This was one of those Rhino shows that started early. Opening the proceedings was a group calling itself Décollage, a sort of five-piece, with a guitarist, a drummer, a bassist, a singer/keys player and a guy doing live painting. Musically it was a kind of outsider synth pop if Jad Fair decided to take a break from rock and roll and lent his voice to this band's frontman.
Out back, just outside the garage on a former loading dock, Tjutjuna had set up to play. But this was a version of the band without Adam Shaffner. Even without him, it was interesting to see this band play under the moon and crime lights tucked into one part of that back patio of Rhino, sending out its cosmic instrumental psych into the night.
At one point, Robert Ballentyne made a special moment by tripping the magnetic field of the Theremin with the neck of the bass while playing it, making both sound good. For the final number, the guitar unleashed an enveloped wail like some inter-dimensional beast kept in check by the force of Brian Marcus' playing and James Barone's steady but richly textured beats.
Back inside, Seattle's Midday Veil set-up projections of colorful, geometric patterns and similar abstract images that flowed, evolved, flashed and illuminated the room, both literally and figuratively, in time with the music. Analog synth-sounds and noise interweaved with two layers of guitar -- one standard electric and the other baritone -- that complemented each other rhythmically with leads in different ranges of sound.
Emily Pothast's vocals, meanwhile, were smoky and bluesy yet versatile and commanding. Her and David Golightly's gestures seemed to be pulled along by the force of the music and Timm Mason was clearly caught up in the moment; his guitar gyrations made for a visually compelling show above and beyond the projections. This made for a show both visceral and otherworldly -- a rare combination at the best of times.
Halfway through the set, the band surprised some of us who recognized it with a cover of "Pendulum" by Broadcast. With the recent passing of Trish Keenan, it was good to see a band pull off such a challenging cover with alternate instrumentation and doing justice to the original. Even with a short set, Midday Veil was memorable, and its performances of originals like "Anthem" and "Eyes All Around" made you feel like you were seeing something special before the rest of the world really knows about it. It was a performance best experienced in a small place like Rhino but destined for larger stages. And that largely because this band's music felt like one expanded inside by its presence.
After some technical fits and starts, Mike Zorman -- of Zombie Zombie, Ultra Boyz, Frozen Body and The Cysts renown -- played a short set of manipulated tape samples. The first piece sounded like Zorman had been able to place a mike inside a bees' nest, and then stretched that sound out and modulated its pitch, like we could somehow understand a language so alien without using words.
This then evolved into what sounded like a voice speaking wordlessly -- or at least slowed down so far it was unrecognizable. The second piece was a melodic series of interlaced drones like resonating crystals unseen in the dark. At the end, the decrescendo was so subtle and extended and masterfully executed.
Nightshark is always full of surprises and it's hard to tell if the band ever has anything sketched out ahead of time -- or if it matters because everyone in the group is sufficiently accomplished at his and her individual way of making sound that they easily work together. This set seemed far more psychedelic than many of us have seen of late. Andrew Lindstrom proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he doesn't just play with power but with a delicate versatility able to play rapidly and softly as easily as he can hammer out tribal rhythms.
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Brittany Gould mixed in organic sounds and bells into the darkly electric soundscape, which included her signature vocals, manipulated to stretch out and echo. The whole time the music was just shy of menacing but certainly dangerous. Neil Keener's throbbing ocean of low end of unconventional bass playing bolstered Mike Buckley's signature guitar tone, which recalls something you'd only hear in a Scratch Acid song or in more adventurous industrial musicians -- like shredding, clanging metal scraping away at other metal items with to create a beautifully beautiful clamor.
Getting the end of the night martyr slot usually means most people have left but plenty of people stuck around to see Night of Joy. Being on tour for two weeks or so definitely showed in the band's seemingly carefree performance. Apparently the three members of the band got a tattoo in the shape of a piece of candy with "John" on the wrapper as a reference to the band's excellent and nervy song "John Candy."
Despite this sort of joke and other humor in the titles of songs, and despite the fact that some people compare them to The Breeders on the knowledge that the band cites them as an influence, Night of Joy (which includes Backbeat's own Bree Davies) plays with a good mixture of ferocity, edginess, intensity and gracefulness hidden by some of the most aggressive soundscaping in a rock band out of Denver.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Was really looking forward to seeing Midday Veil. They did not disappoint. Random Detail: Ran into Heather Oviatt and Doug Mioducki formerly of North Americans. By the Way: Midday Veil's new album, Eyes All Around, is one of the best albums of the year thus far and something you should seek out if you like Sky Cries Mary and/or Yume Bitsu.