Category Archives: LIVE REVIEWS

Live Review: Kate Bush, London, England, Aug. 27, 2014


Long before there was Björk, Cocteau Twins, Tori Amos or Bat For Lashes, there was Kate Bush. For the uninitiated, Bush has fashioned a four-decade career as a true musical original—a bloody-minded British eccentric right out of the Syd Barrett/Monty Python/Julian Cope handbook, hell-bent on pursuing her own muse to the exclusion of nearly everything else going on around her, pop or otherwise. Back in the day, Bush objected to being objectified (criticizing her record label for marketing her as “a female body … rather than an artist in a female body”) and was the first woman to pen her own U.K. number-one hit (“Wuthering Heights”), winning her a fanbase that came to include artists as diverse as Johnny Rotten, Tricky, Outkast’s Big Boi and Rufus Wainwright. To put it in modern terms: Kate Bush is a pop/rock OG, equal parts King Crimson (prog) and David Bowie (glam/wave), with a back catalog to rival that of anyone making music over the past 50 years.

Somehow, along the way, Bush had managed to stay mostly out of the live performance business since 1979 before announcing a spate of shows in London entitled “Before The Dawn.” This news encouraged an enthused (mostly) British public to promptly purchase more than 77,000 tickets in a mere 15 minutes to a series of 22 consecutive gigs at the Eventim Apollo (the Artist Formerly Known as Hammersmith Odeon), with ticket prices on the black market fetching nearly 2000 GBP. The fact that Bush’s last proper tour took place in spring of 1979—and that rumors had since made the rounds of a crippling fear of flying, the almost manic need for Bush to control every aspect of her career, or that the death of her lighting engineer at one of her gigs had severely affected her ability or desire to play live again (with the benefit for the family subsequently scheduled for the very same venue she was playing this evening)—has only generated the sort of anticipation that one associates with An Event, A Moment, a Bucketlist Item.

Tonight’s show was only the second of these gigs, so the wide-eyed wonder of seeing an artist both remarkably ahead of her time and so famously reclusive hadn’t yet worn off, with news crews wandering around in front of the venue interviewing fans, hangers-on and those who (like me) had traveled long distances to catch one of these shows while Bush was still in the mood to perform. And perform, she did—a three-hour set in which an energized Bush recreated the second side of her 1985 classic LP Hounds Of Love (the so-called “Ninth Wave” suite) and the second side of her 1993 album Aerial (the “Sky Of Honey” cycle) as separately imagined stage productions, with sets, costumes and lighting effects more akin to a West End play than a rock ‘n’ roll show. Bush’s vocal gift is an instrument neither ravaged by time nor age; her airy soprano soared as high tonight as it ever has, sure in pitch and rich in power. A devastating weapon perfectly deployed against a wide-ranging arsenal of material.

(Bush, via her website, had made an explicit request for tonight’s audience to “please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows; I want very much to have contact with you as an audience not with iPhone or iPads or cameras” … Hence, the lousy picture accompanying this review. Normally, I would do better. But as it happens, when a British audience is asked to do something, and they love the person who asks them to do it, they comply fully and passionately—I wasn’t about to be the one person in the theater tonight kicked out or made a social pariah for abusing the rules … sorry, ya’ll).

Her performance kicked off with the voice of Miranda Richardson, from Bush’s 1993 album The Red Shoes, reading from the Sanskrit hymn Gayatri Mantra: “O Thou who gives sustenance to the universe, from Whom all things proceed, to whom all things return, unveil to us the face of the true spiritual sun hidden by a disc of golden light, that we may know the Truth and do our whole duty as we journey to thy sacred feet … ” And from the darkness of the stage marched Bush with her backup chorus in a line behind her, working her way through a series of old favorites (“Hounds Of Love” and “Running Up That Hill,” which to my ears remains one of the best songs ever written by anyone in any era) before closing out the final line to “King Of The Mountain” in a shower of confetti before segueing into a stage set approximating the watery shipwreck of “The Ninth Wave,” a harrowing, emotional journey populated by a psychedelic cast including dancers dressed as fish skeletons, seafarers in orange life jackets and Bush flipping between live appearance and filmed screen sequences (having spent three days in a flotation tank capturing these bits in partnership with Adrian Noble, the former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose last night with the troupe was evidently this evening and was therefore given a warm sendoff by Bush at the break). The overall effect was somewhat akin to an acid trip—not unpleasant at all, but disorienting and jarring in parts, such as one scene in which an overhead lighting apparatus was made to stand in for a search-and-rescue helicopter, frantically seeking Bush’s drowning female character beneath the waves as her family is rescued in the meantime. At one point, the ghost of Bush repeatedly sang “I’m not here” to her family (Bush’s real-life son, Bertie McIntosh, featured heavily throughout the evening) and to the audience, seemingly taunting all concerned by pointedly stepping out of the narrative to remind us of her lengthy absence.

Following a raucous standing ovation and subsequent 20-minute intermission, the altogether different “Sky Of Honey” suite began, connecting birds and their seeming symmetry to light (up at dawn, asleep at dusk) to a 19th-century painter whose work goes maddeningly unfinished over the course of its 10 “movements” but nonetheless ends on an altogether more uplifting, life-affirming note—with Bush and McIntosh lifting off in flight as the suite closed, to dazzling effect. Between the costuming, imaginative use of puppetry and special effects, the suite far exceeded the limits it had been assigned on record, and Bush seemed genuinely moved by the rowdy, passionate reception given to her performance. So much so, that by the time she had returned for the encores—accompanying herself on piano for the remarkable “Among Angels” before bringing the band back for the crowd-favorite “Cloudbusting”—she was dancing barefoot in twirling circles with the audience doing its level best to imitate this step, in place, in their seats.

By any rational measure, 35 years seems entirely too long to wait to see live music performed by an artist who is so obviously among the most influential and important of the past two generations. I mean, entire lives can be altered and worlds can be rocked off their rotational axes over the course of that period of time. And yet—as I sit here attempting to describe for you the sheer joy I experienced watching Bush bring her music to life for an audience who, equally as clearly, could imagine doing nothing else but take it in, in rapt attention, for 180 straight minutes—it seems an entirely rational turn of events. Dearest Kate—let’s try not to wait so long, next time. We missed you too much. There is simply too much “there,” there.

—Corey duBrowa

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Images From The Pitchfork Music Festival


MAGNET contributor Michael Jackson attended this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival and sent us these great photos. St. Vincent is above. More after the jump.

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Images From The MAGNET Turns 21 Anniversary Show Featuring Guided By Voices, Surfer Blood And Titus Andronicus

All photos by Steve Streisguth

Guided By Voices:


Surfer Blood:


Titus Andronicus:


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Live Review: The Hudson Project, 2014


It’s the 2014 Hudson Project festival. MAGNET’s Maureen Coulter reports from the festival.

“I never thought I’d find myself on one of these again,” a festival-goer remarked as we all piled into a yellow school bus serving as the shuttle between the parking lot and the Hudson Project festival grounds. It turned out to be a fitting way to travel to the event at which everyone felt free to unleash their inner child. Nestled in the mountain town of Saugerties, N.Y., far from reliable cell-phone service and the daily grind of work, schoo, and other responsibilities, the mostly 20-something crowd frolicked about in pajamas, underwear, costumes, bathing suits, body paint and mismatched plaid and tie-dye combos.

Like the first day of a new school year, people were excitedly striking up conversations with each other. “Where are you from?” “You pumped for Modest Mouse?” When we arrived at the venue and walked amidst the Ferris wheel, tents and yard games, it was apparent that festival-goers were here to play. A big, burly guy in a tie-dye T-shirt carried around a “Free Hugs” sign. Half-naked girls in body glitter hoisted signs and props such as oversized photos of Oprah and Gary Busey, glowing jellyfish umbrellas and inflatable sharks. A giggling group of friends were rolling down the grassy hill next to one of the stages. And this was before the music had even started.

As dusk settled upon the festival-goers assembled in front of the Empire Stage on Friday night, Modest Mouse played its jilted-yet-melodic brand of folk rock, starting off with the strong banjo riff of “Satin In A Coffin.” Singer/guitarist Isaac Brock spewed his raspy, gut-wrenching lyrics into the microphone like it had pissed him off. He took command of the stage through brute force, rather than by intrinsic charisma. With a polo T-shirt, copious tattoos and a mop of hair, he looked like someone who frequents the local sports bar instead of the front man of one of the most successful indie bands of the past two decades. Wasting little time bantering with the crowd, the group segued into favorites “The View,” “Dramamine” and “Third Planet,” before sending us off with the thunderous “Cities Made Of Ashes.”

Once darkness enveloped the festival grounds, the costumes and props emerged in full force. Glassy-eyed kids in cow suits and sparkly fairy outfits marched to the Explorer Stage with homemade illuminated signs, blinking hula hoops and glow sticks to take in festival veterans Sound Tribe Sector 9, the psychedelic instrumental electro-rock group favored by the jam-band scene. STS9 could barely fit a fraction of its work into the 90 minute set—the prolific band has made 11 albums since it began 10 years ago. Across the grounds inside the Circus Tent, the dance party continued into the night with electronic dub-step artists Savoy and Excision.

Pretty much every day we were at the Hudson Project, we witnessed people having fun with antics that would raise eyebrows, trigger snickers or outright offend in any other setting. As everyone waited for the shuttle on day two, we watched one guy—built like an NFL wide receiver and wearing nothing but a patchwork skirt and muddy Vibrams—play in the parking lot with bubbles while smiling and waving at amused bystanders.

We took in a few second- and third-tier acts throughout Saturday afternoon. ZZ Ward is Adele with a harmonica. If she ever breaks out, parents across the nation will be hearing their teenage daughters belting her songs from the shower. Wearing a fedora and black boots, she buttered up the crowd, telling them how delicious and sexy they looked. However, this was the beginning of the day, when no one’s makeup has melted off yet and their bodies were not yet burnt to a crisp.

Early in the evening, Rebelution, the talented Sublime-esque reggae crew, played to a burgeoning crowd as the odor of pot grew increasingly pungent. Acid-jazz, trip-hop DJ Bonobo and lively hip-hop duo Big Gigantic warmed us up for the later acts.

A downpour around 8:30 p.m. sent festival-goers running for the tents. We ended up huddled with a few hundred others in the New York tent with a mediocre local band that had never seen this many people see the group play even in its high-school orchestra production. However, once the rain cleared a few minutes later, the sopping-wet crowd hauled their signs and props back to Big Gigantic.

Matt And Kim embodied the theme of the festival, living up to its reputation of having a fun, D.I.Y. attitude toward music and basically doing whatever the heck the band wanted to do onstage. Upbeat and party-friendly, the duo is best known for perky 2009 hit “Daylight,” and its songs are in every commercial and movie trailer made in the last five years. Kim, with her checkered pants and Colgate smile, throttled the drums with her Crossfit biceps and couldn’t sit still, climbing on top of the set and shaking her very toned rear at the audience while still drumming. The duo played interludes of club music like Master P’s “Make ‘Em Say UHH” and engaged the fans in the audience in a way that would make Blue’s Clues proud, throwing balloons into the crowd and encouraging dance parties and sing-alongs. The duo was also hilarious. “We are going to play something by a great American poet. You may have heard of Robert Kelly, known as R. Kelly.” Then Matt commenced a group recital of “Bump n’ Grind.” By the end of the set, I wasn’t sure who had the better time—the audience, or Matt And Kim.

On the third day, bleary-eyed and sunburnt festival-goers straggled into the venue and headed straight for the food and beer concession stands to cure their hangovers. Early afternoon was cooler than the previous two days, but rain clouds loomed. We took in a few performances including the Floozies, who played an electro-funk set to a packed Circus Tent. Mid-afternoon, organizers appeased futbol fans by showing the World Cup Final on a big screen in the New York tent. At the 75th minute, an announcement came in over the loudspeaker telling everyone that they were suspending the festival due to severe weather concerns. Not wanting to be conductors of lightning, and realizing that the shuttle pick-up zone could turn into a Titanic situation, we hustled to the parking lot and hopped onto a bus. Other people weren’t so lucky. Packed-up vehicles floundered in the mud, and marooned and cranky attendees left unhappy comments on the festival’s Facebook page.

Despite the less-than-perfect weekend, we still enjoyed two-and-a-half days in a bubble of good music, good vibes and free expression—which is all that folks will remember a month from now anyway. The next time I ride a school bus, I hope it’s during Hudson Project 2015.

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Copenhagen Jazz Festival, 2014


The Copenhagen Jazz Festival is a 10-day summer event that’s especially broad in scope and range. It runs from July 4 through July 13 and has been bringing decidedly idiosyncratic programming to Denmark since 1979. The festival is a humongous behemoth of jazz and beyond, showcasing nearly 1,200 concerts at more than 100 different venues—including indoor, outdoor, large, small, free and ticketed events. From restaurant gigs at places like the Café Sommersko to auditoriums like the Danish Radio Concert Hall, the festival is hosting Danish and Scandinavian talent, cutting-edge European artists and the cream of American musicians trekking across the continent of European summer jazz fests.

Besides local heroes like drummers Alex Riel and Stefan Pasborg and bigger acts like Chick Corea & Stanley Clarke, John Scofield, Josh Redman and Tinarewin (the desert-blues sensation from Mali), the Copenhagen fest puts on a high percentage of avant-garde performances. One such showcase at the venerable Jazzhouse venue was the pairing of Swedish power-saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and avant-rock guitar hero Thurston Moore.

With Gustafsson blowing with gale-force intensity as well as pushing a storming brew of electronic keyboard sounds, Moore was free to scrape, pick and pound away on his guitar, matching Gustafsson in both potency and focus and making their ear-bleeding duet feel like one long improvisational fever dream. Feedback and an array of tonal colors streamed back and forth between the two men, going from soft and contemplative into high, screeching volume. Much of the young audience had filtered over from the nearby Roskilde Festival to see Moore, but even the older, seasoned jazzbos in attendance had to admit that this gig was one breathtaking improvisational experience.

Another unlikely gig of scorching intensity was deranged Japanese vocalist/poet Damo Suzuki—best known for his stint as singer in the German group Can. Suzuki brought his unusual performance narrative to fruition at the stripped-down rock club KB18 in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district. The noise-loving youth of Denmark once again came out for the spectacle, as Suzuki was playing with the reunited Danish outfit White Trash featuring guitarist Jakob Bro and keyboardist Søren Kjærgaard. White Trash provided an appropriately harsh groove while Suzuki ranted, growled, screamed and sang in several languages—none of which I could understand at all. Still the show was downright killer, so there you go.

Let’s just hope for a few more sonic outbursts before the Copenhagen Jazz Festival ends on Sunday.

—Mitch Myers; photo by Kristoffer Juel Poulsen

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The Hudson Project: A Preview


With music festivals popping up across the country like food trucks outside of a hipster bar on a Saturday night, it’s hard to decide which one is worth three precious PTO days and half my paycheck. Though Summer 2014 is nearly half over, there is still a host of options to choose from. Will I go regional, like Summerfest in Milwaukee? Or international, like the Osheaga Music Festival in Montreal? Or perhaps chic and urban, like Outside Lands in San Francisco?

The recent trend has been toward music festivals in close proximity to, or within a large city, such as Lollapalooza in Chicago, Made In America in Philly and L.A., and Governor’s Ball in New York City. I’m not a fan of crowded and sweaty, and public-transit jaunts and easily accessible Starbucks franchises don’t engender fond memories like the dusty hippie-love fests of yore—which is why The Hudson Project holds promise. This weekend (July 11-13), the festival launches its inaugural affair at Winston Farm, the bucolic site of Woodstock ’94 in Saugerties, N.Y.

While I certainly have the option to glamp in comfort with luxurious bed linens and embroidered throw pillows in a Safari-style tent, far from the common folk, it seems as though The Hudson Project promotes a spirit of community, much like its festival ancestors. Due to the fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere, camping space is plentiful, and pitching a tent is encouraged. Against the geologically striking backdrop of the Catskill Mountains, the festival features more than 85 acts spanning multiple genres, and is also promoting collective peace/love/happiness through onsite art installations, artisanal food and local craft beer, plus free yoga, meditation and hooping workshops. Like most music festivals in the time of YouTube and Spotify, The Hudson Project went for a diverse lineup, catering to ravers, rockers, hipsters, hip-hop lovers and jam-band enthusiasts alike, with headliners including Modest Mouse, the Flaming Lips, Bassnectar, Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dog and Matt And Kim. While there is sure to be a few first-year glitches, The Hudson Project appears to have a lot—including history—on its side.

—Maureen Coulter

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Montreal International Jazz Festival, Day 2


It’s the 35th annual Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. MAGNET’s Mitch Myers translates the action.

The 35th Montreal Jazz Festival keeps on rolling along, devouring all in its path. On Sunday the fest presented Elvis Costello with its esteemed Spirit Award for overall musical excellence. Costello performed a solo concert at the beautiful Maison Symphonique auditorium, and perhaps it was just a coincidence that his Canadian spouse, Diana Krall, just happened to be playing a huge free outdoor show, the Grand Event, on that very same evening. Costello’s own show was well received but felt rather perfunctory as he cruised through a selection of songs from his 40-year career. Gracious, witty and sly, Costello played plenty of his obscure compositions as well as crowd-pleasers like “Watching The Detectives” and Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding.” Perhaps he was saving himself to some degree, because later on he appeared as a “surprise” special guest at Krall’s show, joining her concert encore of “Ophelia,” “Whispering Pines” and Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in front of approximately 100,000 people.

Quality jazz gigs continue to capture the imagination. The Jack DeJohnette Trio came through town, displaying the veteran drummer along with bassist Matt Garrison and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane. One interesting thing is that Coltrane is the son of John Coltrane, and Garrison is the son of John Coltrane’s old bassist Jimmy Garrison, making this band a second-generation jazz supergroup or, as they say, “in the tradition.” DeJohnette seems particularly energized by his cohorts, as the 70-year old drummer is playing with the fire and conviction of someone half his age.

The Jeff Ballard Trio is another drummer-led ensemble, and its late-night gig at the beautifully intimate Gesú was an unqualified success. Ballard is a wonderful percussionist, and his unorthodox group features West African guitarist Lionel Loueke and Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenón. Loueke played both bass and lead parts on his electric guitar, and he also “sang” percussive clicking noises derived from the Xhosa language. This is a remarkably adventurous ensemble, and Ballard was gracious enough to invite trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire onstage for one number, who also did not disappoint.

Akinmusire is one of the brightest young trumpeters on the contemporary jazz scene and is really hitting his stride. His tone is unique and almost immediately identifiable, harking back to the pioneering spirit of Miles Davis. Hosting three different nights at the Gesú for his part in the Montreal Festival’s Invitation Series, he began his residency with a duet concert alongside veteran guitarist Bill Frisell, which Akinmusire called a “life-changing” experience. On Monday Akinmusire played with his working quintet, doing some material from his new CD, The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier To Paint. Simply put, Akinmusire is one to watch. He’s already a star with a long road ahead.

Aging drum legend Ginger Baker was in town leading his Jazz Confusion group through a well-attended show at the Theater Maisonneuve. Although Baker is best known as the old rock drummer from Cream, he’s actually a jazzman through and through. His quartet featured saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and African percussionist Abass Dodoo. The band played standards like Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” and Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t,” but Baker also showed his affection for the music and rhythms of Lagos and Nigeria. Baker’s percussion interludes with Abass Dodoo were reminiscent of his time with Fela Kuti, and the band also drew haunting melodies from Ginger Baker’s Air Force circa 1970. Tiring as the show was for Baker, he gave it his all and that was good enough.

Returning New Orleans star Trombone Shorty kept the party going late at the Métropolis on Monday. As usual, Shorty’s band was rocking and dynamic. I mean—dynamic! Mixing hip hop, funk and in-your-face rock with some truly wailing guitar, screaming saxophone, a killing rhythm section as well as his own trombone and trumpet, Shorty sang, chanted and jammed Tremé-style all night long. And that’s simply the best way to clear one’s palate here in Montreal after another long night of jazz—to dance your ass off.

—Mitch Myers; photo by Sharonne Cohen

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Montreal International Jazz Festival, Day 1


It’s the 35th annual Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. MAGNET’s Mitch Myers translates the action.

This is getting serious. I’m at the 35th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, which runs from June 26 through July 6, and there’s already way too much fun. With a massive amount of programming for free outdoors and ticketed indoor performances showcasing hardcore jazz, mainstream pop, soul, modern rock, hip hop, blues and lots of international flavors. The festival’s organization is only getting better, and so is the physical layout of the downtown area. This year they kicked things off with a “pre-opening” concert featuring Beck, and it has been musique nonstop ever since.

On Friday night, French artist Woodkid put on a wildly visual and sometimes mesmerizing spectacle for a huge outdoors gig. At the same time, the legendary Heath Brothers played at tiny little Upstairs, the one and only genuine jazz club that actually works along with the festival.

At Club Soda, young singer Trixie Whitley put on an uneven performance but endeared herself to the audience when mid-show, she confessed to being pregnant, “Most of my family doesn’t know yet, but you guys do!” Whitley, who had played onstage the night before with Quebec hero Daniel Lanois, admitted she was most afraid to tell Lanois about her current status, but all is well.

Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa brought his Gamak fusion project to the intimate Gesù venue with Rez Abbasi on guitar, bassist Rich Brown and wonder drummer Dan Weiss. Mahanthappa and Abbasi often played in strict unison, combining Indian classical music structures and long elaborate jazz melody lines with breathtaking results.

Elite pianist Keith Jarrett played a highly anticipated solo concert at the sizable Maison Symphonique auditorium Saturday night. Jarrett hadn’t played a solo show in Montreal for 25 years and since the event was recorded for posterity there were several restrictions on the show; no photographers were allowed, no late arrivals, and absolutely no leaving once the music started. After a melodic opening number Jarrett addressed the audience and explained that usually he starts an improvisational show with something atonal, but had tried something different for his first tune. “So, if the next one is more difficult to listen to, hey, I can’t help it.” Luckily, everything went smoothly and Jarrett dazzled the audience with a totally improvised set of spontaneous compositions. Jarrett was so pleased with the way the whole evening went that he came back for three encores.

Meanwhile, next door at the Jean-Duceppe auditorium, Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade performed a playful-yet-serious and very engaging set. As a jazz trio, they call themselves the Children Of Light, undoubtedly a reference to their status as longstanding members of Wayne Shorter’s Quartet. Perez was more than solid on piano, but Brian Blade, who had also played the festival with Lanois and Whitley, was a true standout. Interestingly, John Patitucci’s favorite acoustic bass was damaged by the airlines last week, which resulted in him playing a lot more electric bass. It actually made the trio’s set quite exciting, so let’s hope Patitucci keeps things plugged in more often in the future.

Finally, Saturday’s late-night set at the Club Soda featured modern soul man Cody ChestnuTT, who charmed the crowd with earnest funk-confessionals going all the way back to his fabled Headphone Masterpiece CD. His band was funky, and ChestnuTT held the stage until well after midnight. The man is on a mission; you can tell by the war helmet he still wears onstage.

—Mitch Myers; photo by Sharonne Cohen

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Live Review: Acid King, Paris, France, June 14, 2014


“Fat, balls and hair.”

No, that’s not the teaser for a Tad reunion tour, it’s the tag line for Paris’ “Stoned Gatherings,” a regular gig held in the Glazart club to showcase the scummiest, druggiest metal passing through the French capital.

The description is fitting (it’s “Du gras, des couilles et des poils” in the original, in case you’re the rare head-banging Francophile), for the shows feature much—and little else—of all three. One can understand the logic behind the choice of venue: the Glazart is a former bus station converted into a sheet-metal dive, sitting adjacent to a highway overpass and a homeless soup kitchen. This isn’t Parisian glamour; it’s biker grit.

Tonight, the greasers adhere to the club’s dress code, donning their leather and—get this—jean jackets with band patches. The one exception is a slim figure wearing a pig mask. Actually, one hopes it was a mask; I suppose it could have been Renée Zellweger.

If the audience conforms to a vapid stereotype, Acid King is a Jungian archetype—a universal unconscious ideal of the lethargic burn-out, toking a path of blissful oblivion through a life filled with pain. The California trio may sport the traditional battle gear of metal (long hair and tats), but it is so primal and unassuming that bands with whom the threesome shares the bill appear to pose with false bravado in comparison.

Sonically, Acid King plays in a register lower than a dead elephant’s wrinkled taint. Guitarist Lori S. relies largely on barre chords, resulting in a distorted mush that is blunted but wide. She may not have des couilles, but this Acid Queen sure plays like she does. Taken collectively, the group’s sound is thick, colossal and almost impossibly bottom-heavy. These guys are the Brontosaurus-shaped Weeble of stoner metal. Their music strips the Melvins’ catalogue of everything except the plodding riffs and muscular sludge, and they’ve replaced King Buzzo’s gloriously grating malevolence with a hypnotic, inexorable drone. They do not (or at least, no longer) impose on the listener a cartoonishly doom-and-gloom vision of Hell; everything from their stage demeanor to their actual music is matter-of-fact, natural.

Their relaxed confidence is on full display tonight. “On To Everafter” and the anthemic “2 Wheel Nation” (both from their 2005 masterpiece of muck, III) are casual yet triumphant. Driving the band’s performance is Joey Osbourne’s spectacular drumming. He is dynamic yet disciplined, workman-like, triangulating a style somewhere between Keith Moon, John Bonham and Bill Ward.

Repeated requests from the audience for “Evil Satan” from first album Zoroaster went unanswered. This may have been for the best, since the group’s early output often came off as empty posturing and toothless goth-mongering. But with its later work, the trio has found its identity: Lori’s vocals now seamlessly absorbed into the mix, the band has evolved into a much more convincing and powerful unit. It has realized that thunderous Sabbath riffs and Sleep-y doom is most viscerally combined with soft, trippy vocals rather than the stridency of tough-guy boogeyman barking.

Perhaps the group’s one misstep of the night is the meaningless flourishes of wah bass, crowbarred into a couple of songs with little payoff. (A bit like when Marvel Comics introduced Flatman, the lamest superhero in the X-Men pantheon, probably in an equally lame and non-sequitur attempt to impress a woman obsessed with the comic franchise.)

As Acid King’s set winds down, Lori slips off her guitar and retires to the side of the stage, one hand holding a beer and the other tucking a thumb into her pocket. She watches with admiration, as the entire audience does, while Osbourne delivers his stunning drum outro to “Sunshine And Sorrow.” At his final slap of the skins, an unexpected silence overtakes the room, which the audience immediately fills with a gasp of pleasure and a rousing ovation. Osbourne rises from his stool, offers a sheepish smile and nods to the crowd.

There is no chest-thumping, fist-pumping, or finger-pointing. Acid King came to do a job, and it fucking nailed it. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

—Eric Bensel

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Live Review: Slint, Philadelphia, PA, May 1, 2014


The really cool kids found out about Slint back in 1989. I found out about them in 1993. (Hey, I was stationed at the Antarctic weather station of my own lameness at the time, and the record store there refused to carry Touch And Go shit.) In all seriousness they did not make it easy for uncool kids like me. They were always an enigma wrapped in a riddle. They were named after the one dude’s pet fish—Slint isn’t even a real word. They hated every picture ever taken of them and let nobody see them. They thought doing press was “stupid.” And they broke up before Spiderland, their mysterious 1991 math-rock masterpiece, was even released.

There was never any real explanation for the band’s dismemberment, and the glaring absence of information only added to their mystique. But nearly 25 years later, we finally find out what really happened. The I answer, I think, comes at the one hour and eight minute mark of Breadcrumb Trail: The Story Of Slint, filmmaker Lance Bangs’ Slint documentary that’s included in the new boxed set reissue of Spiderland. The band is talking about finishing up the recording of the album and that all that was left to record was the vocals. The only problem was there were no vocal parts, nor lyrics written and they had to be made up on the fly. Drummer Britt Walford talks about how the band watched from the control room as Brian McMahan, alone before a microphone in the studio, cloaked in near-total darkness, a single ray of light shining down upon his head, sweating profusely through the recording of the vocals for “Good Morning Captain.” At one point he even vomits from the intensity of it all. And then he sings those haunted words that come at the 5:53 mark, right before the band’s final, primal crescendo:

“I am trying to find a way home/I’m sorry/And I miss you”

If he sounds like a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, it’s because he was. Shortly after the recording of Spiderland, McMahan checked himself into a psychiatric hospital. There would be no tour in support of the album. Slint would never record another note of music.

Fast forward 23 years, to Philadelphia’s Union Transfer. Slint takes the stage to show us what could have been, what should have been and what shall forever be. The set is a mash-up of Spiderland and Tweez, their 1989 Steve Albini-recorded debut, where all the songs are titled with the first names of their parents. They perform in near- total darkness. They say nothing to the crowd, save a few goofy non-sequitars uttered between songs by McMahan in a faux-ancient negro rasp. They are precision incarnate, but they make their flawlessness look effortless. They are humble masters of tension and release. They raise anti-climax to an artform. They swing like a sledgehammer, with more groove than four white kids from Kentucky have a right to. If you listen closely, you can hear their pre-history, that they were a coming-of-age art band battle-hardened in the trenches of the all-ages punk wars of their Louisville youth who built the perfect machine in the drummer’s parents’ basement. That they swallowed Big Black, Glenn Branca, Sonic Youth and the entire Dischord back catalog whole and metabolized it into a seminal math-rock mysticism that far exceeds the reach and scope of its influences. That they were so far ahead of their time, it took them nearly a quarter of a century to grow into their precociousness.

—Jonathan Valania

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