Photos & Text by Robert Hanna
A Place to Bury Strangers, Nightmare Fortress, Grave Babies – Live at Crocodile, Seattle 03.18.2015
Touring in support of their 2015 release Transfixiation, Brooklyn’s psych-noise-gaze rockers A Place to Bury Strangers descended upon the Crocodile Café encased in fog, strobe lights, and the images from multiple projection units. Remarkably loud for a three-piece, APTBS signature and mammoth tone is completely drenched in reverb slap backs and ear-piercing feedback. Their powerhouse rhythm section, comprised of drummer Robi Gonzalez and bassist Dion Lunadon, provide a seemingly endless driving backdrop to Oliver Ackerman’s morose and breathy vocals and pummeling wall-of-sound guitars. APTBS’s approach to post punk is certainly more of a nod to 80’s noise rock than it is to goth or darkwave, and there is something refreshingly honest and unpretentious about them that draws you in when they are veritably exploding live. While most commonly compared to shoegaze pioneers Jesus and Mary Chain, APTBS is at their core essence a crushingly heavy band, and have just as much in common with early Sonic Youth, Big Black, or even Scratch Acid by way of impeccable songwriting. The songs on Transfixiation are still rooted in this core worship of noise, however the chaos is more controlled, directed, and intentional.
As the intensity of their set built up, the band went into “I Live to Stand in the Shadow of Your Heart,” the marathon finale to 2009’s Exploding Head release, and the crowd bore witness to a guitar vs. stage beat down of epic proportions, through a blinding shuttering of strobe lights and fog. As Ackerman swung his battle-scarred Fender Jaguar down to the stage, an explosive burst of feedback mixed with the thump of the stage. At which point the band slowly escaped, masked with looping noise, dragging amps and gear to the side of the crowded venue where they had a small set up with a drum machine and keys inconspicuously set up and continued to play a stripped down, lo-fi version of the end of the track while their cohorts projected lasers onto them. In short an APTBS live set is certainly something to experience, and while their albums certainly stand on their own merits, they fail to communicate the intense energy that is actually happening behind the scenes.
Providing main support were Nightmare Fortress, a four-piece darkwave/electronic group fronted by vocalist Alicia Amiri. Skating the line between dream pop and goth, Nightmare Fortress has a terrific and dramatic live set characterized by Amiri’s beautiful and haunting vocals and the pulsating lights from LED panels surrounding them. If Clan of Xymox and X-mal Deutschland had a tryst, their rebellious, dancey lovechild would look something like Nightmare Fortress.
Opening the set were Seattle’s Grave Babies, whose sound is reminiscent of Seventeen Seconds-era Cure crossing paths with the 90’s Amphetamine Reptile catalog. With the addition of a new keyboard player, the group seems to be moving to a slightly darker and less garage-y direction than earlier material.
A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS