The Grey Eagle, Asheville, North Carolina
October 20, 2008
There is a certain stretch of highway as one drives up the mountains that opens up the sky. You're driving along, darkened forest, and suddenly a blast of red, orange, gold blinds you as what feels like the world opens up on you offering glorious expanse of mountain and that blazing sunset. It's becoming a deja vu sight as this is the third time I've headed to Asheville for a show just in the past year. This time I went up with my friend Amber. D and H both had childcare duties...plans fell through so it was a ladies' night out. I was disappointed that the guys couldn't make it but it was great to get to now Amber better, and I felt we left each other as friends. Always a good feeling.
I hung around outside, it was freezing but I get to smoke during shows...Jim, from All Saints, came out and talked with me. We talked about music and venues. Then Oliver came out, and I went through my silly fan girl thing...should I talk to him? Should I not? I finally did, and he claimed to remember me, and I got a hug. Okay I have to admit...I do have a big crush on the guy. I just can't help myself. He was still sweet, so nice to know that touring with NIN has not turned him into a superstar.
Finally, the moment came. I staked out a spot right in front of where Oliver would play, and held my ground. I didn't mind waiting because from the first screeching wave of feedback, I was gone. I've come to the conclusion that I'm one of those people who likes to be assaulted by music. There's something about that sound slamming against me that lifts me. It's raw and hard and I like that but then APTBS does something else, something not softer but more sensual. Some of it is Oliver's voice which comes to you so indirectly under that pounding assault. Last time, I found myself wanting to hear him louder but this time, there was something so intense about hearing that voice coming through this sheer noise that left me breathless. It was such an unlikely combination but one that worked well. And his voice sounded even better this time around. And then some of it is the melody that comes through the feedback, and the screaming of wires being ripped across guitar strings. I could always make out the songs, could sing them from memory, pull them out of my head as I felt my body literally being vibrated by the sound. There was a familiarity even as Oliver and crew worked their magic creating new sounds, new ways of playing the songs, because underneath there was this core sound that I knew.I found myself thinking about floating in the ocean in Vera Cruz. I have always been a little scared of the ocean. I'm terrified of drowning anyway, and the vastness of the ocean does not make me comfortable. But in Vera Cruz I found myself floating in these warm gentle waves, being lulled by this gentle motion but even as I allowed myself to feel this embrace, I found myself always aware of the power that rocked me. It was a pleasurable moment but not a safe moment.And yes this all came to me while Oliver was going fucking insane during "Ocean". I remember at one point, Oliver had thrown his guitar around, beat on it, tortured it with wire, and just literally messed it up, when he stopped playing. He just stood there staring into the darkness where the audience was, his eyes wide and almost crazed. He wasn't there with us anymore, and it was a disconcerting feeling to be so close to him, and yet feel so far away from wherever place he was. This was the man who was about to suck us all into that place where he was, and for a moment, I wasn't really sure if I wanted to go. I felt that same feeling as floating...this time it was with noise, sound waves, and the danger lie in the person (people really) manipulating those sounds. He played some more but it still felt like something bigger was about to come. Best part of that moment was that you got to hear very clearly the bass. JonoMofo is an amazing bassits but I often feel like the bass sounds is like a foundational sound that is almost missed if you don't listen carefully. The drums and guitar in APTBS are totally at the forefront in most of the songs but when the guitar went silent, you realized how vital the bass is for this group. It's really the sound that carries the melodies through those almost discordiant moments. Then the guitar came back but I'll never lose the bass again...and yes I was lost in the music. Waiting for that something more to come...and they left...
Just like that he left. It was too soon, and it felt like something was going to break but it didn't. Instead we were all standing there...waiting, knowing there was something more. I almost walked away, almost but luckily I was too shell shocked too move, too disorientated to even walk. I couldn't hear anything, and couldn't really see through the smoke and the strobes. I wasn't expecting an encore as they had not done one the first time we saw them...but they came back. And I'm pretty sure they played "My Weakness" which in recent weeks has become my favorite song. It was not a familiar version of the song but I thought I could detect the melody under the most intense noise they had produced all evening. At one point, Oliver was rubbing the microphone against the speakers creating the loudest, shrillest feedback I've ever encountered.
What fascinated me along with the music was the crowd. People had been dancing up until that point. They stopped. There were several with kind of horrified looks on their face. No one walked away but they stopped connecting. For me, it was the ultimate connection. It was the body meeting noise not mean to be music, and turning that sound into music, into expression, maybe not of a rational kind but it was expression. It was raw, hard, and real. It was like that moment when you feel physical pain, and everything comes into this kind of intense focus. It was those moments of clarity so brilliant it hurt to contemplate it too much. And it was painful. Physically. My ears still are not okay. If possible, they were better than when we saw them in April. I think the show was a lot more crazed, intense, and loud. I can only imagine the next show I get to see...now if I can only persuade them to play Charlotte.
I got to say goodbye to Oliver (and even get one more hug...which you all know I am not going to bitch about) and I got to get all fan girl on JonoMofo (or "I'm Jonathan"). He's nice as well as being an incredible bassist. And he totally sounds like he's from Brooklyn (a wee bit of sarcasm here).He remember me as the reviewer who thought he was "Mugging it up for the cameras." But he graciously allowed me a picture, and even invited Amber and I to the party at the bar later (can I even began to describe my disappointment in not being able to go?Why oh why can't I take a decent picture? I look so dreadful. Smug, and bloated or something. Dreadful. I so wanted this picture....sigh, at least he looks good.