Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bammas came, bammas saw, bammas got rocked

DJ Stereo Faith is known throughout DC as a positive force for quality events throughout the city, from the Black Cat, to DC9, to Napoleon, and beyond. Even by his typically high standards, the Feedback curated by Faith this last Saturday at DC9 was an exceptional evening indeed.

Splitting deck time between himself and hardworking DJ notables Jackie O and Lil’ El (who likewise can be found bouncing all over the district, but we’ll point out the night at DC9, KIDS, that they both share, as a reference), it was clear that all three felt the intensity of the night and were hell bent on bringing their A game. In a nightlife genre that has reached a point where its end is beginning to be argued in select media, the crowd responded with a great appreciation to the earnest sets, pounding across the dancefloor with an intensity that is not often found in DC clubs these days. Even though it was not their job, all three made certain that the place was more than warmed up for the special guest of the evening.

Togo born, DC raised, Tabi Bonney has been in the hip-hop game for more than a minute. An over-achiever across the boards, from his music, to his fashion label, to his masters degree in Biology and Secondary Education, Tabi has laid down the concrete foundation for the hard sought notoriety for those involved in Hip-hop. Beyond his solid rhymes and catchy DJ style backing beats, it’s truly his talent as a performer that brings him to the front of the pack. An individual used to opening for the likes of Outcast, and LL Cool J might feel it’s beneath him to perform in a small club with three DJ’s, but instead Bonney seemed to give 100%, bounding across the stage and making sure everyone was part of the show.

The room seemed to shrink to a third of its size the moment he hit the stage. Bodies packed around the space like it was a heated cockfight, and hands flew up left and right forming a chorus of organic metronomes. As the room kept time, Tabi Bonney sailed through a list of his hits, such as Rock Bammas, Rich Kids, and The Pocket, taking time between tracks to make sure the fans were still right there with him. Shrewd move or happy accident, he played long enough to captivate, but short enough to have people wanting just a bit more. Though there was no argument about the calculation of the mutually beneficial promotion to hand out free CD’s in exchange for email addresses.

After his departure from the mic, the floodgates opened again, and the crowd spilled across the club. All three DJ’s kept going above and beyond, challenging everyone else to do the same, for roughly two more hours. In the end, the lights flipping on was not enough, and the staff had to kill the soundsystem to grind Feedback to its final halt. All in all, I can’t imagine anyone found the evening to be less than a total success.

The injection of a finally successful group of hip-hop artists from the DC community, that include Bonney, Wale, XO, and for my druthers, Flex Mathews, could be the injection that will keep both that and the DJ scene going strong for a long time to come.

Tabi Bonney performing at Feedback at DC9 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oh to feel the gentle slumber

The DC founded, Slumberland Records, celebrated their twenty-year existence with a more than colossal show on Friday at the Black Cat. With a clown car of acts squeezed into the Cat’s normal time slot, fanatics of the label were able cheer wildly along to the likes of Brown Recluse, Pants Yell!, Frankie Rose & The Outs, The Ropers, Nord Express, Lorelei, and of course, the feature of the evening, the one and only pop sensation, Crystal Stilts.

I must admit that I spent the majority of the night tethering back and forth between the show and my favorite dance night at the Black Cat, Kicks. But what I did hear was all manner of dreamy, indie, garagey, shoegaze, psych-flecked, cotton candy goodness.

While the crowd was not nearly the most rambunctious I’ve seen at the Cat, they certainly were devoted, and held down a steady camp as they eagerly awaited act after act, genuinely seeming to appreciate each one for it’s own merits.

In my schizophenic nomadry between the two floors, I had to pick my choice moment to produce the camera, and it should come as no surprise that the hour arrived as Crystal Stilts took the stage. A savvier fan could probably produce names for the tracks I captured, but if the band is to be believed, this is a document of two newer pieces.

From everything I’ve heard and know about that band, this is an even deeper return to the garage spirit that has brought them ever-critical acclaim, most recently from the Night of Light LP. Guitar that slips away like the tide, eddied by a swirl of vocals, with a loose cadre of drums pushing things along, while an echo of keyboard becomes the jelly that somehow holds it all together.

I believe Crystal Stilts themselves would want you to sit back, relax, enjoy the ride, and pay no attention to where you might end up.

Crystal Stilts performing at the Slumber Records 20th anniversary show from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The even less anticipated, long winded conclusion of the Sonic Circuits ’09 review

I was still deep in recovery from the previous day’s mini-fest when I pedaled up to the Black Cat for the grand finale of the ’09 Sonic Circuits. We had truly been promised an epic evening, and, beleaguered though we were, there was electricity in the air.

Arriving unintentionally fashionable, I missed Alexei Borisov & Anton Nikkilä , and pushed through the upstairs doors to see Pekka Airaksinen, whom I recognized from the Jandek ensemble, studiously commanding a laptop and a small array of gear. This is where my only real criticism of Sonic Circuits would come in. I wholeheartedly support what they are doing, and their attempts to raise their own bar each year. But, for the most part, they come from a very clinical and classical school of noise. A pedagogy more based in Maurizio Bianchi (who I actually love), and skronk free-jazz than the contemporary trends of Prurient, Emeralds, or even more modern classics such as Cock E.S.P. Therefore, the shows seem to be hit and miss to the followers of No Fun, Not Not Fun, Hospital, or anything Aaron Dilloway might carry. I hope this is not taken too strongly, but in the future, I’d love to see more Fckn Bstrds, and even HEALTH than, say, post-jazz theory.

It was clear, sadly, that even more so than for Faust, the crowd had packed in to see the LA based, sassy noise pop group, HEALTH. Such as when I went to No Fun Fest, and saw all the Blank Dogs and Sonic Youth fans, (who knew nothing of the band’s origin), standing around in angsty confusion, the HEALTH fans went reeling as though hit by an uppercut once Rat Bastard+Chris Grier+Ulrich Krieger stepped onto the stage to unleash a sonic chaos. And while it’s true, this group consisted of two guitars and a very skronky saxophone, the way the group carried out their set made it highly effective. For noise fans this was a pied piper tune indeed. Just when it seemed as though the moment had played out, Ulrich Krieger carefully lowered his horn and proceeded to let fly a Fear of God style guttural eruption through the vocal mic. This instantly pushed the stage through the roof, and up onto the next level. After he was finally spent, Ulrich, with the same calmness, picked his sax back up, and musically re-joined his partners for a denouement.

Rat BastardChris Grier+Ulrich Krieger performing at Sonic Circuits vid#1 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Rat Bastard+Chris Grier+Ulrich Krieger performing at Sonic Circuits vid#2 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

As bodies pulled themselves up off of the floor, HEALTH began hauling out their equipment to pick up the pieces. Following in suit, they too started off with a cacophonous bang. But gradually, order came from chaos, and parts of their set transformed into pure pop aesthetics. They pulled all of this off in a way that, instead of confusing their fans, actually convinced them to come along for the ride. The rest of the set became calmer and calmer, but still merged back and forth between the two styles. Their non-stop, hi-energy performance left their eager fans absolutely sated. Ten years ago this band would certainly have been a rising star on the Thee. One. G label.

(Of course, I had my own personal drama with a novice photographer who, even though he free reign of the entire space along the stage, kept insisting on standing directly in front of my camera and I…)

HEALTH performing at Sonic Circuits '09 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Finally, the moment the rest of the crowd had been anxiously awaiting since it was announced several months before, Krautrock legends, Faust, had arrived and taken the stage with their massive set up. The curiosity surrounding the cement mixer in the middle of everything was almost more than the anticipation of the band itself.

In true Krautrock style, Faust kicked things off by sliding into a spacey, instrumental psych jam, perfect for turning on, tuning in, and dropping out to. After taking the audience to the place they needed them for the duration of the evening, they went deeper with another epic audio tome, wrapped around a spoken word piece, that in so many ways, described the bands connection to the philosophies of their legendary, German namesake.

It was in the middle of this deeply reverential moment that Jean-Hervé Péron, one of the original members of the band, turned on said cement mixer enigma, and let its whir gently rumble through the system. As the rest of the band quietly supported this sound, Jean began to pour pitchers of pebbles into it, augmenting the effect, and periodically tossing great handfuls onto the unsuspecting crowd. Somewhere near the disorienting climax of all this, Werner "Zappi" Diermaier, Faust’s other original member, picked up a grinder and carefully applied it to the metal thunder sheet hung near his drum kit, thereby sending a shower of sparks up and across the ceiling of the stage. The swirling finally reached its headspinning end, and the audience was Faust’s for the taking.

Faust's intro to their set at Sonic Circuits '09 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Fast performing at Sonic Circuits '09 vid#1 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Faust performing at Sonic Circuits '09 vid#2 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Faust seized full control, and soared through track after track, making new fans, and old fans bigger fans, along the way. At one point they stopped to say that, since things were going so well, during the next track, Geraldine Swayne, (who apparently is also a painter, writer, photographer and filmmaker), was going to create a painting while the band played. It was obvious that this was the type of maneuver that made the audience suspect. And even I would have to admit that it sounded like a terrible idea. But, not only did they pull it off, both the music and the painting were excellent. I’m quite certain that this was the first time in history something like this has worked.

In the end it was an excellent set, to wrap up another excellent Sonic Circuits. With the odd popularity of noise, I’m certain that this organization and fest will only grow in popularity and success. Here’s to hoping so anyway, because I’m looking forward to Sonic Circuits ’10 being an even more expansive and crazy event than this year’s. Unfortunately, (but fortunately, for the organizers), I’ve got a long time to wait until it gets here……

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The largest fury crammed into the smallest space

As a bonus, until the second half of the belated Sonic Circuits review is posted, here is a brief bit about the recent Iron Lung show.

I know that Chris Moore contacted me multiple times about trying to move this to a larger space, but alas, it was to no avail. So, as with all out of pocket shows, this one took place at the little house that could, Silver Sprung’s own Corpse Fortress. While they have been a boon to the punk community for sometime now, offering space when there is none, there are two major drawbacks to this place (if you don’t count the sketchy crowds that one often finds milling about there).

A: It is not near anything, least of which is mass transit

B: It is like having bands play in a room the size of your apartment’s kitchen.

I must admit that, even for this show, I would not have gone were it not for the ride I was given.

We arrived late, but I was glad to have gotten there in time to hear the other band I was excited to see, Ilsa. However, unfortunately, upon opening the door to the basement, I was immediately met by bodies, and as such, was forced to enjoy the band by standing on the space immediately above the show.

My cohort and I hatched a plan to bum rush the steps after this to ensure a good spot for Iron Lung. Having a friendship with the band, my partner in crime was able to get us V.I.P. access to, quite literally, right beside the band. The layout went something like this. There was the wall of the room, then me, then one foot, then the drums, then one foot, then guitar, then a small side gallery of people, then the other wall. And off to the side, was the crowd itself, packed tighter than any “sardine” simile could describe.

Even through the lens of my flipvid, I was terrified of how close the violent drum swings were coming to my face. In case you’ve never seen Iron Lung before, (or any “power violence” set for that matter) it’s like taking a two hour arena rock, metal show, and simmering it down to a lead furied ten minutes, and this was certainly no exception. Both the band and the crowd erupted at the same, in only the way that a band who draws about 100 people crammed in a ten foot by ten foot room can. Arms flailed about, as they were the only things that could be freed to move. As the band churned through tracks from Sexless//No Sex, one of the drum sticks exploded into toothpick shrapnel. The rabid fans kept pace with the ragging band, but almost before it had begun, it was all over. Like a trailer park after a tornado, all that was left were random bits of debris.

There were still two more bands left in the evening, but my friends and I were already having dreams of convenience stores. Was hitching a ride out to Silver Spring to pay a cover to crawl into an over crowded house to see one band play for ten minutes worth it? Absolutely.

A few notes about the video. It was shot entirely in Jensen vision, where you are the drummer. Also, a note about not being able to hear the vocals: I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to a house show, but no one who was actually there could hear them either.


Iron Lung performing in DC from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The much belated, not anticipated, Sonic Circuits review, part 1

This was meant go up well over a month ago, but due to many, many unforeseen technical difficulties, it is just now getting on its feet.

Every year noiseheads of all shapes and sizes scuttle down to the only noise festival DC has to offer. Over the years,Sonic Circuits has grown in size and stature, hosting everyone from Italian noise performance artists OvO, to John Wiese, and everywhere along the spectrum, in between.

This year was no different. After building almost an entire week around Sonic Circuits ‘09, things finally wound up to the colossal double evening finale.

I say evening loosely, as the Saturday show was an all day fest unto itself. Fortunately I had prepared myself, and was hunkered down for a long day of squeals and pops.

Hitting the play button, hometown hero, founder of Sockets Records, DJ for Fatback, member of Hand Fed Babies, and many more accolades,Sean Peoples humbly walked onto the stage and introduced himself. After that the audience slid into a trancelike place as blissful beats and tones filled the small room at the Velvet Lounge. For being the first set of a long day, it was definitely one of the more effective and memorable.

Sean Peoples performing at Sonic Circuits vid #1 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Sean Peoples performing at Sonic Circuits vid #2 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Let me briefly mention that, for brevity’s sake, (of which I usually am not known), I’ll only be reviewing the sets that I have video for. And while it’s true, those were the stand out artists, for me, it’s worth your time to check out all the performers from that cold and rainy Saturday.

Soft Pieces is another fragile, ambient noise artist. Again, hailing from the DC area, on this occasion, it almost seemed like a somber ritual being acted out before the crowd. A hushed silence ushered in woven blips and tones. At the height of the magical incantation, a giant slinkly was spread across the entire space, as it sent lightening over the PA. The religious expression was concluded with a communion of sorts as Soft Pieces adorned a mask, and handed out pieces of the spring as he snipped it down.

Soft Pieces performing at Sonic Circuits vid#1 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Soft Pieces performing at Sonic Circuits Vid#2 from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Per usual for Sonic Circuits, as with any fest, or at least any show at the Velvet Lounge, there came a long and awkward moment of confusion. No one was playing, no one was setting up, and no one in the speculating crowd had a good idea of what the story was. Finally, outsider legend Jandek came walking out of the muck, backing ensemble in tow. It was one of the more highly anticipated sets of the festival, but at this point, people were ready for anything.

While overall it was the gratification everyone had hoped for, the rest of the group was a bit overwhelming, marginalizing the person who should have been gravitated around. Noise, in this sphere, is chaos, but the forefront was better reserved for the namesake of what in this instance was an array of artists.

Jandek performing at Sonic Circuits from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Everyone could tell that things had gotten of kilter, but were all breathlessly awaiting the glass-like hypnotic powers of Tim Hecker. When, finally, one of the organizers sulked onto the stage to inform us, in the way that one would share a death in the family, that Tim Hecker was sick, and would not be performing, we took it with that same reaction of woe and mourning.

As the heads of the crowd hung low, Kotra, a Nietzschean Deus Ex Machina from the Ukraine, mounted a pile of gear, and saved the day. What I have to say about this unexpected talent is that he finally brought to the table what I’d been waiting for all day: real, harsh noise. While the noise genre is dense with eclectic movements, harsh noise has been a standard from the beginning, and you can’t really call this a noise fest without it. It’s true Kotra pumped beats and synth through the system, but with the volume and abrasion that gave the feeling of standing in front of a blow dryer, in the way that only harsh noise can.

Kotra performing at Sonic Circuits from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

After this the show began to churn. People went down to the bar, or went out for food. The next few rounds of performers began to feel like a long blur. We devotees had already been there for seven or eight hours. The true hangers on were, at this point, waiting for the Dutch spectacle known as Fckn Bstrds. And wait we did. Finally, after an eternity of free-jazz, the moment had arrived. And by that, I mean the moment the management tried to shut down the show for having gone well past its cut off time. Fortunately, enough pleading took place to allow a group who had flown in from Europe, to actually perform after several locals had forgotten that they were not the only people there.

And it was absolutely worth the wait. As the group began dragging trash across the stage for set up, one member stripped naked, and tapped foam around various parts of his body. That alone could have constituted a performance. What happened in the end was roughly ten minutes of insane fury. There was screaming, shoving, the throwing of random objects, garbage monster outfits, full frontal nudity, and all set to the soundtrack of blaring disharmony over the system. A full pit, much more apt for a hard core show than this, erupted, and I held my camera out until it was absolutely no longer safe to do so. But in the end I was able to get the proof that this happened, and I could not be happier to present my first *NSFW* video.

Fckn Bstrds performing at Sonic Circuits from Denman C Anderson on Vimeo.

Dead is the only way I could describe everyone, after what seemed like a fest cum eternity. We all hobbled home to recover before the final day of this week long excursion.