Thursday, April 17, 2008

994 words about an impromptu Patti Smith performance 4-15-08 at the Philly Film fest.

I wasn't expecting to see a Patti Smith concert on Tuesday night. But sure enough, I did. It was intimate, acoustic, and impassioned

Well, maybe "concert" gives the wrong idea. Patti Smith can easily perform an hour and half to two hours of songs, covers, and improvised poetic rants at one of her scheduled concerts. But this was just an impromptu few songs. It happened at the Prince Music Theatre as part of the closing-night festivities of the Philadelphia Film Fest. After a screening of the documentary film she did with Steven Sebring, "Patti Smith: Dream of Life" she came out and did a Q&A. And after the Q&A she said "well I might as well play a few songs."

Guitars and her guitarist-son, Jackson, were brought out. For me this was a bonus on top of a bonus on top of a bonus. I slept on getting tickets for the "Dream of Life" screening and it got sold out. But last week, a friend said she had an extra ticket and invited me to come along. Then at the theater, just before the film started, the emcee announced that Patti would be coming out after the screening for a Q&A. Apparently her Q&A appearance had already been announced, but since I wasn't following the Fest closely and it wasn't announced on Patti's website, I was ignorant. Once it was announced that Patti was in the building, I knew a performance of songs or poetry was a possibility but I wasn't really sure it was gonna happen until the guitars were brought out.

As Patti and Jackson came out there was a moment of discussion as they decided what to play. I shouted out for "Beneath the Southern Cross," my favorite of her acoustic songs. But my request went unheeded. Instead she refreshed Jackson on some chords and the they did "Grateful," a song that Patti had previously said was inspired by the smiling grey-bearded face of Jerry Garcia.

The venue and both of the Smiths on stage seemed only semi-prepared for the performance. The house lights were kept on and it didn't seem as if Jackson's guitar was mic'ed for the first song and Patti's guitar seemed slightly out of tune. And by her own admission Patti can't really play guitar despite having attacked one on stage from time to time for the last 30 years. But I enjoyed the ragged nature of it. After appearing larger than life on the big screen for two hours as part of a film that seemed to be aiming to increase the myth of Patti's mystical, goddess nature here she was just a hundred feet from me stumbling through a song with the child she had in the 1980s with Fred Smith (yes, Fred "Sonic" Smith of the MC5)

After the first song, I was hoping Patti would decide to honor my request for "Southern Cross," but then someone shouted out for "Because the Night." I groaned. It's undeniably a great song, but I think it's very over-played. Patti has dozens of great songs, but still "Because the Night" is the only song of hers that ever gets played on classic rock radio. It's her only hit single and it's the only song that the average non-fan knows (either through the original or the successful 10,000 Maniacs cover.) For such a rare, intimate performance , I was hoping for a rarely-played gem.
But "Because the Night" IS a great song, so I wasn't going to groan too much. And after checking with Jackson that he could actually play the song and acknowledging that the song was hard to pull off without drums, Patti launched into a near-definitive version of the song. Her voice, perhaps a bit tentative for the opening song, soared!
And the crowd took up the invitation to join her on the chorus. I felt a great feeling of community. The hardcore fans, the casual fans and the unknowing curious were united. Because everybody knows "....the night belongs to lovers, because the night belongs to lust." For a moment I shed my elitest super-fan attitude and was freshly swept up into the beauty of the song.

Patti then acknowledged the upcoming Pennsylvania primary and gave subtle support for the divisive Ralph Nader. Fittingly, she then launched into "People Have the Power" from the Dream of Life album. The song has a anthemic fist-in-the-air quality. It was relevent when she wrote it at the tail-end of Reaganism and it's still relevant at the tail-end of Bushist. The sentiment of the song seems a bit too dreamy and optimistic for my cynical "Darkly" self but every time I hear it live, I get swept up in the song.

The album version, ironically, lacks power. Its late-80s production is too smooth. It dilutes the raw righteous joyous anger of the piece. But on-stage the song really soars. The melody is simple enough to be carried effectively by a single acoustic guitar. The simple repetitive chorus lends itself to singing along. And "People Have the Power" sounds more POWER-ful when the People in their seats sing along.

And that was it. After 3 songs, the mini-concert was over. Patti simply walked off the stage through the crowd and out the door. I left feeling lifted.

Apparently Patti went to use the theater's public restrooms, just one of "the people" acting on universal necessity. Acting on that same urinous necessity, I passed Patti in the hallway. I was hoping she'd just get a few pats on the back with people saying "that was a great performance." But instead she immediately got surrounded by an autograph-hungry crowd wielding sharpies and LPs. She didn't seem enthusiastic. The bathroom hallway was a small space to start with. And with a starstruck mob it quickly turned into pure claustrophobia. Patti humored the crowd for a moment, signing a few things. She told people to back off and give her some space. I could see the anxiety in her eyes. Then she just gave up and with the help of her associates (friends? guards?) she pushed through the crowd and was gone.

It was a slight blemish on an otherwise wonderful event.

You probably noticed I didn't write anything yet about the actual documentary "Patti Smith: Dream of Life." And that's because the actual live performance was far and away the highlight of the evening. Steven Sebring's film was a documentary in the loosest sense. It was non-linear, non-chronological. It was a collage of performance, backstage, home, and travel footage spanning from Patti's mid 90s return to the stage and recording studio and onward to the mid 00s. I actually looked at my watch twice during the film, a sure sign that I found it less than enthralling.

I wanted a film that made Patti seem real. I wanted someting that got me inside Patti's head, and past the myth of her as a witchy mystic. But there was too much footage of her walking in graveyards and dancing in flowing dresses on beaches. It seemed more like an extended music video. It seemed like Patti acting out the narrators of all her songs. In grainy black and white, there was too much "art" and not enough "life."
I love Patti's art. That's why I have her poetry books, all her albums, and have seen her in concert 5 times. But the documentary, fitting to its title gave us just a dream of Patti and not enough of her real life.

There were a few really gratuitous moments that dragged. Towards the end, she and Flea (yes, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) were shown a beach playing trumpet and clarinet respectively. They then went on to exchanging awkward peeing stories.
Perhaps this was supposed to show her a a real, fluid-filled person. But it provided no insight and only a few cheap laughs.

Short of providing insight into her life, I'd hoped the film would at least include a lot of great performance footage. But there was surprisingly little of that. What was included was fragmented and interspersed with other sounds and scenes. The on truly great on-stage piece was a joyous excerpt of her and her band playing the feisty, controversial "Rock and Roll Nigger" during her first tour after 16 years. Everyone on stage was smiling and moshing with one another as they all huddled around the microphones shouting the song's chorus, "OUTSIDE of SOCIETY!"

The film's most sweetly insightful segment was of Patti with her parents in their humble South Jersey abode. Patti's mom said her favorite piece by her daughter was the "Horses/Gloria" medley. Patti's mom served burgers and coffee as she showed her collection of cow trinkets and she and Patti's dad talked about going to see their daughter perform at one of her sound checks at the Troc. Patti's mom (and maybe her dad now too) recently died and the segment was a candid tribute to a family that was earthy and "normal" but loving and highly supportive of their firebrand, arty, iconoclast daughter. Seeing Patti's parents at home made me think of my own normal yet very supportive parents in their own humble abode (also in New Jersey.)

I also enjoyed the inclusion of a few haunting clips of lo-fi home recordings of Patti and Fred "Sonic" Smith working on songs not long before his death.

The most overall moving, powerful part of the documentary was the audio of Patti performing the Declaration of Independence. She read the document, which seems eerily fitting for current times under the tyrannical rule of another George. And this reading morphed into her direct indictment of Bush's crimes against the environment, war crimes, crimes against civil liberties, and crimes against flooded New Orleans. Different points of this indictment got loud cheers from different sections of the crowd.

When I saw Patti perform at UPENN in the Fall of 2003, she performed a segueing "medley" of the Declaration>Indictment of Bush>People Have the Power that got me all riled up, cheering, and singing along with my fist in the air. And hearing it again as part of the film was nearly as powerful.

Here's the one clip of the documentary that I could find on youtube. It's not particular insightful and in that way it's sort of representative of the film.

Also, for anyone looking to recreate the experience of my evening as closely as possible. Here's the nearly complete Q&A session with Steven Sebring and Patti Smith.

part 1:

part 2:

Friday, April 11, 2008

The First Attack of the Rising Sun (1040 words about Philly all-night techno parties)

There were no good youtube clips available that were applicable to this blog. Kate Simko's music was the inspirational force behind my writing this. Her set of minimal techy housey goodness was the highlight of the March 8th party. But all I could find of her online were poor-quality 30-sec bass-distorted cellphone video clips. So instead, while reading this, listen to this mix. It's Kate Simko spinning a great 3 1/2 hour set in Philly at Inciting HQ from this past summer:

"The First Attack of the Rising Sun"--- this is the name of a bootleg of Led Zeppelin's first ever concert in Japan (Sept 23, 1971 in Tokyo.) "Rising Sun" refers to Japan's "Japanese" name ("Nippon.") Nippon translates to the "Land of the Rising Sun," acknowledging Japan's extreme position in the far east. By itself, taken apart from the wonderful recording of a classic Zep show, that title, "The First Attack of the Rising Sun" is poetic yet ambiguously sinister. Sunrises are a universally accepted example of natural beauty and a sign of hope, yet "attack" brings with it is a violent negative destructive image. And I like this contrast of images.
That "first attack" could reference the deadly 1941 strike on Pearl Harbor. Or the "first attack" could refer to an unwanted dawn--- something dreaded by vampires and attendees of all-night dance parties.

Last month, I was an all-night dancer. It was 5 or 6AM depending on whether one factors in the daylight "spring ahead." I came home just as dawn was breaking. It was so quiet after the warehoused bass receded. I could hear the creaking of my bike's little imperfections as I pedaled home. The passing buses were empty except for what looked like some brutally early morning commuters working the Lord's day of rest.

Minimal techno was the musical menu for the party I'd just left. MNML isn't very sexy music. I think that's part of why I like it. It's not sexy, but it moves the shoulders, arms and legs. It's played usually when people are gathered--at parties--but its minimal nature creates a spacious atmosphere. People dance to it together, but there's an introspection to it. Each person lost in his/her world. There's dancing in close proximity to one another, but the beats are generally too fast and clipped for bump and grind.

"Minimal" means no more than necessary; no full kit sound when a simple snare click will do. The rhythms are still strong and at times there are even little looping melodies. But the music is less dense than the kind of techno you might remember from bad high school parties in echoing gymnasiums and Jock Jams CDs.

The minimal nature gives the music a consistently propulsive yet often floating nature. There's none of the slap-in-the-face snares and punch-in-the-gut 4/4 bass kicks. That more heavy-handed techno has a tendency to make me feel pummeled into the ground. It was that sort of aggressive techno that turned me off to the idea of electronic dance music for so long.

In MNML the bass often cuts out, giving it more emphasis when it drops back in. In MNML there are peaks and valleys. There's a continual tension between repetition and change. The music will start repeating a phrase, one begins to think "is the vinyl/CD/mp3 skipping?" And then at the last moment, as one is just resolving to go to the DJ booth and say "WTF?!"---bam!---the music changes. The click is filled out with funky bass rolls, briefs pockets of density, vocal fragments, fists in the air.

And in MNML there aren't any "songs." There's just a continuous evolving rhythm lasting for hours on end. In the crowd there's no anxiety of "Oh they better play THIS song, THAT song, etc." Michael Jackson doesn't exist in a MNML set. There's are no lovers of Billie Jean here. There are no requests. Even techno tracks that one might have at home are cross-faded, combined, and re-EQed. Tracks are remastered in real time, looped, sped up, and slowed down so they are often virtual unrecognizable.

The police showed up 3 or 4 times at the LAVA party in March. They were polite from what I witnessed. They're probably aware of fire code violations, illicit substances, and under age drinking going on in the laser-lit darkness just past the metal door. But they also seemed to realize that the people were well-behaved. There was no shouting on the streets, or curbside vomiting. The party was self-contained except for the bass which oozed through the loose mortar for a block around.

The cops said they were there because neighbors complained. They'd show up and the volume would be cut accordingly. Then as soon as they left the floor shaking-bass would be dropped back in again with a rebellious cheer from the crowd. The cops had gone but the neighbors hadn't. They still had to suffer as 3 o'clock became 4 became 5.

Ironically the venue, LAVA, is subtitled "a radical community center." But here we were with our techno, primarily sweaty white kids dancing in the dark in the middle of a primarily black low-income neighborhood fucking over whatever community is at 42nd and Lancaster Avenue. The image of poor black folks with paint-peeling walls and cotton balls in their ears compromised my enjoyment of the music.

I don't listen to much techno off the dancefloor. I used to think that techno not making good music for kicking-back with the high-fi and a cup of tea back at the homestead made it intrinsically bad music. Insubstantial, not durable. But I now like that techno is so linked to the dance floor and body movement. The fact that it only works with one's body in motion is actually a testament to its strength as what it sets out to be-- DANCE music. Even off the floor, it's difficult to listen without at least twitching or head-bopping a bit.

People (mostly) come to Philly techno parties to dance, or at least enjoy the full body experience of standing around and soaking in the deep clitter/clatter/pow of a surround sound sub woofer PA. As I previously stated, the music isn't sexy. And it doesn't seem that people come to hit on or be hit. It seems people tend to leave with the same people they came with.

I take comfort in this. Sexually-repressed me doesn't have to deal with grinding. If I make physical contact it's with my friends. I come alone and just before dawn I leave, alone. Just as I expected. [Deep even breaths]

People don't dress up much for Philly techno. There's a come as you are, let it all hang out mentality. There are some tight dresses , shiny shirts, and sharp outfits to be sure. But one is more likely to see a Black Flag t shirt than a dress shirt at these parties. A good warehouse party will bring out 100, 200, 300 kids max. The scene is too small to be elitist. Philly is not Berlin. It's not London. It's not even NYC.

There are a few people I accept but don't quite understand at these parties-- the DJ watchers. These are the people, always men, who stand inches away from the DJ booth/table almost still as statues watching every knob turn, fader slide, and cue. Maybe they themselves are aspiring DJs, hoping to learn something about mixing from watching the DJ. Maybe they're crushing on the DJ. Or maybe these DJ watchers just feel awkward, drawn to the music but too self-conscious to dance.

But techno DJs rarely do anything showy. There's none of the scratching behind the back of hip-hop turntablists. The DJ is there to keep the dance floor going, not to be a focal point. Though sometimes the DJ has a pleasing and contagious time-keeping wiggle going on and sometimes there's a bit of an engaging micro-drama when the DJ uses both hands, quickly turning two knobs in unison, to dramatically and immediately change the sound.

These little motions are an added visual bonus for the dancer, but they never seem like enough to hold attention by themselves and stop someone dead in their tracks.
But at every party there's always a contingent of these statue-standing floor-blocks, reducing space for the dancers.

I DO like to keep looking over at the DJ every few minutes, trying to catch their eye when they're not too concentrated on the mix, hoping they see me dancing and know that whatever they're doing on the decks is working for me and keeping me moving.
I try to make eye contact because I want the DJ to feel connected to the crowd he's spinning for. From my own amateur DJing experiences I know how motivational, inspirational and satisfying it can be to have eye contact with happy dancers in motion.

I feel like I dance like a lead-footed handicapped person on every other dance floor in clubs and bars. But in the MNML tchno wrhse I feel a tad graceful. I feel I'm holding my own. And best of all, I often don't even think about how I feel. I'm just in the moment, dancing. At the best parties I lose my self-consciousness. I slide in and out of the beats and ascending and descending notes as if I were part of the sound, as if I were birthed from the speakers. And with all my anxieties, I most value things that kill my self-consciousness, even if for only a little while.

The phrase, "The First Attack of the Rising Sun" looped in my head riding my bike home from two all-night techno parties in the last month. Despite my oft-nocturnal ways I'm no vampire, but I am certainly a frequent all-night dancer. Seeing the sunrise, alone after no sleep at all, is both beautiful and sad. The solar "attack" is the punctuation on a unrelenting night of beats. The period. The final shimmering cymbal crash that fades to light. As daylight creeps through gaps in thick curtains, the empty bottles, cigarette butts, and baggies are revealed on the now empty dance floor.

Meanwhile I'm half across the city and exhausted. I'm at the limits of my unnatural extension of conscious through caffeine and sheer willpower. I'm very susceptible to strong emotional responses. My guard is down. The happiness feels happier and the sadness sadder. Things stop making sense. I'm filled with frightening confusion. And then I collapse and lose all consciousness as the sun, now risen, continues its attack.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

1400 words about seeing the Boredoms in Philly last night (April 2nd 2008)

i saw the Boredoms at Philly's Starlight Ballroom last night. It was the most intense show I've been to all year

I actually went to the show with very little knowledge of the Boredoms. I knew they were Japanese. I knew they'd been around since at least the early 90s. I knew they made experimental music and that they were well-respected by many left-field musicians and indie music fans. I also knew they'd staged a huge event in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge on July 7th last year (7/7/7) with a total of 77 drummers known as "Boa Drums."

But before last night I'd only heard a few minutes of their music.

A friend in Portland had played the Boredoms through his laptop speakers at a moderate volume while we were hanging out earlier this year. I remember it being spacey and droney. It was music you could probably fall inside, but music that could also serve as a background (as it was serving in that Oregon living room.) We were able to hold a conversation while it was going on. What I heard must have been their most recent record, "Seadrum/House of Sun" which mood-wise characterizes as "trippy, hypnotic...detached, spiritual, soothing, reflective, ethereal, circular, calm, [and] peaceful."

This was not the mood at the Starlight Ballroom last night.

One couldn't be bored in a traditional sense during Boredom's set. The music overwhelmed the senses to such an extent that the feeling of boredom wasn't possible. But a possible reaction to the music was analogous to being bored: standing in place, paralyzed, mouth half-open, jut at the edge of drooling.

The set last night was unrelenting. The band played for nearly an hour and a half with no break. I expected a set full of peaks and valleys, maybe one with percussive freak-outs but also one with a lot of lushy, pillowy buzzy drones. But what I got was far from this.

I don't know exactly where my expectation came from. Part of it was surely based on what I'd heard on tinny laptop speakers in Portland, part of it was probably based on my most recent live experience with ANOTHER experimental Japanese experimental band: Acid Mothers Temple, and part of my expectations were probably just based on what I wanted to hear.

On another night, in another state of mind the Boredoms' set might have sounded beautiful to me. Sometimes the right music comes to you at the right time. And sometimes it doesn't. I was (and at the time of writing, still am) feeling a bit down. Going to the show, my mind was full of thoughts of failure, social anxiety that comes from being in a space with hundreds of other people and my coexistent contradictory loneliness, sexual frustration, creative blockage,anxiety and frustration that my income tax paperwork still wasn't done with just over a week to go. I could go on. But that'll give you the flavor of what was looping in my head walking into the Starlight.

I really wanted narcotic music, something I could listen to lying on the floor tucked into a sleeping bag. Something that was weird for sure, but something dreamy. Perhaps Flying Saucer Attack's Further--- a weird, droney album with some darkness and mystery for sure, but one that gives me an overall soft and peaceful feeling.

If you're not familiar with the music on that album, I think the beautiful cover photo captures the music's essence.


I have that cover shot as one of my profile pictures on my page on a certain online social networking site. I captioned it "I want to live inside this picture." And I kind of wanted to live inside that night time drone/dream last night too. But I got a nightmare instead. And drums...lots of drums.

Given the 77 drummers/"Boa Drums" event from last summer, I shouldn't have been surprised by the 3 full drum kits being played together on stage last night, but it still caught me off guard and pummeled me to a ringing pulp.

The drums started before Boredoms even took the stage. The two openers (Soft Circles, and Black Pus) were solo acts centered around drum kits. Both acts came from the same spastically percussive parent duo, Lightning Bolt, and both Soft Circles and Black Pus did sets that experimented in the same beat-heavy vein.

I couldn't see exactly what equipment the openers used, since I stayed towards the back in a booth chair to the side of the floor, but both acts seemed to augment their live drumming with percussive and tonal loops and effects-laden vocals. The PA was up so loud that the music was a physical experience. The low tones and bass drum and tom hits vibrated my bones and the seat below me. I couldn't see the performers clearly but I could see lights near the front and above me that lit up in time with the music. I think they were a (new) permanent part of the venue. I think these lights were beat-activated, operating in the same way as those "dancing robotic flowers" did that were popular in the late 80s. I found the repetition of these lights hypnotic and soothing, taking a bit of the edge off the evening's harsh music.

At times the music of the openers created a physically uncomfortable atmosphere. The bass drum kicks felt like a gut punch. And the beats went from a "tribal" drum circle feel, to disco breaks and bad "4 on the floor" techno. I like a far amount of techno too, but I gravitate towards (and dance to) more minimal varieties. I like techno filled with spaces, peaks and valleys, tension and release. The occasional techno-flavored beats of Soft Circles and Black Pus had no spaces. There was just the unrelenting "uh-uh-uh-uh."

Starting with the openers and all night long, there was tension, and it was unrelenting. There was never any release. I went into the evening feeling tense, even before the music started. Ideally, I wanted that cathartic release that the best live music events can bring. I never got it.

The music made me wish I'd brought my earplugs. It also made me wish I could go outside for a moment for some fresh air and quiet. Then maybe after a moment away- like a side break on a tumultuous vinyl album - I could come back and better appreciate the music with fresh ears. But unlike ever other show I'd been to at the Starlight there was no re-entry at this one. I wondered if this new "no-reentry" policy was a result of the shootings that had taken place outside the Starlight late last year, at an event unrelated to the R5 promoted concerts I attended. The thought of the venue as a site for a violent crime made me uncomfortable. And I since couldn't go outside. I could only sit there and take in the discomforting music.

The only drone and respite from the drums that I got during the evening was between the groups. Between acts, the PA played a most-vocal CD that sounded ceremonial and Indian or Far-Eastern in origin.

Boredoms took the stage around 10:30 and played continuously until midnight with only a few minutes break before the encore. The set started spaciously enough. The dreadlocked leader of the 5-piece ensemble kept knocking two wired glowing orbs together. They seemed to create some sort of a field akin to a theremin and when he banged them together, there was a violent electric sizzle that sounded like dueling light sabers making contact. I didn't quite know what sort of circuitry was really at work behind the showmanship so this was a suitably magical, other-worldly opening. It seemed like a invocation. In between sizzling contacts of these "electric orbs" the crowd cheered wildly. And this was really the last time one could clearly hear the cheering for the rest of the set. Soon enough, the three full drum kits on stage kicked in and let up very little over the next hour.

My senses got overwhelmed around this point. The VU meter in my head hit red at this point and stayed there. Behind the dreadlocked leader there was a "guitar sculpture"--- 7 electric guitars stuck together vertically. But they were never played like traditional guitars. This too was a percussion instrument. The strings were hit with drum sticks, making this "wall-of-guitars" an electrified version of chimes. There was one "non-percussion" member of the ensemble at the very back of the stage. In between retuning the strings of the 7 guitars, the guy in the back created tones on some sort of electronic set up. I couldn't see it at all. Occasionally there was a noticeable squelch or bassy growl, but the percussion up front was always in domination.

The Boredoms' drummers didn't create noise in the common sense of the word. There was little random clatter. The drummers played polyrhythmically, but certainly as a unit. They shifted, stopped, and started precisely together. There was obviously composition and practice involved. The drummers all wore headphones. I couldn't tell if they were substitutes for stage monitors or if they played a "click track" to keep the drummers together. Or maybe the headphones served both purposes. Their kits were set up in a semi-circular facing Dreadlocks.

The fact that no one in the band really faced or acknowledged the crowd during the performance added to the tense, discomforting, monolithic feeling. I felt distant from the band and pretty much everyone else in attendance, even though were all in relative close proximity. It was all drums, all night long without even a rhetorically "hey how ya doing out there?" to lighten the mood. The mood was somber and ceremonial. There was only a terse "thank you" before the encore.

And except for the brief respite between main set and encore, the band was so loud I couldn't think straight. I've been to loud, experimental performance many times before. But usually each performer's set will run less than a half hour. The sheer volume of the Boredoms' performance (both sound level and temporal quantity) made all the difference. I didn't feel particularly connected to the band and yet their pervasive drumming permeated my mind. All I could think about was "wow, the band is really loud!" And while not particularly pleasant, the hijacking of my mind through sound was an interesting event. It was remarkable enough to inspire this lengthy description of said hijacking that you've been reading. Many more pleasant shows have warranted very little or no written descriptions whatsoever from me (umm...tonight I saw Beach House at the Barbary Bar). The fact that I've gone on for over a thousand words about this ugly experience says something.

I could've left the show at any time (and not come back) but I stayed until moments before the end. There was something spell-like to the performance. I couldn't leave. The drums had me pinned inside the door. Also, I kept thinking "any moment now this has to resolve itself. There has to be a release after all the tension." But there never really was, except debatably during the encore when the drummers played a lighter disco-flavored beat. It was a little less dense than what had come previously and was more traditionally danceable. But even this "disco" beat was loud as all hell. And by the time of the encore, my ears hurt. The physical impact of the loud drums made me a bit nauseous. I already had my jacket on, ready to bolt. I hoped there wasn't going to be a second encore. I hovered by the exit and actually walked out with a couple minutes still to go in the final piece.

I also stayed until nearly the end because, perhaps masochistically, I wanted to get my $16 worth even it was apparently $16 worth of ringing ears. I'll often go to a show knowing it'll be a crap shoot whether I'll like it or not. And even if I don't like it, I still stay because I paid money. The ticket makes it seem like fate that I should stay. And also I often believe and hope that the unlikable music could shift at any point to something I might actually enjoy.

And often at these unenjoyable shows there are people dancing, singing along, shouting in jubilation. I start thinking something is wrong with me for not enjoying the music and I start thinking that maybe if I stay long enough I'll catch the fever of enthusiasm that people all around me are sweating through.

I'm not complaining about the Boredoms' performance. In hindsight, I'm glad I went. Even now, as the specifics of the music are evaporating from my mind, the memory of its intensity remains. I can still practically feel the performance. The feeling it gave me is something I've rarely (if ever) felt before. It put me in a unique state of mind. It was intense in a neutral sort of way. I'm glad I saw the performance in the same way I'm glad I saw Schindler's List and Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain. Those movies aren't fun in any traditional sense. But they're both powerful and worth seeing in their own ways.

The Boredom's last night wasn't a great show. Great isn't the right word. It was a POWERFUL show. My reaction to this power was strong and yet neutral. The performance was neither good, nor bad. It was simply overwhelmingly intense.

Here's a clip from a 2006 live set that illustrates some of the elements of last night's performance. The drumming is a lot more palatable when played at the moderate and listener-controlled volume of computer or headphone speakers: