Nü Sensae, Psychic Blood, the Dreebs
Death By Audio
Monday, August 20
Better than: The last horror movie you shelled out double the price of this show to see.
What little there is to cyber-stalk of Nü Sensae’s offstage life would suggest that they’re a trio of upbeat, probably hilarious Vancouver punks who’d like nothing more than to goof off and make music with their friends (who also likely comprise their favorite bands). That impression collapses almost entirely, however, when they mount the stage, strap into their instruments, and reveal that they may in fact be repossessed by demons nightly—and are dead serious about purging them. How can their audience be convinced of their determination? Well, for starters, it takes drummer Daniel Pitout all of four miNütes to brusquely rip off his shirt and undo the top button of his shorts, a double move that some punk drummers would play up comically for a cheap laugh but one that he totally deadpans. Welcome to our exorcism, glad you could make it.
Throughout their set, which ripped through some of the best tracks on their recently released LP Sundowning, the three Senaeans (just go with it) give off distinctly separate pheromones: guitarist Brody McKnight is enveloped in the task of getting the most distortion out of each strum; Pitout loses control of his limbs, Animal-style, on the spastic heart-attack rhythms of “Spit Gifting” and “Whispering Rule,” demonstrating a deep-seated inability to remain still (the whole shirt thing at the beginning aside, he also seems to be the only member of the band not serious-as-cancer about the evening, even cracking a smile toward the end); and vocalist/bassist Andrea Lukic—well, if there’s nothing seriously fucked up inside of her that she has been trying to force out through her teeth at the mic every night, then she’s doing an excellent job of faking it. She seems to drift in and out of awareness of what she’s doing, at times a dead-eyed automaton with a ratty, dyed-blonde, scissor-straight haircut that couldn’t give one damn less that there were other people in the room, at others a feral animal, caught in a trap and forced, leg still pinned and teeth terrifyingly bared, to perform for a crowd of mild-to-moderately responsive studded denim vests and floral skirts. It’s not a cohesive team effort by any means, but a more orchestrated performance would probably have taken away from the trio’s rabidity.
Speaking of onlookers, the audience gathered at DBA was likewise distinct from the band they crowded one another to watch combat its demons; while a few thrash-flopped back and forth, feet planted, as if seized by the devil-banishing being performed on-stage, whatever rage outing that happened in that room last night was largely kept private. Whether it was out of awe at the hellish bile coming out of Lukic’s mic or simply the fact it was a Monday night, Nü Sensae and their billmates evangelized a disproportionately sedate congregation.
On said billmates: tour support trio Psychic Blood nestle well under the Nü Sensae wing, despite (or perhaps thanks to) their New England roots—as one onlooker at the acts’ show the night before last at Boston’s Midway Café effectively put it, “Band from Western [Massachusetts] who are on tour with Nü Sensae sounds like a band from Western [Massachusetts] who are on tour with Nü Sensae.” Their brand of noise-punk hasn’t fully ripened yet—neither the trio on stage nor the crowd keeping its distance (save to snap an abrupt flash photo or drag casually on a cigarette front row center) seemed altogether comfortable with what was going on—but nothing about their opening set indicated it wouldn’t do so quickly, and with the help of friends, judging by their dedication one of their best songs to Pitout, whose affection for the trio has been publicly professed.
And when Nü Sensae left the stage, though the night’s panic level took a notable plummet with the entrance of Brooklyn art/noise outfit the Dreebs, who rejected the stage and conducted their methodic clamor on the floor instead, the crowd that stuck around got to extend its unease alongside the “headliners” (can you even use that word at Death by Audio?). In the wake of the ritual that played out earlier, the set acted largely as decompression: whatever machinations of the devil had been there before (though their scent lingered somewhat within the Dreebs’ ominous violin screeches) had been successfully banished.
Critical bias: I bought a Nü Sensae t-shirt.
Overheard: Nothing, because I have lost the ability to hear anything except the ringing in my ears.
Random notebook dump: This crowd’s dance moves come in two flavors: “strung out stare” and “spastic overdose.”