Thursday, March 20, 2008

PRIMAL, TRIBAL NOISE IN THE ROUND: Boredoms at The Fillmore, Tuesday March 18th (a concert review in 4 parts)

Lacking background knowledge or experience listening to Boredoms, I headed to the legendary Fillmore to take in the bizarre sounds and sights of one of the more well respected experimental rock groups of the era. To be perfectly honest, the performance was not immediately enjoyable. I would venture to say that by saying so I am in the minority of the roughly 700 concert attendees. Where the show did succeed though was in its lasting impression, which I will lay out in the slightly unconventional review which follows:


As the lights in the ballroom dim, two voices, one male and one female can be heard chanting in harmony. A distant, shaken tambourine sounds in the background. Slowly, the group approaches the stage, set in the middle of the crowd as is de riguer in this renaissance of noise rock. A thin, mustachioed Japanese man, roughly forty years of age, with one rather thick dread falling down the middle of his back, a healthy sized dread that has comfortably outgrown its thinner, frayed, rag tag cohorts, begins to loudly recite something. It's not in English, but it may not be in Japanese, either. Tough to say, as the mind quickly is drawn to the aural and visual spectacle out on full display, in the round. Loudly amplified, crackling static, and distorted rock guitar struggle for supremacy with floor tom drums and large, crash cymbals. As he continues to loudly chant, no, he is shouting by now, the man rocks back and forth as he displays what appear to be votives set in amber glass holders, one in each of his outstretched arms. He holds one arm up high while the other hangs low, and while continuing the ritual, he welcomes his audience in moderately accented English, "Hellooo. Hello-hello-hello-hello. Hellooooooooo!"


Spread throughout the front half of the stage, in a pyramid formation, are three drummers. In the center is a thin, attractive young woman who occasionally abandons her drumkit to make noise on a keyboard. Yoshimi, I later discover. She also sings. Stage right is a slightly thinner and more androgynous looking type, hair parted in the middle, somehow keeping up with the furious rhythms of the other two drummers. This is no conventional band, and there is no conventional, steady backing beat which the drummers play. Rather, their rhythm is a collage of fill-ins, each making good use of their entire drum kit. Holding everything together is the drum leader, a bookish, slender guy dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and an adjustable black baseball cap. His assault on the drums is focused, methodical, and full of brute force. Together, the drummers set the tone - fractured, frenetic, insistent, loud.

Chapter 3: STRAT'S TOWER

Standing at about seven feet, on the back of the stage, an assemblage of seven, two tone purple and green Fender stratocaster style guitars, each joined to one another, their necks and fret boards facing in alternating, opposing directions. Frequently the dreaded man will bang on this shrine to the rock guitar, using thick, glowing pink drum sticks, or what appears to be a broom handle. Each guitar produces a single chord, the character of which depends on the man standing behind the tower, tuning and making adjustments after the dreaded man finishes his striking of the guitars. Sometimes micro-adjustments are made while the dreaded man continues playing. The bursts of distorted guitar serve merely to season the extended pieces, adding additional bombast when needed rather than adding structure.


Towards the end of the performance, I notice that one concert-goer, a twenty something year old man, with closely cropped brown hair and an intense demeanor, is walking laps around the stage. Repeatedly. He sets a brisk pace, occasionally clasping his hands together in varying formations, holding them out in front at eye level. Some others in the crowd patronizingly offer high-fives each time the man returns from his lap around the perimeter of the room. I wonder to myself, what could be the motivation for such odd behavior? Does the guy want attention, or does he have have some sort of behavioral issues? Maybe he is genuinely moved by the performance and this is how he chooses to express it?

After a brief rest, the band returns to the stage for an encore. The music is noticeably more mellow, more of a slowly churning, deliberate, peaceful reconciliation of the entire show which preceeded this particular piece. While the second encore continues in a similarly laid-back vein, the music slowly intensifies, increasing in volume and expanding texturally, building up to where everything was prior to the encores.


When the music ends and the band has been ushered off the stage and whisked away to the green room, I join others in checking out the stage, taking in the various effects pedals, samplers, synths, drum triggers, a hammond bass pedal console.

Not quite sure what to make of the show, I tell my brother that I was not impressed. That the show mimicked the effect of a five-year old continually tapping your shoulder, repeatedly asking the same question. Nonetheless, I must admit that there was something penetrating and meaningful about the spectacle I had witnessed. Creativity towards which to strive. Energy to be harnessed.