Beck @ Mercer Arena - 4/28/2000
Dirty Three/Storm and Stress/Shannon Wright @ Bowery Ballroom - 4/06/2000
Elemental @ Sit 'n' Spin - 4/04/2000
Gluecifer/Gaza Strippers/Vultures @ Crocodile Café - 4/08/2000
Pitchshifter @ Roseland Ballroom - 4/15/2000

[ beck ]
Mercer Arena
April 28, 2000
Seattle, WA


I didn't share Jeff's enthusiasm for the new Beck album when it first came out, or when he insisted it be the party disc at his New Year's Eve shenanigans. I simply nodded and went along for the ride. I even nodded along when my buddy Paul played it non-stop for me while tearing around the L.A. freeways last month. But I didn't really get hip to the hepcat until I caught his show as he blew through town just ahead of a weekend bluster that was sure to pre-empt all the thoughts of spring that Seattleites had been dreaming. Those of us who made the show at the Mercer Arena are going to be a little lighter of foot this weekend.

Backed by his ten-piece band and a stage that looked like a construction worker's warehouse designed and lit by Joel Schumacher fresh off Batman 3, Beck rollicked through a lively set, easily mixing new favorites from his Midnight Vultures album as well as a "take me back" hit or two. He's engaging to watch caper around the stage, but after a while you can't help but think you've seen these moves before. And, as the silk sheeted bed drops down from the ceiling during "Debra" and our boy jumps onto it, you realize that it has been a long time since Prince had any fun being Prince. And maybe that's why Beck has taken it upon himself to ape the Purple One better than the Purple One has done himself recently. If Prince isn't going to play, someone else can certainly take the stage and give us what we need. Beck is here for us and for every screaming girl in the first ten packed rows on the Arena floor.

It all comes down to funk and Beck has got the funk. It's white boy funk, but it is still funk. You can't deny funk when you see it. And George Clinton ain't got nothing to worry about from no white kid from L.A. yet. Maybe in ten years, Beck'll have the chops to sit in with the P-Funk on a night when George is out. But for right now? He's ten steps ahead of the rest of us rhythmically challenged folk.

And leave it up to Beck to destroy the very funk he set out to fill the Arena with. After a stunning display of turntablism from DJ Swamp, Beck and the gang come out for "Sexxx Laws" and a little funk ditty before going Einstürzende Neubauten on us. Crashes and bangs, static and pops, and a construction crew that crawls, carries, and rides a bike across the stage. Unsettling as it fades away, Beck's exit is a reminder that the funk may come, but the funk may also go. Hold it tight--while you can.

-Mark Teppo
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[ dirty three ]
Dirty Three/Storm and Stress/Shannon Wright
Bowery Ballroom
April 6, 2000
New York, NY

Dirty Three

The Touch and Go road show came to town and managed to gather a full house. The marquee could have read: "Shannon Wright, Storm and Stress and Dirty Dirty Dirty," but the Bowery Ballroom is a coolly understated place. Not even a chalkboard with the night's bands was in sight. The tickets were more assertive, however: "The Dirty Three" in large bold face.

Armed with her guitar and a drummer, Shannon Wright took the stage first. She's a no-nonsense performer who hardly glanced at the audience during her forty-minute set. Her intensity on stage is of a piece with her booming voice and furious delivery. Despite the meager instrumentation, she fills the hall mostly on account of her pained vocals. But after a couple of songs from her upcoming Maps of Tacit, you suspect she takes herself a little too seriously.

Then came avant trio Storm and Stress, who reproduced every twist and manic turn of its Under Thunder and Fluorescent Light with uncanny precision. Quite a feat if you consider it involved a cameo by man-on-the-scene Micah Gaugh, and piling layer upon layer of bass and guitar twangs. I simply assumed that Jim O'Rourke's sonic trickery at the production post was responsible for the taut dynamics and colorful drumming, but now I realize drummer Kevin Shea is truly astounding.

The crowd was far less pleased than I, and began calling for the band to go home. Guitarist Ian Williams politely said that it was not their fault and carried on. No one argued further; they are, in fact, not responsible for people's musical tastes.

To the relief of many, The Dirty Three eventually marched out with Warren Ellis at the helm. "Welcome to the Rock Concert," he said as he began to squeeze out the opening lines of "Some Summers They Just Drop Like Flies." His violin, however, was quickly buried under Mick Turner's guitar and Jim White's surprisingly boisterous drumming. With Ellis down as a mute gesticulating figure, The Dirty Three sounded like a shabby psychedelic jam band. Even though Ellis did become audible by the second song, I never quite recovered from the disappointment.

But the louder violin did not reassure Jim White that he was free to drum as he please. He hammered away a steady beat while Mick Turner washed his guitar clean of its characteristic grit. Meanwhile, Ellis poured his heart out trying to build crescendos by stomping on the stage and running circles on his violin. He's usually a storyteller, but that Thursday he was stuttering. He's a spirited performer, but his violin lines seemed static in comparison to the recordings.

The only saving grace of their performance was a cathartic twenty-minute version of "Last Horses on the Sand." But then came the encore, the Irish-tinged "Lullaby for Christine." The Bowery Ballroom decided to add insult to injury and opted to flush the stage in bright green lights. I'm still recovering.

-Edgar Ortega
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[ elemental at sit & spin - photo by craig young ]
photo by craig young

Sit 'n' Spin
April 04, 2000
Seattle, WA

If you want to experience live electronica with a subsonic feel, Tuesday nights at Belltown's Sit and Spin is for you. Elemental--one of the many side projects of some of Seattle's finest players--consists of Maktub's Davis Martin and Reggie Watts, Critters Buggin's Skerik, Josh Warren, Misskick and DJ Diskyze. Elemental, as its name suggests, is made up of components that are irreducible but together create a whole sound. Undoubtedly, with each of these individuals, an eclectic element is brought to the sonic table. What's usually left up to samples and drum machines, a live drummer (Davis) keeps the beats ongoing and varied. Take all the basic musical knowledge from these guys, place it in this creative electronic setting and you get an evening infused with penetrating beats and soul-hitting grooves.

Granted, some of you may think that taking in a show that relies heavily upon musicians tweaking knobs and pushing keys may not be so much fun to watch, but the one thing that's refreshing is that you really got a choice on how to receive the music; from downbeat, futuristic, atmospheric pieces to soul-inflected trip hop, fuzzy bass-laden jams, it's up to the audience to dance or to get completely lost in the sonic trip and get mesmerized by the experimental grooves that Elemental creates. Like a part of some urban tribe, one evening I saw writhing bodies brushed in neon paint glowing in the blacklight. Most Tuesdays, the usuals are seen interpreting what they feel and hear through movement. But if you're like most of us, it's a great evening to zone out, watch the flickering images off the dozen television monitors and the projection on the wall to the side of the stage. Check out Elemental--it's an experience to be had.

-Hope Lopez
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[ gluecifer @ crocodile café - photo by craig young ]
photo by craig young

Gluecifer/Gaza Strippers/Vultures
Crocodile Cafc
April 8, 2000
Seattle, WA


Ah, Gluecifer finally get to play in Seattle, compliments of Sub Pop who are releasing their new album. I have now seen the last piece to the past Scandinavian explosion: The Backyard Babies, The Hellacoters, Turbonegro and Gluecifer. The evening started out with a light dinner with Earpollution commander-in-chief Craig, then an interview with Big Daddy Biff Malibu, a going away bash for the commander, then Gluecifer live in their red crushed-velvet bowling shirts.

After more beers and wishing Craig well, I made my way to the show just as the Gaza Strippers were setting up their equipment. I thought about ordering another beer but my mind kept reminding me that I had to be up at 5:00am to be able to run in a race at 7:00. So I started hydrating myself to avoid any possible mental and physical breakdowns in the morning (as it turned out I had lower GI distress for 24 hours after the race--egad). If you have not seen the Gaza Strippers before, then don't miss this high energy explosion of craziness with the ex-Didjits man Rick Sims. The Gaza Strippers came out full throttle, hellbent on making you pogo your brains out! However, this crowd, like most nowadays, didn't dance much. Maybe it's the low sperm count. I enjoyed the frenzied pace and excitement that they displayed the entire set. I was a little disappointed that they did not play my favorite song "Throttle Bottom," but hey, you can't have everything.

Gluecifer was the anticipated event of the evening, having only been in the States a few times and never in our damp corner of the country. This was a show to witness. If you like your Punk dirty and in the Rock vein coupled with the speed and intensity of a hotrod funny car then you were in for a treat. I especially like the matching maroon crushed-velvet bowling shirts. Everybody was in uniform now, Scandinavian style. During my interview with Biff, I tried to talk him into playing more songs off of their first full-length CD, 19 Inches of Rock, because he told me they were only going to play one tune from it. Anyway Gluecifer played all their smashed-up hits to the crowd's pleasure, with Big Daddy Biff fronting the show as if he were a game show host indulging the crowd with banter between songs. Now that they are doing a record thing with Sub Pop, maybe they will get the chance to play here again. I was invited to see Gluecifer the next night at a Sub Pop party, but my lower GI problems put me down for the evening, so I had to literally bow out of that one. Damn!

Gluecifer: great show, great performers, and lots-o-fun on my meter!

-Steve Weatherholt
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[ pitchshfiter's mark clayden @ roseland ballroom - photo by craig young ]
photo by craig young

The Roseland Ballroom
April 15, 2000
Portland, OR


When last we left those techno noise-niks Pitchshifter, they were holed up in producer Dave Jerden's (he of Jane's Addiction and Alice in Chains production fame) El Dorado studios in Los Angeles working on the follow-up to their brilliant '98 release, Singer-slash-mastermind Jon Clayden played me the rough tracks off the demos and I've been waiting anxiously since--not only for the proper release, but to see the band kick the tracks live. In mid-April I finally got my chance to see the 'Shifter onstage after nearly two years and I'm here to tell you the band is still in fine form, better even when you consider that the new material is very well-suited for the live arena.

Anyone who knows Pitchshifter has to understand that the band and their music is a constant evolution of music and technology. Yesterday's album is just that: yesterday. The band have gotten flak from fans and foes alike who say they jump styles and give up their sense of identity too readily, but anyone who lines up the last four releases of their back catalog end-to-end will easily discover that there is a definite progression in direction happening with the band and the music. Desensitized to Infotainment? to to Deviant. It all adds up my friends: PSI are simply not satisfied with staying static, and it's that drive that pushes them to better themselves with every release. With Deviant, they've definitely got the chemistry together, and they certainly got their money's worth out of Dave Jerden. And when Jello Biafra guests on an album ("As Seen On T.V."), you know the band have to be doing something more than right.

Deviant comes across with a more organic rock feel (Jon Clayden tells me he thinks it sounds more hip-hop) in the sense that the sample and breakneck breakbeats are still there, but this time around the band themselves have been brought to the forefront and the samples have been carefully pushed back, filling in the subtle edges of each song. As well, the songwriting has gotten much craftier, with more twists and hooks than a David Lynch film. This is due in large part to the writing contributions of Jim "I'm the Fire Starter" Davies. His guitar histrionics and sense of timing and hooks have added a lot of meat to the new tunes, and Clayden offers up some of his best vocal work and songwriting to date. Fueled by Clayden's social/political diatribes, coupled with Davies' guitar and Jerden's production, Pitchshifter offers us an album that's going to hold its own long after the band has moved on to the next stage of their evolution. It's simply that infectious.

Wait. But this is a live review, you say. Right, right. Portland, Oregon, April 15. The band is currently on tour with Static-X (another Rage Against the Korn band...yawn, superfuckingyawn) with a new rhythm guitarist (Matt Grundy) and drummer (Jason Bowld). Charter guitarist Johnny Carter left the band shortly after recording Deviant to pursue other interests (all the best!) and this tour provides an opportunity for the band to break in their new mates and for us to check out the new material. Relegated to a measly thirty-five minute set, PSI took the stage of the Roseland Ballroom and opened with "Chump Change" off their new release and, after working out a few sound bugs, proceeded to effortlessly blow everyone's shit away for the remainder of their stage time. Focusing primarily on new material, like the powerhouse of "Condescension" and the hip-hop inflected "Hidden Agenda," the band did dip into their back catalog for a couple of old favorites: an updated version of their anti-fascist song "Triad" (Desensitized), "Microwaved" and my theme song for the past two years, "Genius" (both from Mark Clayden's bass line in that song still fucks it up for me in all the right ways. The crowd (a packed house) were completely into what Pitchshifter were doing, and the only mishap occurred when Jon, after having stage dived into the crowd, was yanked down by security as he tried to climb back onstage. "I'm the singer!" Fortunately, the band's tech leapt into the fray and rescued our bewildered hero. Pitchshifter closed the set with "Scene This" (my current favorite from the new album), bid farewell and left the stage with the crowd shouting for more and headliners Static-X scratching their heads, wondering just how they were going to top such a blistering set--much less even touch it.

Earpollution have fiercely championed Pitchshifter for a long time. Why? Pick up Deviant when it comes out May 23, go see them live, and discover for yourself the manic and infectious energy these boys kick out. In a music world full of gimmicks and lackluster, soul-sucking music and image, Jon, Mark, Jim, Jason and Matt deserve your undivided attention. Pitchshifter are the real McCoy, and their music is that good.

-Craig Young
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