Text and Photos from Charles Nickles
I don’t know who I am today and I don’t really care but I am a bit concerned that my feet are bleeding and so is my asshole or asscrack or let’s not get too fuckin’ specific because when there’s blood below the waistline it should suffice that things are seriously awry.
I debate going to urgent care because my old man cache of salves doesn’t appear to be doing shit but then I remember that my insurance only works in the city and even then just barely so I tell myself it’s just chub rub and nerves, hop in the shower, drown myself in cold bond and head out into the day to get myself another migas and rage.
This is a mistake.
As soon as I step outside, the heat of the day just fucking consumes me.
I check the temperature and it ranks somewhere in the nineties with an index of just over a hundred degrees.
This is not the right weather for me.
Hell, this isn’t the weather for anybody.
It’s thick and it’s foul and positively goddamn suffocating but that’s just Texas, ain’t it?
This is some deep, deep beatific dirge from a pair of local destroyers. A little post rock shivering, a little black metal casket howling, a little bass in your face, industrial waste and maybe even a whisper, a shred and a vaguely occult twinkle.
A damn decent soundtrack to opening up the big ugly of the inevitable.
The dynamic Windhand frontwoman sits down to sing the praises of Townes Van Zandt and it is lovely and melancholy as a dog-eared whiskey dream and, at some point, she is joined on stage by Austin Lunn and the crowd goes wild though the songs stay soft and I really wish I knew Mr. Van Zandt beyond the various interpretations of “Pacho & Lefty” and his hard-luck reputation so I could better appreciate what a moving moment this is but I’m not about to sweat my ignorance when there’s such lovely music being played.
This is a Blaze Foley set.
Panopticon will blaze their well-lauded blackened rural triumphants tomorrow but today is about venerating the ever-loving lonely heart of the duct tape messiah who I so wish I had known when I was younger and dumber, yearning for the sweet, steadfast desperation of a dead man slingin’ plaintive American crude.
Because there are many here in the audience crying proudly as the big man and his small band tumble through these dusty tunes and as the set unfurls and the sun soaks in I begin to feel like a shit-heeled plebe for being unable to throw my voice in to the chorus.
I have to leave Panopticon early because the heat is getting to me something fierce. Not the heat so much as the sun so I sit in the AC and darkness for a minute or twenty and then, in a full-fractured panic decide the only thing that’s going to keep me alive today is a carnitas taco and a diet coke. I find them. I assume them. And though I am nowhere near comforted by the pig and aspertane I no longer feel like I might actually wake up in the ER again so I make my way to Empire to get my weird on the rest of the night.
This band’s posters have been plastered all over my neighborhood which is weird because most of my neighbors are old and Greek. Something about the pasting blitz had me pegging them for some kinda Live Journal nu metal sad sacks living the manchild dream of the perpetual tween but that does not seem to be the case.
To be honest, I’m not sure at all what Crowhurst is. They open their set with some wild migraine grind with all the lurching and scorching and hellmouth that made a body feel like they could become and kill Christ to welcome the new century but soon turn down hard into a surling pigfuck crowl that converges with a hardcore gone turgid and hoary, bitterly swallowing its fingernails whole.
I know these dudes.
Well, I don’t KNOW them as persons, of course, but I know their name well and am well-acquainted with their reputation as some of the preeminent purveyors of thrash/noise/love/violence that has become a hallmark of the NEW new New York underground.
The mutant uprising, I’ve heard people say.
And I’m pretty sure I even saw them once with B L A C K I E and Dreamcrusher and Dalek and I remember nothing but volume and boots and an euphoric understanding that the kids would be bloodied but all right.
But that brief, grey memory; that terse snippet of knowing does NOTHING to prepare me for the sheer raging FUCK of these two lunatics and their epileptic epiphanies.
It’s hyper electronic death dub neo tribalist skull sucking punk RAWK anarchy spit out from the ashes of the belfry with the mouthpiece up and out on the PA, above and quickly into the crowd, frothing the sweat-soaked desperate into a gleeful pit of post-industrial death whorls while the fist/feet maintain a devilishly effusive polyrhythmic freak on to keep the whole thing from going full bomb scare.
It’s the fucking future is what it is.
How do you solve a problem like a body in bloodied corpse paint, dog chain and black skirt turning a room of thousand doe-eyed yearnings into a circle of bedlam freaks to the death wave of suck city?
Goddamn Street Sects.
And by solve I mean ground and expound on the feral pulsations with a white-gloved throat punch of mechanized dread which has only grown more sinister with time and her innumerable disappointments.
And, goddamn, if those aren’t real instruments on stage.
A guitarist and a drummer.
Well, isn’t that new and different?
I’m initially suspect of the addition as recent rendezvous with machine-first creeps gone skin left me desperately wanting for bitter isolationism but somehow, someway Street Sects actually use the meatbags to shore up and flush out their horrorshow.
Though I can’t quite tell you how because the band, truer to form than ever, positively flood the Control Room with smoke and adjust their (at, times, sometimes) illuminating strobes so that there’s nothing remotely human to recognize as the blasts quake and the bile boils and the mannequin shrieks noir terrors at decibel levels unfit for a dead dog,
You know that feeling when you’re shit-faced and speeding and you hit this ineffable peak of inspiration wherein you know, GODDAMN KNOW just what the world needs from an artist but you’re way too gacked to write anything down without severing the tenuous ties of your brain/body function so you grab the nearest warm body and just SPEW and SPEW and SPEW your rattling genius at them until they’re so choked with wonder they have to go home but you can’t or you are or whatever NOTHING MATTERS NOW because the future is…the future is…the firmament….the what? NO! NO!
This isn’t the future. This is the NOW and the NOW NEEDS you to DOCUMENT and so you grab a sharpie and a pack of Post Its (when the fuck did you buy these?) to scribble out the basest of tenants that would become WILL BECOME the be-all ENDALL of rock and roll forever and so what if no one cares, NO ONE KNOWS! but they will, they WILL and then they’ll remember how shitty it was for them to drink all your Bud and put you in a cab home where, in the morning, with your gut churning, your serotonin shot and your brain seared to the back of your skull all you’ll find is a deep sense of unnamable regret and a crumpled Chinese menu from the Bronx whose face is emblazoned:
And you’ll wonder, for a moment, “Who the fuck do I know in Woodlawn?”
But then you’ll think “Yeah, buddy. This is fuckin’ ON!”
I didn’t see Dalek play because I was chasing some shirtless lunatic in a mask waving a flaming guitar over his head while some other masked madman (also shirtless, for the record) followed closely behind with two containers of lighter fluid agitating the inferno out onto 7th Street but I want to recognize that the Newark noise native was here because he and his skittering compatriots have been espousing an idiosyncratically subversive brand of scratch and release hip hop since before a good third of this crowd was born and they deserve every ounce of recognition a body can give them.
Shortly before TR/ST takes the stage, Oakland Kara (who I should have mentioned before as she’s been a friendly face and welcome place of chitter-chatter since I first stumbled sweat-stained into this fest [which I’m pretty sure she is integral to]) grabs my arm and whisper/squeals “I am SO fucking excited for this.”
We both do a little giddy,
Which is funny because I don’t know TR/ST’s music at all. I mean, I’ve heard their name on and off for years in various discussions about this, that or other wave but I think the only time I’ve actually heard TR/ST was when Olivier once cranked their Arts & Crafts debut in his fine-ass whip on the way to the dump, some bent winter’s day upstate, explaining “I don’t know why but I fucking love this” and I remember being perplexed as to whether I was listening to a Depeche Mode knockoff or some queercore witchhouse turn or the last vainglorious Chelsea Boy Ministry bliss the world didn’t know it was missing.
Tonight, I think I know it’s the latter.
And I wish I had a better cache of dance/wave party references to call on to explain just what it is about TR/ST that sets the band, the man, the singularity of their grimewave heartache apart from the bass trap but I don’t so please just let me effuse that TR/ST is a fuckstorm of earthly delights played straight, rough and tight from the cool-drool synth to the spine-snap bash to the inimitable hip-sucking croon of Robert Alfons who is the true lust and soul of this trembling operation.
Dear fuck, I think I’m crushing.
Worse yet, I may be dancing.
Or so goes the sonic architecture of these damaged Chi-Town stalwarts who may or not be a real band anymore but still deliver the displeasure of being in slow, tortured tomes so hopelessly savage they would make Loeb and Leopold blush.
Unfortunately, I don’t have too long to sink into their merciless skin game which is good because I had every intention of surviving this evening and the more I listen to their urbane abattoir fugues, the more I consider self-immolation a virtue.
There is an impotent rumble of frustration among the midnight frothing about how it’s “total bullshit” that Lightning Bolt may not be playing on the floor which I think is silly so I decide to engage on the topic with an aggressively intimate, whiskey-eyed stranger.
“Dude, they can’t do that anymore.”
“WHY THE FUCK NOT?!”
“Because they’re grown-ass men now with kids and careers and shit and, besides, there are, like a thousand people here,”
“So they’d fuckin’ die and so would a bunch of other motherfuckers.”
“Yeah, dude. LIGHTNING BOLT!”
We part ways and Lightning Bolt take the stage.
And I guess it is kinda strange to see them way up there while enjoying my personal space and, for a moment, I think the distance and lack of immediate and constant physical impact might do something to diminish the full experience of these freak-flying, jazz-grinding, art-noise pasteboys but the second the bash and rumble begins I don’t give a fuck where I am or whose skin I’m in or what the distance is to the nearest exit.
I just feel fucking ultimate.
Electric and alive for the first time in what feels like a lifetime.
I want to fuck. I want to fight. I want to fly.
I want to shave my head and chase the arctic.
I want to scream. I want to flail. I want to burn my whole human history down to the ground and rise out of the long ashes like an ill-fed and over-caffeinated phoenix chasing vengeance in kaleidoscopic tremors.