Last Night's Show: These Are Powers at Rhinoceropolis
These Are Powers, Extra Life, Bad Weather California, Zach Kahn, Masculine, Neon Knights
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Better Than: A show that doesn't feature gratuitous nudity on the rooftop of the venue.
Ah, another chaotic night at Rhinoceropolis. The first of six groups to take the, uh, floor was The Masculine, a quartet of young lads from Denver currently working their way through the Big Book o' Post-Punk Sounds; last night they alternated mostly between Chapter 4: The Fall, and Chapter 19: Interpol. The group did better when it leaned more toward the former -- fuzzier, more aggressive -- than the latter, which the members were not yet confident enough to pull off. But switching around instruments and using a chair for auxiliary percussion kept the band from being too predictable. Here's hoping this not-as-hard-to-Google-as-you-might-think group decides on a direction soon.
Next up were the endlessly entertaining gentlemen of Bad
Weather California, who sound like what you might think the Flaming
Lips sound like if all you knew was that they were from Oklahoma and
played psych rock. The band's jaunty, twangy weirdness was almost too
sunny to make a good fit on this bill, but thankfully that didn't
matter at all; the band drew a good crowd despite its early slot, and
held its attention with intricate songs and frontman Chris Adolf's
amusingly bizarre and oft-repeated clamoring for the rather mellow
audience to "chill out."
In the opposite corner of the room, Zach Kahn of Painbow followed Bad
Weather California with a short set of noise that included lots of
samples, some tongue-in-cheek simple synth riffs, a bit of auxiliary
percussion and enough random piercing feedback that I wondered if it
was intentional. It was pretty rough around the edges, but as Kahn
explained, Painbow, which had a spot on the bill, had just broken up,
so his set was thrown together at the last minute. Given those
circumstances, the ad-hoc feel of his set was understandable.
As if to compensate, New York's Extra Life, which followed Kahn, was
well-rehearsed enough for ten bands. The band's rather theatrical
aggro-prog, which features violin and that rarest of sights, a wind
synth, in addition to its traditional vox/guitar/bass/drums
instrumentation, snapped us all quickly to attention with its power and
intricacy. The band blasts with the ferocity and ultraprecision of the
best metal bands, and its songs utilize rhythms and time signatures
complex enough to match the most highbrow of jazz or classical music.
You know a band is going to be playing some serious shit when not only
are two members (besides the drummer) sitting down, but the drummer is
using sheet music as well. It was all maybe a bit nerdy for my taste,
but there was no denying the talent, precision and unique vision on
When These Are Powers last came to Denver, it was a new band that had
just released its first album, and it played a unique and compelling
brand of murky, drone-y post-punk that probably could have been
explored much further. In the year since, however, the band has
released an EP and a second album, All Aboard Future, and has morphed
into a completely different animal. Frontwoman Anna Barie has ditched
her guitar in favor of electronics, and the band has embraced dance
music -- albeit in the way that only a noise-rock band can.
Last year, the band did a pretty good job of holding the crowd's
attention, especially for an opening band; last night, despite sound
troubles (Rhinoceropolis seems yet to have fully smoothed out its new
PA), the band absolutely owned the room. Freeing Barie from the guitar
has given her the physical freedom to become an unbelievably
charismatic performer, and she danced and flailed around her lanky
frame as much as she could in her small space. She practically mauled a
photographer standing next to me (who loved it, by the way); she backed
into me and pushed me back a few feet; she made some delightful
banter between songs.
And the music: Lots of avant-rock bands have embraced their dance sides
lately, but These Are Powers has done so as well as any of them. The
band's hypnotic beats drew equally from hip-hop and house, and when
combined with Pat Noecker's now-screeching, now-belching bass guitar
and Barie's now-deadpan, now-howling vocals, the result was
mesmerizing. The band's new sound and phenomenal stage presence have it
poised to join Animal Collective, Black Dice and Gang Gang Dance in the
upper echelon of American avant-pop.
The completely thankless task of following the headliners fell to
Windsor-based Neon Knights, a duo who also struggled with the PA and
ultimately played a short set of serviceable Daft Punk impressions to
the couple dozen people left. The music had a ways to go before
graduating from mere imitation, but props to the group for sequencing
the songs together, as in a DJ set, and for using a real, old-school
vocoder. The group finished around 1:45, and then it was night-night
time, at least for me.
Personal Bias: The tribal/dance/noise school of These Are Powers and
the others I mentioned above is absolutely my favorite direction in
music right now.
Random Detail: As I stood outside with some friends after Extra Life's
set, somebody looked up at the roof and yelled, "Boobies!" And, yes, for
some reason, a topless woman was standing on the rooftop, and she
appeared and disappeared a few times in the space of a few minutes,
staring down at us for a few seconds at a time. This was followed by a
rooftop mooning, although in this case the bare flesh in question was
definitely male. I have no idea what to make of this.
By The Way: Last night was Anna Barie's birthday.
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