Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Place To Bury Strangers

Warning: I am incapable of just giving a concert review. I am compelled to tell a story about it. This is likely why I make such a sucky essayist. This story will be accompanied, of course, with plenty of pictures.

The whole day was quite lovely until right before we left. The sun was out, and while crisp, it was warm enough to be out without a jacket. We brought the kids out to the park, and then had an early dinner of pizza and beer. I wasn't excited though as I felt awful. I was afraid that my general feeling of yuckiness would ruin the show for me. But luckily, by the time we dropped the kids off at my mom's house I was feeling better. As we left Charlotte, a storm broke out, and we had to drive through some rain. We saw a rainbow, and this is the sight that urged us forth.

We headed West towards the mountains. I love driving this route as the landscape begins to look more and more like Maine. This was a glorious ride up as the alternating rain and sunlight created rainbows. Rainbows coupled with sunset creates one amazing light show. I told Horacio after seeing yet another rainbow, "This would be a great sign if we were going to Radiohead." We brought along a few cds: Liars, Yeasayer, and naturally, APTBS ,but we didn't end up listening to them. Instead we talked--about education.

The show was at the Grey Eagle, a neat little club in the "very hip oh so cool" mountian town of Asheville. It was freezing and as we were hurrying to get into the warmth of the club, we meet the guy who booked the show, Matt. It was his birthday present to himself, and we thanked him for having a birthday. The club itself is a smallish gray building with a great bar and a neat little kitchen hosting more than simple bar food. The crowd inside was very indie, and they obviously all knew each other. It was hard not to feel a bit like we didn't quite fit. We had a beer, and then wandered into the stage area to check out the opening band, Knives and Daggers. They weren't bad but not really great either. But low and behold as we wandered about there he was: Oliver Ackerman himself. Okay so I know I gave Horacio some shit about not talking to him at the Chapel Hill show but I got cowardly myself. Thus we kind of stood around and I watched but we made no moves to approach him.

Instead we got more beer. Then we went back to the stage area to stake out a spot. And Horacio, emboldened by beer, approached Oliver. I had no clue what H was doing as he just started to beeline in on the guy. H introduced us. Oliver, for the record, is a nice guy. He shook our hands, asked us our names, and talked with us for a bit. For all the Mexican fans, we told him the band has a fan base in Mexico City. He said he'd love to play Mexico (hear that...LOVE to play Mexico). I told him I was writing my thesis to his music, and he asked me what my thesis was on...when I told him Mormon Fundamentalism, he was speechless;) He left us to go set up...

The magic partly comes from these little gadgets. Top photo are Jono MOFO's pedals for the bass. Bottom picture are Oliver's pedals for the guitar.
And then the magic...we were up fairly close to the stage, and I wasn't sure how long we would be able to stay. We hadn't had a chance to buy ear plugs(and for the record, they must not have been as loud normal as I stayed up front for the whole show sans earplugs). The music starts out soft, and then suddenly, and you if you've heard them before you know it's coming, that sonic blast that just slams through you. It's not really the loudness that off centers you. It's the way that the sound becomes twisted through the amplifiers, shaking you, knocking you off balance, moving through you. They started with a new song (fucking awesome). And after birthday wishes to Matt, they went right into "To Fix the Gash In Your Head." The crowd was pretty stoic although there were some guys at the front that were swept away. It was hard not to be swept away.

They started out...I don't want to say slow...but maybe a bit reserved. There was a kind of control that seem to restrain their performance. But sometime after the third song, sonic annihilation happened. Suddenly, the lights went out, and for a few seconds there was only the smoke and the sound. You could no longer see the band, and then the strobe lights kicked in. There was this ghostly moment when you could only see Oliver in bits. One flash, an arm, another flash, a leg, another flash, the guitar. He was in and out of the smoke as his voice (oh that voice) and the screeching reverberations of his guitar washed over you. But it was a ghost singing to us then...a sonic ghost.And then during Ocean...pure ecstasy. The band was no longer with us. They were transported as were we. Oliver was on the floor wrapping the guitar in cords, making it produce sonic feedback that ran up your spine, literally making the hair on the back of your neck stand up, the next moment he was beating the shit out of the guitar.... Jono MOFO was ripping the bass, and the drummer was fucking nuts. The rhythm section stands out live. I mean, the recording is awesome but live...they were just stellar.
At this point, I managed to squeeze into a small space in the front of the stage. This gave me a great vantage point to snap shots of JonMOFO (bassist). In fact, I even got down on my knees, leaning against the stage for a few pictures(I felt quite the professional).
But the best...this moment of noise heaven ended with an eight minute electronic jam. The music just went on and on..pouring over us, drawing us in and sending us away.

Above photo is my favorite shot of the night.
When I was younger, I didn't really do shows. I hardly ever went to concerts period. I just wasn't aware that one could go to a concert that wasn't in an arena. For a bit, I hung out in punk clubs in Rochester, but that was mostly for the pits, and not for the bands. It never occurred to me to that someone I listened to daily might possibly play a small venue. A venue so small that I could get right up to the front. A venue where the leader singer is walking around, and chats it up with you. Being this close to the music is exciting. It makes you feel like you are an integral part of the whole experience. And of course some of this is that I am such a fan girl. I realized that I've really got a "thing" for rock stars (no matter how indie). I told my friend today that if I was hot enough I'd have been a groupie. Being in a small venue, getting to meet Oliver (swoon) was just too much.

And after the show, we saw him again. He was talking with a kid, and then trying to put off the obligatory drunk girl who was trying to hit on him (he did so kindly). I screwed up my courage (cause in reality I'm kind of shy) and approached him. I told him about the blog, said I wanted to write about the show, and asked him if we could get a picture. "Yeah! Of course," he agreed enthusiastically. Then he gestured to H and I "Come on don't you want to be in it?" And so I asked the scornful looking indie kid behind us (I don't think we were acting cool) to take. H apologized for being a "fan boy" and Oliver just laughed and put his arm around us. He told the indie kid "Come on take it!" at which point the indie kid had no choice. Hilarity ensued as the kid fucked around with my camera. Oliver was swing H and I around, cracking jokes, and just really being very cool....

So yeah I was a total fan girl, and yeah I sort of have a big crush on this guy, but I did get my picture of the mad noise scientist himself. And H and I are not that big...the guy weighs like 80lbs! Oh and there's a ton of pictures here.


Horacio said...

hey i was that show too,
that's me in the picture!

thanks for a wonderful date.


neverneutral said...


(I keep saying "coool" in your blogs, guys).

Ginger said...

Cool is a good word yes? I hope you can see them E, as they're amazing live.

When are you leaving for Mexico?

Mel said...

Wow... I'm certainly not the only one who has a crush on Oliver.

Ginger said...

Nope you're not. course mine is harmless...married, old, and have children:)

Daren said...

Its funny how you stumble across these things. Good review!!! Sorry I had to miss that one.

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

Is this my Daren?:P If you look at the next post, you'll see the band comments.

Thanks, and if this is my D, I'm sorry you missed it too.

Daren said...

Yeah, its me. I didn't notice those comments yesterday. I was actually trying to track down a song of theirs and came across a link to this from the father's site.