The Big Pink/A Place To Bury Strangers @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Thu Apr 15 2010

I love Turner Hall, but I was dismayed to find no Rehorst Citrus & Honey flavored Vodka behind the bar. At the one music venue that carries it, and at a relatively decent price, I’ve gotten into the habit of treating myself. Oh, well, the standard gin and vodka are as good as any on the market, so I can’t really justify a complaint.

I really came to this show more for A Place To Bury Strangers than for the headliner, so I was happy that the show started just a bit late, no chance of missing the opening act. The good news: I had earplugs. I don't own a delibel meter, but as far as I could tell, this was the loudest show I've been to since My Bloody Valentine. And like MBV, this was not noise for noise's sake.

You don't get the full picture listening to APTBS records, as good as last year's Exploding Head (Mute Records) was. You need to be able to feel the feedback rattling your innards to appreciate frontman Oliver Ackermann's vision. It's also worth it just to watch Jay Space hammer out those mechanical beats with only the occasional human error. But the biggest thrill is watching Ackermann. During the penultimate tune, he sloughed to the edge of the stage and gazed with an undefinable intensity out on the audience for an uncomfortable length of time. Then, as the strobes went into hyperdrive, he pummeled and swung his guitar across the stage, crafting a menacing yet mournful howl and a spectacle that gave the impression of a man losing control of his faculties.

There's no denying it: the scruffy blond moptop thrashing about, bathed in feedback and distortion, propelled by a militaristic beat and his own unknowable thoughts...evoked Kurt Cobain in the throes of a set-closing "Endless, Nameless" demolition jam, and it wasn't the only Nirvana-esque moment of the evening. The whole set was punishing, and glorious, and even though nobody in the audience was dancing to the admittedly danceable beats, we all swayed in rapt absorption. And it all hinted at a band that may yet grow more powerful even if they decide to hone the noise into more universally palatable song structures.

The Big Pink's members must have chosen their band's name in a childish moment of giggling irony, as the only similarity between its music and The Band's debut is that it features singers, guitars and drums. You've probably heard the group's single "Dominos", currently gaining steam on American college radio, and it is a brilliant slice of catchy, noisy pop. So, when do you play the hit? The Big Pink opted for very last, probably the best way to keep casual fans in the room.

Luckily, the rest of the show was pretty awesome, too. I hadn't expected these guys to really fit with ABTBS, but while they were certainly poppier, they were still noisy as hell. They reminded me of a modern-day Love And Rockets, albeit significantly more bubbly. Black ponytailed tour drummer/vocalist Akiko Matsuura, also of the awesomely-monickered Sperm Javelin, has been a mighty addition; she's no Meg White, but...

It would've been tough to top APTBS, but I enjoyed the hell out of the whole night. If this is what the future of pop music looks like, maybe I'll be able to start listening to commercial radio again some day.

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