Black Metallic

An artist's rendering of the viking who gored Zach Baron.

So the concept here, as I understand it, is to choose a completely arbitrary source of info—some blog, some free rag, some drunk friend of yours—and avail yourself of The Best Band in the City That No One's Ever Heard Of, Including You. Such Forward Russian roulette has its charms, I suppose, but if the cookie crumbles poorly you might find yourself standing in a blacklit LES bar (Midway) at 8:30 p.m. watching a band actually named the Muggabears, whose singer-guitarist is wearing a trash bag and playing like it.

Perhaps I have overrelied on this L Magazine guide, which declared the 'Bears "one of the most promising bands in New York City." Its convenient pocket size has beguiled me; the Muggabears' occasionally tuneful but overly dissonant Sonic Youth thing (every other chord makes a noise approximate to SCHBRRORONGGGGG) has beguiled them. Perhaps some other local paper is more trustworthy.

On then to the Afropunk showcase at the Delancey, the upstairs DJ very awkwardly crossfading Steely Dan into Daft Punk, the bands downstairs trying much the same chocolate-peanut butter fusion with, oh look here's another free local music pub (flip flip flip), "Luther Vandross fronting My Bloody Valentine." Thus do Apollo Heights self-identify, a "soulgaze" outfit the Interboro Rock Tribune declares "the Best Band in New York City." Sounds promising! In the article itself the Heights boys heap praise on the Cocteau Twins and insinuate that Outkast stole their personal fashion sense. I read all this after seeing the band itself and have a much better time. Onstage AH has three guitarists all doing the atmospheric thrash-melodic thing while the frontman bellows—sometimes seductively, often histrionically—into a mic drenched with more delay than the new Clipse album. "White music for blllllack people," he quips frequently between songs, as he cues up the drum machine. Find a real-life drummer. If there's no room in the van, fire your rapper.

This business is preceded by the Smyrk, polite but quite righteous boys from Connecticut dressed half-assedly like Pulp Fiction characters—the guitarist's Uma Thurman wig keeps flying off as he flailingly leads the "At the Drive-In That's Playing Blaxploitation Flicks" charge. (I'm getting the hang of the rules for describing stuff like this.) And to cap it off, the Dragons of Zynth, day-glo face-painted demons who are either "rhythmically complex" or "totally drunk." At times their stuttering metal shtick approach some kind of menacing surrealist transcendence; just as often they look and sound like the Insane Clown Posse with vertigo. (Incidentally, if that ICP panel is running the same time as mine I'm gonna be totally pissed.)

Bewildered, I trudge to the Knitting Factory—and immediately find a fantastic drummer for Apollo Heights. She's Japanese. She's part of an impossibly loud duo called the Metalchicks. And with a truly joyous look on her face, she is wailing the crap out of her kit—overpowering her bandmate's shrill guitar shredding and programmed keyboard beats. Might as well have been an accordion. Jesus Christ. I walk outside afterward and Leonard Street has a five-foot-deep, hundred-yard-long gash carved into it, and for a second I wonder if it was there when I walked in.

I'd shown up actually to see Jason Forrest, party-down breakcore goofball, a pilgramage I undertook entirely due to the genius of the "War Photographer" video, one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Maybe he played it, I don't know—his three-man onslaught was so relentlessly peppy and jumpy and spastic that I quickly came to know what the floor at a rave must feel like, and thus fled in terror. I considered just crawling into the Leonard Street mega-pothole, nestled deep in the earth, a nest of free CMJ guides providing warmth and comfort.

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