I really didn't go to too many shows this year due to a growing apathy towards new music and a busy schedule, but I managed to make it out to see OVO- even though they were playing one of the shittiest bars in Chicago. I had heard their latest CD and liked it OK but the live show is really something to behold. It is really difficult for a band to transcend the bleak environment of bad sound, surly bartenders who are just waiting for the 2 am rush and an audience of 10 people...but OVO- they played as if they were on the brink of death summoning up a bizarre energy.
A friend told me they played the exact same set two years ago and he was a little disappointed. Even if I saw this set a second time around, I would be mighty impressed. Working under the idea of "every performance is wholly unique" is always noble- but I always admire a band who approach a set as if it is a scripted theatre piece.
2. Hans Grusel's KrankenKabinet - Live at The Lab, San Francisco
Hans Grusel's Tea Fur Two might be one of the best songs of 2006- which makes it imperative for anyone to trek out to see Hans and his gingerbread-clad cronies whenever they pass through town. This show was a spectacular living mechanical music box replete with wind-up fraus and living day-glow tree trunks manipulating burbling electronics. They also splurted out a cover of Crimson & Clover!
This was one show that made me happy that I live in Chicago. This was Cheer-Accident's record release show for their new record "What Sequel?". When Cheer-Accident gets free reign of the night's proceedings you know you are in for hours of mind-warping, frustrating yet brilliant expectation shattering. (youtube links)
The night started out with Cheer-Accident performing a short set of complex prog, ending with their crowd-clearer Fillet Of Nod which is a single chord strummed way pass anyone's tolerance level. In the past they have performed this masterpiece in a park- displacing the resident bums who hurled curses and beer cans at them as they continued for the next four hours completely stone-faced and expressionless. This night was no different. As a fan who understands and loves their penchant for frustrating audiences, even I was slowly losing grip wondering when the fuck it was going to end until I lost myself in the minutest of variations.
Thirty (maybe...dunno) minutes passed and none of the members had broke their pose, they faded out and opened the stage for Lord Of The Yum-Yum while still standing unflappable. Lord Of The Yum-Yum (youtube link) is an a cappella classical music beat-box...umm...spazz. Tall and lanky, flailing around the stage, the audience was treated to a befuddling comedy routine rife with virtuoso vocal acrobatics. At one point one of the Cheer-Accident guys broke character and laughed- which strangely made things even more tense...who the fuck knew where this was going.
Eventually Cheer-Accident faded the chord back up and started in with two and half-hours of their trademarked impossible to pigeon-hole music. Sometimes impenetrable prog, sometimes sentimental Robert Wyatt musings, sometimes noise, sometimes solipsistic wankery (youtube link), sometimes a goddamn marching band! Truly one of the most under-appreciated and overlooked bands in the country!
4. Shows at South Union Arts in Chicago
Even though the room sounds like shit for loud amplified bands, there's something a bit surreal about this old church, located on the side of the freeway, that hosts many touring and local bands. All of the pews are still intact and the bands play under a 15 foot neon jesus that hangs from the ceiling.
5. The Chicago Sound - Live at The Beat Kitchen, Chicago
Imagine 10 dudes (and one chick) on stage playing along to classic rock songs piped in through the monitor speakers while bathing in cheap beer. I thought the idea was fucking atrocious and to be avoided at all costs...but I happened to find myself at one of their shows and was blown away. It was the loudest off-key, sometimes atonal, performance of all the songs you love to hate...all held together by a solid drummer. Wrong notes, toe-curling harmonics and a heavy dose of stupidity makes for some wonderful uncomfortable listening! It reminded me of the Portsmouth Sinfonia.
I am a big sucker for marching bands. Mucca Pazza are most notable for appearing on Conan O'Brian this last year when he was taping in Chicago (youtube link). It was an odd moment for NBC...but it in no way captured the chaotic but insanely orchestrated maneuvers of this rag-tag group. Mucca Pazza have great songs as well as they are not content with being a marching band for novelty's sake...they take great pleasure in integrating klezmer, middle-eastern and circus influences into their weird melodies.
I lose the Sparks around the time they started down the new-wave path. It just doesn't seem like the same band...even the whole Russell Mael's stage schtick changed. I just never got it. So I was very excited when I heard Dick Around...a ridiculous Queen-like six minute masterpiece that churns a infectiously annoying phrase through millions of classical variations. Making the phrase "All I do is dick around" into a mighty roar is work reserved for geniuses.
The video for Dick Around is HERE! (youtube link)
I wasn't a big fan of the last incarnation of The Fall and the pub rock they played but it was a bit shitty how they were sacked. Mark E. Smith, notorious for driving musicians off the edge, alienated his last band so severely that they left him in Phoenix mid-tour. Or so the popular story goes. Who knows?! But it makes my Fall-obsessed self follow the soap-opera via websites and message boards as if Mark E. Smith was Britney Spears parading around with no underwear.
The new Fall record is due out in March and I'm sure it will be an interesting one. For the past eight years or so, the best Fall records have been when there has been a major falling out within the band.
9. The Flying Luttenbachers- Cataclysm
Weasel Walter and his rotating cast of musicians that make up The Flying Luttenbachers never fail to please me. This time around the music takes off from the immediate brutality of "The Void" but introduces the more complex song writing that made up "Systems Emerge From Complete Disorder".
The Luttenbachers now have a page of videos chronicling their past line-ups dating back to the early nineties when Ken Vandermark was in the band.
10. New releases I have been listening to a lot of: Scott Walker, Coughs, Celtic Frost, Negativa, Andy Ortman/John Wiese.