WFMU Fest/Music Hall Of Williamsburg
Dear American experimental underground, Faust has a message for you: You’re no fun. Last night was a rollicking, all-smiles 90-minute set from a bunch of Germans who were making weird records when Mike Patton was still rocking a stroller. Their show made any band you’re championing right now look like a bunch of dire blowhards.
Headlining the first of a three-night convergence booked by radio anti-gagas WFMU, Faust fit the festival perfectly. If WFMU is famous for riding for bands that a) explore wild, expressionistic sounds and b) are cool as fuck, well, inviting Faust–krautrock pioneers and masters of anything-goes improv–over to play their first American show in 10 years has all of those things in spades.
And the rest of the festival lineup is an absolute triumph, the remainder of the bill so–shall we say–severe: The prickly crowd-taunting of Teenage Jesus And The Jerks, the pigfuck no-future blurp of Pissed Jeans, the drunken barfsludge of Drunkdriver, the abrasive blare of Sightings. Hell, last night’s opener, awesomely hypnotic French black-psych occult rockers Aluk Tolodo, didn’t even acknowledge or look at the audience–not even to say “thanks” or “goodbye.” The evening’s second band, the hyped dark-wave troupe Cold Cave, has an aesthetic built around looking bored, cold, and intense.
But Faust came out as jolly grandpas, treating it all like a communal experience. Guitarist Jean-Herve Peron started the show in the balcony, playing trumpet at the stage like he was jazz-flecked heckler. “Thank you very much, New York City,” he shouted, when he finally made it to the stage. “Thank you, Williamsburg!” The band played hits with goofy glee, leaning heavily on 1974’s melodic Faust IV: a psych-metal version of “Krautrock”; a run-through of “Sad Skinhead” where Peron threw a bottle(?) at new addition James Johnston; the usually plaintive “Jennifer” played with rock fury.
And, as for the improv portions, well: there were many. At various times, Faust were krautrock weirdos, hippie flower children, proggo space cadets, out-jazz beard-strokers, the next level of Oneida. Pretty much anything that struck their fancy happened, and they played with the playful lunacy that serious New York noise dudes can never muster the smiles for. There was a long spoken-word break from poet Geraldine Swayne, drummer Werner “Zappi” Diermaier played a power sander, and Peron played a fucking wet and dry vac. At one point Swayne just starts painting a painting! Then the band tried to teach the audience to clap in 13/4 during a run through “Giggy Smile.”
Peron threw a bunch of sand or rice or something into a cement mixer and listened it them slosh around. They threw the brittle little seeds in the audience so we could feel what was making the sound. When’s the last time you saw a cement mixer onstage?