On Friday, November 22, DIY venue The Firehouse served up a five-course feast of fierce and dissonant performances from Yakuza Dance Mob, D.U.G.O.U.T. C.A.N.O.E., Kevin Greenspon, Big Waves of Pretty, and In Snow. The name of the game was aural explorations, and each band delivered their own personal, and sometimes disturbing, take on creating music.
If you thought performance was a forgotten art, then you should have bore witness to the lively showstarter from Yakuza Dance Mob. This local four-piece featuring drums, guitar, keyboard, and the lunatic spoken verse tirade of frontman Rodney Hasty, played a blown-fuse set characterized by no-wave inspired anti-melodies and the constant yip, yowl, and shuffle from Hasty, who stalked the room as he went about his free-form stream of lyrics. Besides the obvious highlights of Hasty shattering a light bulb and burning himself on its hot metal base,
the focus displayed within the disjointed assault from the rest of the musicians made the entire experience one to remember, in particular the broken carousal notes of the keyboardist.
Touring musician D.U.G.O.U.T C.A.N.O.E. followed up with a thrilling performance of experimental electronic music. Making music out of retro-tinged bleeps and bloops set to spaced-out loops of feedback, the listener is caught off guard when serene and sparkly guitar lines laden with reverb enter the mix. At times focused on industrious beats, the songs alternated between a series of vinyl-caught-in-the-groove samplings that add extra dimension to the dreamy twang of guitar and the minimalist application of vocals distorted into far-flung calls from beyond.
Hailing from Los Angeles, California, fellow electronic experimentalist Kevin Greenspun gave a very different, but equally heady, ambient performance. The primal explosions of drone set to ethereal warbles of noise are only amplified by the visual aspect of the performance. You almost forget that Greenspun is physically present when lost in the chilling effect he creates with his music perfectly matched to the surreal kaleidoscope-tinged imagery playing on the screen beside him. With songs alternating between capturing the soundscapes of innocence and full-on dread, Greenspun’s set had the uncanny feeling of a multi-sensual Rorschach drawing. Oh, the wondrous things a person can do with buttons, knobs, and switches.
Highland, Wisconsin’s aptly named two-piece Big Waves of Pretty made the transition into rock-oriented music that rounded off the night’s show. Slow guitar build-ups set to the jingle of chimes give way to vignettes of fast-paced math rock. Heavy bursts of low key and melodic vocals match the machine-gun pace of the drums. Big Waves of Pretty is not a band to be pigeonholed, as they switch gears with a slow and Gothic folk revival number accompanied by the prison wail of a harmonica. Their defining quality is either their hair trigger ability to go heavy at a moment’s notice, or the uncanny way in which they still manages to be catchy.
(Video work and editing: Charlie Brown Sanders)
The final performance came from the local provocateurs of sound, In Snow. They hit the stage in rare form, delivering a swell of driving fury. With bass, two guitars, and drums, In Snow did what they do best, which is creating gravity-reasserting instrumental post rock. Bestial drumming, brooding base lines, and piercing guitar wails matched with, at times, hopeful guitar twanging, do the accumulative work of making each of their songs feel like a soundtrack for the passing of a dark, dark storm. But even when amidst noise-soaked transitions, the band never loses the appearance of being in complete control of their sound; they’re always building to some satisfying and symphonic conclusion.
Anthony Vacca is a writer and music reviewer living in Birmingham, and can be contacted at Anthony.firstname.lastname@example.org