A Fart Supreme
Amid a weekend of droning machines, bodies are the stars
Bearded crusties, leather-clad Brits, middling indie dorks, backpack-toting Europeans, and a reprimanded stage-diver convened at Northsix last weekend for No Fun, a three-day/two-stage Carlos Giffoni-curated noise-fest. Amid the drone, stars were spotted: Vincent Gallo, for one. Another Buffalonian, the rum-wielding Tony Conrad, cut the rug to Arthur Doyle’s kinetic electro-acoustic scat. And I swear I spotted Aktion Unit saxophonist Paul Flaherty (earlier mistaken for Terry Riley) signing an autograph.
PowerBook wizards, Caroliner-related fruit bats, decayed pricks, and Unicorn Hard Ons duked it out admirably, alternating between up and downstairs. While between-song setups proved interminable (the otherwise propulsive Doyle assembled his sax as if building a bomb), only a couple of naysayers were heard punning the event’s title. Instead, the crowd clapped wildly after loud distorto-blasts, danced when asked, and treated pedal farts like Coltrane solos.
If a structural snag existed, ’twas the laptop. Gert-Jan Peris, Massimo, and icy Mego Records kingpin Pita (a black-clad Soprano checkin’ his e-mail) exist wonderfully on headphones; onstage though, the stationary cut ‘n’ paste felt like grown men playing video games. Indeed, despite shouts of “more laptops” after Wolf Eyes’ grandly terroristic finale, the weekend’s stars were sweaty, stinky human bodies.
During To Live & Shave in L.A.’s frantic surround-sound dance party, Rat Bastard turned a blinking joystick into a codpiece. And as part of both the Sonic Youth-related Aktion Unit and Alan Licht’s rocker quartet, Ecstatic Yod checkout boy Chris Corsano proved young gun of the weekend, taking apart a hi-hat while making a nimble drumroll last an hour. Otherwise, burly sludge trio Air Conditioning rattled water pipes and Kentucky’s Hair Police dive-bombed the crowd like Jack Black joining Harry Pussy. In a romantic twist, Dead Machines—Wolf Eye John Olson and wife, Tovah O’Rourke—bookmarked a set of King Kong jungle-fucking with full-on makeout sessions.
Another Wolf Eye, Aaron Dilloway, provided the weekend’s most transcendent moment. Cutting through secondhand pot smoke during his basement slot, the Hanson Records honcho bent electronics into a gristle-throbbing centipede, as the arm-wrestling audience slivered into a soccer-style crush.
Power-piano trio takes jazz to the people—but no requests
The dude who kept shouting for “Free Bird” doesn’t get the Bad Plus. Yes, they’re cornballs from the heartland. Yes, they’ve covered Nirvana and Neil Young. But there’s no place for irony in their rumpus room, which is littered with press clippings and spare neckties. An acoustic jazz piano trio with arena rock on the brain, this band courts chaos but never loosens its grip on the wheel.
At their first honest-to-goodness New York rock show, the Bad Plus managed to play every song but one from their new Columbia album Give. In fact, the show sounded more like the album—vast, thunderous, and cathartic—than like previous Bad Plus gigs in asymmetrical, low-ceilinged rooms. If last year’s Village Vanguard engagements were like crusaders storming the castle, this one was more a victory parade.
Partly this was due to the rapturous full house; partly it was inherent in the music. Ethan Iverson favors simple but somehow grandiloquent accents in the piano’s upper register, a trait counterbalanced by Anderson’s low-slung basslines and David King’s often brutish percussion. The net result is sweeping, epic: The Pixies’ “Velouria” came across like Squarepusher wrangling “Chariots of Fire.” Like every other song of the night, it reached a dramatic climax, with an air of triumph after great and noble struggle.
What kept that struggle engaging was how much the band is a band. Iverson played a lot of piano, but took standout solos only on Anderson’s luminous, lonesome “Neptune (Planet)” and King’s ploddingly funky “1979 Semi-Finalist.” He sounded most like a conventional piano-trio pianist on the stately new “Prehensile Dream.” He sounded least so on the inevitable first encore, Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” more viscerally satisfying in person than on disc. The second encore was a goofy sing-along called “People of the World Are United.” Thing is, they meant it.