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Shows + 5
A rock club, a bar patio, an old church, a casino amphitheater, and back to the rock club. Plus some home listening.
Ceremony with Gusher – Launchpad (Albuquerque, NM) – Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Hmm, there’s a strange, primal link between the music of Ceremony and the behavior it elicits from a live audience. That would be an entirely boring observation, illuminating only my own greenness at punk shows, if the name of the band in question wasn’t also the name of that link. Launchpad’s unselfconscious audience (of about 40) could have invented their own dance ritual, so easily did they enact and yet so little did they seem to consciously follow the code of skank (as laid down in 1982 in the documentary Another State of Mind). Ceremony’s trademark blasts of intricate noise were sometimes what inspired the violence, but other times they didn’t, and instead some undercurrent in the music (a skeletal, arrhythmic guitar intro, etc.), detectable only to the chosen few, would set it going again. Singer Ross Farrar, whether straining forward on the stage, sitting placid on its edge, or falling on and crawling across the floor below (during the squealing guitar coda of “Repeating the Circle”; I hadn’t previously thought to imagine the singer’s actions as being relevant during that thrilling void), was chief instigator, weirdly oblivious to but taking silent responsibility for the atomic collisions.
Originally announced opening act Royal Headache (more about them in a bit) didn’t end up following Ceremony on this leg of their tour, but they could have placed the band in a classic punk context (which maybe Ceremony don’t want, or warrant). I’m not certain what context actual openers Gusher provided, if any, but between the thudding, sludgy momentum of the songs’ violent peaks, they had some nice instrumental passages, one being particularly shoegaze-y and matched by vocals that, in this context, recalled The Chameleons’ Mark Burgess (in muffled fervor mode: singer/drummer Zacque Dana cannily wore a mic’d gas mask, of sorts).
King Louie’s Missing Monuments with Jonny Cats and Phantom Lake – Blackbird (Albuquerque) – Sunday, June 3, 2012
King Louie Bankston has lived through the two saddest stories in rock ‘n’ roll this century, the premature deaths of Jay Reatard (whose early band The Bad Times he was also a member of) and three members of The Exploding Hearts (whose classic album Guitar Romantic he played on). It’s easy, then, to read a lot into a song with a title like “Love You Back to Life,” by King Louie’s latest group of rock lifers Missing Monuments. So, after a rollicking cover of The Exploding Hearts’ “I’m A Pretender,” and after the vital, non-tragic rush of the entire set, what he had loved the departed back to was not life, but a kind of carefree immortality purchased by hard, hard work. The best tributes are always just sweet continuations.
Earlier, Jonny Cats offered a perfect take on The Gun Club’s by no means fake-able “Sex Beat,” and surfy instrumentalists Phantom Lake proved the ideal band, in the sense that its four members trade instruments among themselves with no noticeable change to their sound.
Mary Gauthier with Birds of Chicago – San Ysidro Church (Corrales, NM) – Wednesday, June 6, 2012
America’s greatest working songwriter, obviously, anytime she’s flexing the poetry of her rhymes with a confidential, conversational delivery, and a new presence from Chicago, a duo that activates the city, its crows and cold, violence and peace, in a surprising and affectionate way. The rare talent of each seen plainly against bare church walls.
The B-52s – Sandia Amphitheater (Albuquerque) – Thursday, June 7, 2012
Music that conflates ages of human history (“Mesopotamia,” “Love in the Year 3000”) and light years of space (“Private Idaho,” “Planet Claire”) into a single, local moment of dance mania is by definition ageless, so it was no surprise that its makers are too, for now.
Destroyer with Sandro Perri – Launchpad (Albuquerque) – Friday, June 8, 2012
Call it Dan Bejar & The Destroyer All-Stars: Bejar’s greatest gesture as a performer is the way he crouches down and listens during instrumental passages, like a man in a record room, Destroyer suddenly not his band but a band that inspires him. (He seemed inspired on this night, anyway.) That makes a good Destroyer show an important event, more creation than performance. All other bands are too rigid in their formation, by comparison. Except for Sandro Perri’s band. He doesn’t crouch, but his music is so strange and unpredictable as to be a creation.
Royal Headache – songs from Royal Headache
Some writers have gone to great lengths to imagine Royal Headache as a classic punk band matched with a classic soul singer, when what they really mean to invoke is simply The Jam, or even a more consistently stomping Guided By Voices led by a more fervent Robert Pollard. Whatever the scenario, good stuff.
Los Lobos – Kiko
I’m playing this in anticipation of the band’s upcoming free concert at Albuquerque’s Centennial Summerfest, marking the 100th anniversary of New Mexico statehood, and, by chance, the 20th anniversary of Kiko. That makes it one-fifth as old, but similar in its perpetual newness and oldness.
Mew – Frengers, And The Glass Handed Kites
Masters of the 53-minute album, a calling they must have realized between these two records (48:44 and 53:53, respectively), the latter being slightly more expansive-but-not-bloated.
Meat Puppets – Huevos
Up on the Sun would be a great album to discover at this point in my life, if it wasn’t already as familiar to me as the dark folds of my brain it long ago threw into light. So here’s the long neglected (by me) and altogether different Huevos, the moment life’s greatest work gives way to comfortable imperfection. And let it ever be thus, but always as bright.
Salem 66 – Your Soul Is Mine, Fork It Over (1983-87)
They developed some more imaginative vocal harmonies and trade-offs on 1988’s Natural Disasters National Treasures; in their earliest years, they made some of the decade’s most thrillingly grounded independent rock music.
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