically abstract and apocalyptic lyrics. There is this playful storytelling tone in the way he sings that makes everything sound somehow kind of cheerful and mischievous. Maybe it's the English accent, who knows? Ka-Spel, the exiled Englishman, plays keyboards like a mad professor in a circus side show when he's not busy singing. The most amazing element to the Pink Dot sound is in the fact that they combine electronic music with wind instruments, stringed instruments, and a drummer. Niels Van Hoorn, who has been playing saxophone and flute with the Pink Dots since 1991, is responsible for a great deal of their distinctive sound while his personality is radiantly entertaining. At one point in the performance, he slowly wandered around the crowd at the Showbox with a light beaming out of his saxophone while the rest of the band jammed on stage.
Phil Knight, also known as "The Silverman," has been the master of their electronic devices and soundscapes since 1980. He is a musical genius, another founding member of the Pink Dots, and co-captain of the artificial side of their music. Martijn de Kleer is their main guitar player who managed to pull a couple of magical guitar solos out of his bag of tricks without making any cocky rock star faces. The drummer and bass player of The Pink Dots, Ryan Moore (a Canadian), wandered about the stage and played just about every other unoccupied instrument at one point or another during their set.
The Legendary Pink Dots are a cast of very professional and astonishingly incredible musicians who know how to feature each musician's individual talents without being ostentatious performers. They are so prolific and persistent at their craft that it is a wonder they don't have a bigger following in the United States and the world. Oddly enough, the largest show they have ever played was to 2,500 people in Mexico City in 1995. Somehow it seems as though they should be better known. Maybe it's good to see them while they are a well-kept secret, before their world tour takes hold. The one great thing about their small cult following is that fans can see them play in smaller clubs and not have to wait in long lines for tickets. Whatever happens in the future for The Legendary Pink Dots, it is certain that they will continue to explore new avenues of their sound without ever stagnating. By the time they come back to the United States they will probably have put out another five albums. Be sure to catch them when they come back to North America, you will be in for a captivating musical revelation.
photo by craig young
Kids these days. They do the darnest things. Some take the stage with
the poise of a veteran performer, pull all the stops and trump even
the tightest of acts with their juvenile antics. But others avoid the
stage altogether. They hark back to the days of yore when electronic
music threatened to debunk the rock star from his spotlit perch.
Though ostensibly a showcase for the upstart Carpark Records and the even younger Tigerbeat6, the night turned out to be yet another occasion to revel in electronica's dirty little secret: it's deadly boring to see live. Carpark may sport a solid roster of budding acts, but it's near impossible to have a laptop do all the work and hold a room's attention.
Knowing full well that the odds were against him, Zammuto decided to call a spade a spade. He put his gear inside a black filing cabinet and then propped the unseemly box on a table at the center of the stage. He ran two cables from the cabinet to a small mixing board hidden all the way at the back of the room. After peeking into his musical contraption one last time, he scuttled toward the back. His music is an abstract thicket of shifting sounds that is hard enough to appreciate if you're paying attention, but strictly impossible in this setting: The crowd talked straight though his set.
Marumari followed next, armed with little more than a small strobe light and his signature sugar-coated beats. The ever present risk of an epileptic outbreak in the audience contrasted nicely with his shimmering melodies. For all his squelchy beats and oddball sounds, Marumari rarely strays from the three-minute pop form, so nary a moment goes by without him offering a new ditty, which was fine by my standards, though Earpollution's Craig Young found the frequent interruptions off-putting: "I thought continuity was the whole point. He doesn't really have to press the space bar every time."
The night was starting to drift, when Baltimore's Cex began to roil about the audience wearing a mask. After a short dance among the crowd, he took the microphone: "I'm Cex from Maryland. I know that about half of you are music critics, so this next song is so you remember my name." And who could forget how he managed to get the room to chant "C-E-X" on cue, while he darted through the audience. He's an obnoxious performer; a one-man happening that gets the crowd going despite his music. [Click here for a Carpark Records MP3 from the June 29 show in New York]
A little past midnight, Kid606 made his way onstage. Unfortunately, he brought a handful of technical difficulties with him and had to wrestle with the sound system for a couple minutes. I presume the stage lights had something to do with it, but he was sweating. He tried to regain his poise, staring intently at his PowerBook. However frantic the music--and Kid606 is not known for letting samples run their leisurely course--the blue glow of his laptop didn't even flicker.
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her cohorts were disappointed to see an old man behind a curtain pushing levers and dials that make the Wizard roar. At least he was turning and pulling things. Kid606, on the other hand, may have just raised an eyebrow once or twice.
It's not that the lack of physical effort that undermines the music. Zammuto, Marumari and Kid606 stand head and shoulders above the rest of the pack, but clearly there's nothing to see. It's music after all.
July 14, 2000
St. Petersburg, FL
Road trip! Jason and I headed off for a nice relaxing evening of
black metal in lovely downtown St. Pete. It was a great evening and
show except for two things. First, either the sound guy or the PA
equipment stunk. It's possible we were just in a bad acoustical area
of the club, but all night we heard the high and low ranges, but no
mid-range. On the bands that used only low range it was okay, on the
others it stunk. The second is a problem for Exhumed: No T-shirts.
After their performance I know my husband wanted to buy a shirt. I
don't understand Relapse sending them on the road with no
merchandise. I know Relapse recently moved so maybe it's a faux pas
and they'll get shirts later in the tour. I sure hope they have
enough money to stay on the tour and eat.
Nocturnus opened the show with a technical metal set that was hurt badly by the lack of a mid-range and one whole guitarist that was dropped out. We watched him flail away and heard not a thing. They had a few songs that were really excellent, but most were so nondescript with the sound problems that it's unfair to judge them on this performance. Out there picking up their equipment and setting up were the bands (most all except Mayhem); we give them all high points for taking care of their equipment. Exhumed stormed the stage in their really-too-tight leather pants, bullet belts loaded for bear and bods that were fashioned by beer and bongs. Did I mention that their necks must be on a swivel to swish their hair continuously while playing at the speed of light? These guys are a visual treat if you get into irony. The perfect tour: Exhumed, Marduk, Angelcorpse and Immortal--it could be the bulletbeltwarfest. Glen Benton from Deicide came out and performed a song at the end of their set. Eric Rutan (Morbid Angel) and Hate Eternal were not only next, but also suffered the worst at the hands of the soundman/equipment. Visually they were interesting, poised and energetic. The drums were absolutely incredible. I'll keep my eyes open to see them again, hopefully with better sound. Mayhem crept out and whipped the audience into a frenzy. I think that I expected Mayhem to be larger than life and when they were just pretty good I was a little disappointed. The only songs that really stood out were the ones from Deathcrush and their new CD, Grand Declaration of War. I was kind of hoping they brought the pig's head. Maybe it would have been different with Euronymous and Dead. Blasphemer (I think) was the stud of the night stealing the spotlight from Maniac who was okay but not enthralling. I give him credit: He was stunning with the mesh T-shirt over cut muscles and gauntlets and that medieval Three Musketeer look was sheer genius. However, several young groupies were hovering over Maniac so I guess my taste isn't the same as the kids. Jason still thinks that Exhumed had bigger breasts than me or any member of Mayhem. It was a great show and a lot of fun to see the legendary Mayhem, but I regret not seeing them a long time ago.
photo by mark teppo
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult/Meg Lee Chin
I was excited to see the Thrill Kill Kult again, as they always put on a great show. As for Meg Lee Chin, my girlfriend Lisa and I didn't really watch much of her performance... Lisa said it was like a "gothic geisha girl cheerleader strutting on stage with Orbital's DJ" and then walked straight to the bar. And like a good boyfriend, I followed her. Despite my girlfriend's rapier review, I liked Meg Lee Chin's music. It went down very well with a whisky sour while sitting in the bar with the others that were only there to be seen, or just waiting for the Thrill Kill Kult to play. From my 30-second glimpse of Meg Lee Chin's set, I caught the notion that the stage show had the potential to be really intriguing and faintly gothic. Since Seattle was the first date of the 27 date North American Inferno 2000 tour, Meg Lee Chin and her cohorts will have plenty of time on their way to Detroit to develop their show and get those people out of the bar with their drinks in hand.
When My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult finally took the stage, at what seemed to be 1:00 a.m. and several whisky sours later, I was certainly ready to take notice of their luxuriously dark melodies. Their sexy sinful sounds filled the club immediately and the playful action on the stage instantly inspired a lot of groping and sweaty lustful randomness in the crowd.
The Thrill Kill Kult have been bringing their music to the world from Chicago since 1987 when the Boston musician Buzz McCoy met the poet/artist/singer Groovie Mann. They were originally going to make a cult film but instead they came up with the music that universally inspires people to dance. Their sound and image certainly has a cult film feel that is hard for other musicians to emulate; it makes the audience become the actors and the band directors.
Almost the entire Earpollution staff was in the front of the stage at the Catwalk Club taking pleasure in a rare Seattle performance of My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. [or, mostly likely, it was for the rare opportunity to be graced by the lovely meg lee chin. --ed.] It is proven by gothic and industrial experts alike--and those at Earpollution--that The Thrill Kill Kult are a band that is best experienced live or listened to in a nightclub. Groups of people around their music make for a lot of delightful indulgence and utter mischievousness to develop in a crowd. While their recordings are always great, the full force of their music somehow plays out best with an assembly of inhabitants in a dark, smoke-filled nightclub. They always create an atmosphere that brings the audience together for a sort of communion. They were even generous enough to play "Sex on Wheelz" and "Days of Swine and Roses" for all of the fans that adore those songs. So if you go to any gothic/industrial show and are looking to make out with a total stranger, then My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult is the show to make a priority.
Roskilde Festival 2000
June 29 - July 2, 2000
Thursday, June 29, 2000
Unfortunately, I could not drag myself out of my warm and cozy hotel room in Copenhagen after some 12 plus hours of traveling, to enjoy the first official day of the festival. "Official" I say because the bell boy tells me people arrive a week early to get a good camping spot near the festival gates and to listen to music on the camping area stage that is reserved for up and coming Scandinavian bands. They also come, of course, to get completely shit-faced. However, for some reason, laying in my dry bed watching MTV Europe (far better than ours by the way) sounds much more comfortable than being in the pouring rain listening to Nine Inch Nails. Though it would have been interesting to see Iron Maiden, and I am sure I would have enjoyed Smog, Roni Size and (gulp) Bush...only to make fun of them of course.
Friday, June 30, 2000
System F3: Sound System (DK)
Ferus Mustafov & Band (MAC)
Willie Nelson & Family (US)
Pearl Jam (US)
St. Etienne (UK)
The Cure (UK)
Saturday, July 1, 2000
Cat Power (US)
Bloco Vomit (UK)
Oasis/Pet Shop Boys (UK)
Magga Stina (ICE)
Hip-Hop Night (Various)
Sunday, July 2, 2000
Blazing Eternity (DK)
Love Shop (DK)
Summing Up Sunday...
The Wannadies (DK). Say "wanna die" as in "it stinks of piss and shit so much here that I wanna die(s)". Remember the poppy la-la lyrics "You and me always and forever" from Romeo and Juliet? Meanwhile, sitting on top of the door pyramid, Andreas Johnson swept me off my feet for the few minutes I heard him singing, yes, that's right, more Scandinavian pop love ballads. Critics call him the "little Swedish cutie pie," though you can say that about most Swedes. After that it was back to the Orange Stage to hear Lou Reed and a "Greatest Hits" performance, but not for too long. At the Yellow Stage I was a little confused with the American Kelis. Who the hell is that? I had to check her out because the program ranted about her "well-trained gospel voice and hard hip-hop beats," but all I saw and heard was the American Spice Girls. However, I have to admit that I thought Kurt Cobain had been raised from the dead to perform "Smells Like Teen Spirit"--a truly amazing imposter. Everything But the Girl performed remixes of their remixes and of course sounded like the perfectionists that they seem to be and should be after 20 years on the pop music scene. Ben Watt was in excellent form considering his illness and all, but I wonder if string bean Jean Tracey Thorn is the one who is actually sick? Last, but not least, headlining the festival was Denmark's own D-A-D who I was, unfortunately, was terribly disappointed with. But the Danes love them, you see; in fact, they are sort of the national band and have become regulars at the festival. All I saw and heard was a washed-up '80s glam band, if even that. Their big hit, "Disneyland After Dark," is how the band got it's name I am told, having to shorten it later to D-A-D for legalities with the park. But even this infamous song couldn't sway me with its repetitive "It's after dark now, and Disneyland is closed". And anyhow, just because it's dark out doesn't mean Disneyland is closed, they just turn the lights on.
The Burning Festivities
Ahhhhh, Roskilde. Viva Roskilde!