Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Montréal Part 6: For Those Of Us On Foot

31 October 2006 continued...
Being the clever fellow he is, Marc-O had the foresight to bring a deck of cards. The show is supposed to start in half an hour, which should be an easy chunk of time to pass, but with all the delays that kept us outside and scrounging for fun, we all get schooled on how to play 31. I won't describe the rules or objective in here, not because it's a bad game, but I know some of my readers want to know about the show. Without further ado, the opening act, Crystal Clyffs...

...SUCKED. The only saving grace was the fact the lead singer was fairly attractive, though a little egregious in all non-superficial aspects. She was supposedly dressed as Mother Nature, and she spent half the performance making love to the stage. She chastized the crowd for being mostly uncostumed, suggesting we have no soul. Worst of all, she was a member of that horrid, horrid band. I think it's fair to say that it was the longest half hour of my life. I recently read an article about the U.S. military using the latest Chili Peppers album to torture prisoners into revealing classified info about terrorist plots. I thought it was kind of funny that religious fanaticals could be so easily broken, but if I were captured and forced to listen to Crystal Clyffs, the enemy would have the coalition surrounded and captured within the hour. Now then, the important stuff.

As we discussed at the show, Deerhoof are way too humble for their abilities. Once the freakshow band was done, these normal people in casual, around-the-house clothes take to the stage to help the amateurs pack their gear.

Once everything was set, the band left the stage for what felt like another eon. The lights finally dimmed and Deerhoof (reduced to a three piece in May) returned dressed as zombies. Saulnier started the set by rhythmically assaulting his high hat, and the rest of the band joined him lightly at first, building suspense until they finally launched into "Twin Killers".

I don't have words to describe the rest of the set. Without exaggerating--and I've had time to reflect on this--it was the greatest live performance I've ever seen. All I can say is that Deerhoof are a band about moods and feelings. Anyone looking for enlightenment in their music is denying themselves a very primal and exhilerating wilderness adventure.

Another cool thing was how Satomi Matsuzaki noticed someone dressed as the Milkman and invited that person onstage in the middle of the first or second song.

At no point was I farther than 15(ish) yards from the stage, and this only happens in cool places like Montréal and at indie shows therein. Beyond saying what I have, all I can add is that everyone must see this band if they have the chance.

The Fiery Furnaces
First of all, I convinced Marc-O to follow me to a much closer position to the stage. We watched my heroes and their new set musicians setting up, and finally the set opened with pre-recorded banter that I believe they recorded just prior to playing. It spoke of Halloween and the band taking over the universe, or something along those lines. At this point I'm sweating a lot and I really have to pee, but I decide to trudge on. I mean, I'm far too close to the stage to move.

On record, the Fieries are my favourite band. Matthew Friedberger has a flair for writing original, loveable characters and complementing his credible and downright endearing phrasing with the perfect soundtrack. I can't even think of Fiery Furnaces albums as mere CDs, because the experience of listening to them conjures such vivid images in my mind's eye that calling them audio movies makes much more sense. That said, they failed the capture this essence during their performance.

It was evident that Pete Townshend is God to Friedberger, because his songwriting gems were given such a steroidal, ball-shrinking jolt that it melted into some kind of sonic soup that corrodes the tongue. If they couldn't hear this performance in space, it proves that sound can't travel in a vacuum.

Eleanor's voice was practically shot, and it was no wonder; she had to shout over the damn music. Speaking of the music, the bass is really loud and penetrating, and it's causing my internal organs to resonate at levels that induce, well, a need to deplete their contents. So, as the band is nearing the end of their 30-minute version of Bitter Tea, just as the misplaced "Teach Me Sweetheart" is starting, I have to extricate myself from the crowd and find the nearest damn toilet I can. And I do. And from downstairs in the stall, I can still hear the speakers hollering.

I return to the table and sit out the rest of the show. The band plays a hodgepodge of material, all of it sounding beefed up and somewhat heartless. Don't get me wrong, these musicians are talented as hell, but the music sounds more like a 100-metre dash than anything remotely artistic.

For an encore, Matt and Eleanor perform stripped-down versions of "Spaniolated" and "Police Sweater Blood Vow", which are, for me, the highlight of what the Furnaces offered the entire night. Simply, Eleanor's not competing with the noise just to be heard, and the sweetness in her hoarse voice is a little more prominent.

Closing Thoughts
The rest of my trip, as well as the few days I spend on the train and in Halifax, are not something I care to describe. I had a great time meeting Reg and Devan for coffee. Reg and I also discuss future plans. I may have seemed fairly competent between Halloween and 4 November when I finally got to sleep in my own bed, but it was mostly from necessity. It's funny how our bodies are capable of resiliently not collapsing, which mine wanted to do many times during this trip. I'm very blessed to have an understanding boss who was willing to let me go, even though there was some work to do in my absence. Nothing pressing, but I was new to the job and it would have been perfectly reasonable for him to want me to stay closer to home. It will be a while before I take a similar trip, but I can't sufficiently thank everyone who helped me along to the way, especially Reg, Marc-O and Marie, Jean and Bill, and my family. There were also many others in Halifax who had offered me places to stay in Halifax; I am very grateful to these folks as well. I've now seen two bands that I'll still be listening to for the rest of my days, and it means more than I probably understand. Being the perfectionist, anal retentive fool that I am, I feel I need to mention that all of these entries have not been subject to my editor's hat, so if anything is grammatically inferior, don't fucking mention it to me. :)


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