Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Nonviolence -or- Where Does the Aggression Come From?

John Darnielle wrote a thing on his blog, which you can read, there's a link to it over in the sidebar there, it's called Last Plan to Jakarta and when he writes he's awesome, though he doesn't write that much. He wrote on his blog a thing, berating internet-people for not reporting enough on the really scary cops tazering Saddle Creek musicians and 14 year old kids in Texas thing. While I agree that the whole incident is, as I said, really scary, I mean, wow, it's a complicated and wierd thing. I don't really want to say anything in particular about it cause the political stuff isn't my thing, I'll leave it to people who know more and are more interested in the nuances. I basically just wanted to maybe see if I couldn't inform some of you about it.

And use it as an introduction to talking about Wolf Eyes. I went to see Wolf Eyes a few weeks back at the Knitting Factory. There were two guys who opened up for them. One had a name like a band, and the other had a name like a human guy. I don't remember what either one of them were. They both made a shitload of noise that was really very very boring. Like standing next to a small but very loud piece of industrial machinery manned by a guy who turns knobs in esoteric ways and sometimes hits things for 20 minutes. Pretty terrible.

But violent! Sonically violent to the extent that any normal person would fear for the wellbeing of their body. The extremity and violence of it, though, just made the fact that it was entirely uninteresting all that clearer. Nothing happened. I stopped watching the performers and started watching the speakers, which, if you imagined that they were communicating with each other, were much more interesting to look at.

I swear to god I was about to give up entirely on noise music. I'd been to the No Fun Fest, but that was supposed to be the cream of the crop, and maybe it wasn't representative. It wasn't obviously. Most noise music is shit. It's impossible to listen to outside of a live setting, and within a live setting it isn't much to watch or listen to either. I was convinced I'd never bother to listen to it again.

And then Wolf Eyes happened. I don't know what you would expect, I don't really even know what I expected from this band. I'd heard they were amazing, but I couldn't really picture how it would go. Which makes sense, cause it was more or less entirely unlike any other show I've ever seen.

It started with the old man looking one (there was also a skinnier Kevin Smith looking one and one without a beard) playing long drones on wahat I think was a bass saxophone that got sampled and contorted, but really subtle like. And I hadn't heard anything subtle for like 2 hours (the kids near me had been talking about Dubai for some reason, which was plenty odd, but not exactly subtle). The band commenced to build off of these samples of the saxophone, some tone generators and some sampled and distorted vocals, a fucking scary track over the course of what couldn't have been less than 12 minutes, and was probably more like 20. This first track was really tense, but it didn't have any percussion, developed in a smooth arc, sort of like a less intense but still unbearably creepy version of "Dead Hills 1".

What was wierd was that this song actually ended. They didn't just stop or try to bleed the song into the next one. They actually stopped and silently set up the next song. And this is where it all went the way of some crazy shit. The no beard guy grabbed a couple of mics, Kevin Smith picked up a bass guitar (only slightly modified) and they all just went completely out of their minds. This is also where I started to realize that there was a crowd. Totally unlike the first two acts Wolf Eyes had managed to fully mesmerize me for the course of the first song. But then people started running into each other, which was really easy to do. The beat on these songs is probably the most pummeling almost steady slow thing I've ever heard, and the dude is just shredding his voice into these mics and Kevin Smith is whipping his hair around like a frantic Brother's Quay figure I mean fuck. It was violent. In a way that people who weren't there probably could easily misunderstand or misinterperet.

And that's why this asshole cop who has probably never thought about anything in his life tazered the 14 year old kid at the Saddle Creek concert in Texas. Rock and toll music is scary, threatening, inspres violence and dissention, and insubordinate. Dude couldn't see past that to see that the guys on stage were actually totally harmless and that the crowd was no where near riot mode. The shit he did was inexcusable. But the question is, would you rather bands like Wolf Eyes didn't exist? That there wasn't the scary side to rock'n'roll that freaks out cops? Rock music, as a lot of people will tell you, is about rebellion and all that shit. It's not always true, but I'm glad that side exists. Unfortunately, it means that sometimes innocent kids get tazered. I don't see this as the beginning of a backlash, but the resurgence of a backlash that's been dormant since rock became commodified and neutered in the 70s.

And, Wolf Eyes rules (but I'll still probably never listen to any of their records).

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