Blue Bird / Golden / Silkworm / Trans Am, Spaceland, Los Angeles, 5/23/97
Blue Bird - Unfortunately for them, I'm afraid they could just as easily have called themselves "Four Guys Going Nowhere". Although their heavily distorted grind was occasionally interesting from a musical perspective, the lead singer left quite a lot to be desired. Evidently he went to the David Yow school of vocal training. For those of you who don't know Mr. Yow, he is the lead vocalist of the Jesus Lizard, and you have absolutely no idea what he is singing, even if you are reading the lyrics along with the song - it seems to work for them, but it didn't work tonight. I was unable to decipher even one word of this evening's vocal morass - I think at one point he was saying something about "meager shotglass preposition" or maybe it was "toasted eggplant religion" - for all I know, it was "Stellaaaaaaa!"
Golden - Close to the musical high water mark for the evening. Golden actually has at least one member of Trans Am in it (I couldn't see everyone on stage at the time), and was also fully instrumental (bass / drums / 2 guitars). On a couple of their songs, it seemed like things got started more or less accidentally - someone would sort of play a few bars of something aimless, and other people would join in. From there, things would reach a kind of rhythmically-structured sonic chaos from which a discordant melody would arise. The funny thing is that somehow the confluence of all of this strange distortion, swooping discord, and solid rhythm made a lot of sense. Something along the lines of King Crimson's "Lark's Tongues in Aspic" or more recently the works of the Pittsburgh group Don Caballero. Talk about comparisons as useful as a cubic basketball - well, anyone who's brave enough can borrow my tape.
Silkworm - Remarkably unremarkable. I thought they were really straightforward, generic rock with drums, bass, and guitar. The bassist and guitarist traded off on kind of weak uninteresting vocals. As far as I'm concerned, if a band is going to play boring music, the vocalist should at least have a really silly voice. All I had to occupy myself during this set was to think how far these guys could go if they could get Bert or Ernie to sing for them...
Trans Am - I was really impressed. Because quite a lot of their recent stuff has been heavily synthesizer-based and comes close to being techno, I was expecting a performance indistinguishable from what appears on their album. Much to my surprise, they were able to improvise things or at least very convincingly add bits in a spontaneous fashion. The three guys in Trans Am will not have to worry about going to the gym during their tour - they get quite a workout during their brief (only 1 hour) but very intense set. All three of them were in perfect synch - the blindingly fast drummer precisely constructing complex beats, the bassist running back and forth to the sampler thingie, and the guitarist really sawing away while switching off at keyboards. I thought their music took on quite a different tone live - almost a scary, overbearing sound (but in a good way) as opposed to the light electronica which they recorded. An instrumental rock band who gets people to move like they're at a rave? What will they think of next?
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