Saturday, January 01, 2011

BEST SHOWS OF 2010!

Happy New Year! Today's recap of the best shows of the year completes my wildly opinionated review of 2010. In fact, this will be my last post for quite some time. Best wishes to you all in 2011...

Pierced Arrows
May 8, 2010
(St. Johns Street Bizarre-Portland, Oregon)

Who knew a street fair could get it so right? Leave it to Portland's least "hip" neighborhood (conveniently nestled at the east end of the city's only haunted bridge) to get Pierced Arrows to play in the middle of the afternoon while the gay mayor rides by smiling and waving. I shouldn't have to explain why Fred and Toody Cole are to American rock 'n' roll what Motorhead is to...life itself. Suffice to say, not all music has this staying power. If you don't believe me, consider this: they were married in 1967.

Autopsy
May 29, 2010
(Club Sonar-Baltimore, Maryland)

Autopsy with Dan Lilker looming front and center on the four-string-muthafucka. Isn't it weird how he has looked exactly the same since 1984?

There was a moment just before their first live performance in 14 years when Autopsy plugged in and a wave of euphoric electricity rippled through the throng of longhairs like a reanimating death twitch. The hair stood up on my arms and even the band couldn't contain a quick grin of awestruck surprise as they soundchecked through a few gory chords. They lurched off stage as droning Tombs of the Blind Dead style funerary moans began oozing from the PA and a moment later the unassuming masters of primordial death metal clambered back behind their instruments to reclaim the throne...

Pentagram
May 30, 2010
(Club Sonar-Baltimore, Maryland)

When Mr. Liebling last belly crawled through the Northwest back in March he stumbled on stage like a marionette with missing strings and delivered a litany of stammering apologies, half-hearted cock thrusts and one of the most depressingly underwhelming "shows" of 2010. Apparently the guitar player jumped ship just before they were set to embark on that ill-fated odyssey and rather than cancel the dates, the band grabbed a replacement and made a go of it. Bad idea. Audiences were insulted with exactly four Pentagram originals and one flaccid twenty minute white dude blues jam that left me wanting to run to the bar and drink myself into a ram's head coma. Fast forward a few weeks and some 3,000 miles to Maryland Death Fest where Bobby rose from the ashes like the proverbial gold lamé phoenix that he is to gyrate, shimmy and faux-fellate through every hit a slavering sunburned horde could have hoped to hear (with the notable exception of Be Forewarned, which I had the pleasure of singing to Bobby myself when we crossed paths on a downtown street corner last year). Speaking of mythological beasts, a purple clad Victor Griffin was on hand to destroy the mob with his irresistible ten-ton riffs as Bobby graciously requested "time for one more" over and over again. Despite MDF thankfully running a generally tight ship, they had no choice but to allow the maestro to do his thing until the sun literally went down over Deathsville. It was like a gold-plated apology for the disaster he brought to Portland earlier in the year. Cheers to the massive (and massively disinterested) bouncer who telepathically understood my enthusiasm through the din and allowed me to headbang alongside the stage despite the fact that I was clearly just another dirtbag civilian without a "V.I.P." pass.

Bobbyferatu.
Photo courtesy Johan Wallin.


Saint Vitus
June 26, 2010
(Satyricon-Portland, Oregon)

The great thing about low expectations is that you're occasionally treated to completely unexpected surprises such as this unlikely reunion. I almost stayed home with my Creepy comics that night but at the last minute I decided I might never have the opportunity to bob my head like a wet scarecrow with these doom dealers again. Glad I reconsidered. Wino was a shamanic master of ceremonies- all hair, leather and fury- while Dave Chandler seemed to conjure an endless wave of distorted fuzz from somewhere beneath his headband. By the way, who was that drummer? That dude looked like he was sitting on his couch waiting for the kids to bring him another beer while he bitch-slapped the family cat. He hit the hi-hats like a prehistoric bear. They didn't play War Is Our Destiny but they did play just about everything else I wanted to hear and Wino talked about doing LSD before most of the audience was born. I guess you can't have 'em all.



Joanna Newsom

August 7, 2010
(Aladdin Theater-Portland, Oregon)

Joanna Newsom doesn't give a fuck. If she wants to put out an orchestrated double record concept album about obscure mythology with her own Renaissance style portrait on the cover, she damn well will. If she wants to follow that up with an even less accessible triple LP box set with eleven minute lullabies and high fashion photography of her eternal legs on all the dust sleeves, who's gonna stop her? Not you, chump. She plays a harp. Ulver can't fuck with that. This well-mannered young diva is bolder, more brash and ultimately more daring than any of the frowning urchins I see slouching around town in skinny jeans and bullet belts. Her quivering voice is also about as divisive and irritating to the uninitiated ear as porno grind but all I hear is unabashed perfection. My daughter loves Joanna Newsom as much as I do so she understands why a caveman like me would fall to his knees for her arcane vocabulary, shrill crooning, lithe little hands and unbelievably attractive posture (*note to Ms. Newsom = I'm actually not a caveman but a highly sensitive bookworm that cleans up well and enjoys snuggling). We sat in awe up in the balcony and this second night of her sold-out two date Portland appearance was one of the most dazzling performances of the year. When we saw her in Eugene a few years ago there was almost a riot when the passive aggressive hippy audience couldn't decide if they should sit or stand. Seriously, it was almost a riot. You can't take stoned Women's Studies majors anywhere!

I didn't take this one. Joanna Newsom's security doesn't let me get this close to her. Not even with a zoom lens.

Destroyer 666
August 19, 2010
(Studio Seven-Seattle, Washington)

Swiped this one off the Internet too but check out that hair!

Needless to say, the Aussie transplants delivered an absolutely crushing performance in Portland the night before but, oddly enough, the Seattle crowd had more energy and the band ascended to new heights. They also dedicated Australian American Antichrist to my crew and I'm not too old and jaded to be flattered. Thank you, gentlemen.

Christian Mistress
August 27, 2010
(The Northern-Olympia, Washington)

What more can I say? I probably saw this band six times in 2010 but this was their intimate little record release show at an awkward all-ages art gallery collective and we drove two hours up to Olympia, Washington to be with them for the occasion. The poor sound and lack of a stage was compensated by Christine swaggering into the crowd with ferocious abandon. I imagine I'll be writing about this band again next year...

Deviated Instinct
September 15, 2010
(Satyricon-Portland, Oregon)

UK "stenchcore" progenitors Deviated Instinct always seemed to work better as a patch than a band. Their legacy (and reported reek of fermentation) loomed larger than the Tower of Barad-dûr in the piss-soaked minds of dreaded punks around the world but somehow the recordings never quite managed to live up to the stink and I've always secretly admired their visual aesthetic more than their music. After all, guitarist Rob "Mid" Middleton is an outstanding artist who was prone to incorporating runes into their dark apocalyptic imagery back before that became all the rage. Like Amebix and Hellbastard, Deviated Instinct were one of the elusive UK bands that I never imagined I would witness live. Unlike Hellbastard however, whose 2009 reunion performance was endearing but ultimately lackluster, these disciples of the storm returned to form with their classic line-up and threw the crusty gauntlet down at this very intimate gig. They looked surprisingly squeaky clean (they have had two decades to shower) and barrelled through a powerful set that featured songs from their entire catalog with an emphasis on the seminal 1988 LP Rock N Roll Conformity, including the crushing title-track finale and a completely unexpected Crucifix cover! My local favorites Deathcharge opened the show in a plume of transcendental death fog and if memory serves me correctly (you're right, it probably doesn't) they distroyed even with one guitarist missing that evening. "Play it again...slay it again...one more time...!"

Watain
November 13, 2010
(Studio Seven-Seattle, Washington)

The pee-ew! crew performed at a recently renovated Portland venue the night before but the sound was compromised and the slack-jawed audience contributed nothing in the way of energy. The following night they descended on Seattle's cavernous shit hole known as Studio Seven where they completely decimated the hollow corpse of black metal. Selim Lemouchi of The Devil's Blood was on tour as second guitarist this time which not only allowed West Coast American audiences to experience Watain as a full band for the first time but also brought a powerful new dimension to the blood-soaked proceedings. Most impressive was the epic finale Waters of Ain, a psychedelic swirl of melody and aggression that came alive on this night and proved finally and definitively that this band is far more than a worthy heir to the Dissection throne but an unwavering force to be reckoned with in their own right.

Allerseelen
December 17, 2010
(Berbati's Pan-Portland, Oregon)

This show makes my list simply for taking place at all. You see, Allerseelen is the musical vessel of suddenly controversial Austrian artist Gerhard Petak (whom some of you will recall as cult writer "Kadmon" from the early 90's tract/zine Aorta), an avid traveller and outdoorsman who sets mystical poetry to decidedly bouncy militant beats that are perfectly suited to shaking your ass. He's an extremely prolific musician whose output over two decades has gone through many evolutions, from abrasive industrial noise to uncomfortably breathy disco, but it's fair to describe his leitmotif as "martial pop". Think Warsaw on mushrooms at a European pagan rave without the comedic relief. Problem is, the local thought police have decided that his grooves are too dangerous for your ears. Days before this West Coast tour commenced, an anonymous "antifascist" collective claiming to represent "our city" of Portland posted an article on the Internet attempting to link Allerseelen to extreme Far-Right politics (I appreciated their exhaustively footnoted research but I've spent some time with the band and I ain't convinced). According to reliable inside accounts, the activists or their affiliates also sent hostile messages directly to the artist and at least one of the local venues scheduled to host his Portland appearances, threatening violent retribution if he was allowed to perform. The first venue buckled under pressure and the show was swiftly moved to the basement of a private residence. This second show two days later went off without a hitch at downtown club Berbati's Pan and was one of the final events at this longtime Portland institution that unfortunately closed its doors forever this very week due to our floundering rock 'n' roll economy. I have no idea what Gerhard's political views are and I don't really care. His music is frequently beautiful and compelling and to be perfectly honest I hear more dangerous ideas expressed every morning on the public bus. In the 80's I listened to Judas Priest records for hours on end and never committed suicide. I also watched absurdly violent horror movies for days straight and never killed anyone with a machete. It was awful Christian of these "antifascists" to attempt to protect me from art, but the PMRC and my high school guidance counselor already tried. They failed too. This protest was a misguided sham at best, a dangerous witch hunt at worst. Artistic Freedom: 1. Fascism: 0. Some other band played too.


5 comments:

Invisible Oranges said...

Miles of smiles. That's all I can say.

Johan said...

You bastard, you edited my open zipper away!!

Photo Jeni said...

Not sure if you have seen this, knowing YOU, you have..anyhow Happy New Year dude...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHb4gs1hwck

Carm said...

Are you going to MDF again this year? I sure hope so! Let's crack open some rounds!

foetalruin said...

Guffaw @ "some other band played too".