Music News

CRASH LANDING

If you've never seen San Diego's Crash Worship perform and you enjoy shock value, don't spoil it for yourself by reading this article. Just put down the paper and plan on being at the Aztlan this Friday night.

As for the rest of you, these are the primary ingredients of Crash Worship live: Drums. Fire. Wine. Fog. Ash. Trance. Harvest. Ritual.

At its heart, Crash Worship is an audience-driven phenomenon that materialized on the West Coast three years ago and has since spread far and wide. In fact, the involvement of the band's members (Marcus Wolfe, Simon Cheffins, Jeff Matson, Domingo, JXL and Dreiky) often seems fairly minimal. Mostly, the musicians simply beat on drums. But the thing is, they don't stop. They beat and beat until the audience has been driven into a trance. They beat until fire has spread from someone's torch to the end of a revolving rope to a place in the floor around which everyone dances like pagan imps. They beat until two or three attendees remove crucial parts of their clothing without thinking anything about it. They beat until the roles of band and audience are reversed.

It's not just you going to see Crash Worship. It's Crash Worship coming to see you.

You and the Europeans, that is. Dreiky divulges that much of the inspired gimmickry and performance art for which Crash Worship is notorious is actually produced by Old Country zealots who follow the band like vagabonds. Worshipers, if you will. During a Crash Worship appearance at the Mercury Cafe, for example, four mysterious German men appeared carrying above their heads a wooden platform on which a bare-breasted woman and four torches were perched. The woman threw grapes and bits of watermelon and apples to those gathered, and after she was lowered to the floor, the crowd immediately enveloped her.

Did the drummers know this was planned? According to Dreiky, they had no idea.

"The Germans just came to our show and took over. They're so good, we just let them go," she says. "For some reason we have this tie with Germany. l don't know where it's from, but literally, people from Germany will come to the U.S. and seek us out."

Dreiky gladly admits that the work of the Worshipers sometimes can outshine the very band they call Master. She recalls a show near Austin, Texas, where the band played outdoors near a stream, a waterfall and grazing cows. "There were crazy Europeans all over from everywhere," she recalls, laughing. "They had these huge structures built before we'd even got there, and fireworks were everywhere. You could just look off into the distance and see all these things going off. Explosions and bombs--the whole place was encompassed."

The success of shows like this may lead to others like it: Dreiky hints that Colorado's own scenery may serve as the setting for such an event in the near future. But as she tells it, confined spaces increase Crash Worship's hypnotic impact.

"You get three drummers and you put them in a room, and it doesn't have any air in it, and there's maybe one fan that's just blowing the sweatied smell around," she points out. "And you leave them in there for two hours, and they work up a sweat, and everything's really dank and sick. And then you throw a wild, frothing guitarist in there who just stands with his hands on his hips for a while and then starts churning out this mean fucking rhythm, and then you bring in two apes and have them playing horns, and then a dog show on the side.

"It's the small room that does it," she concludes. "The small room and the lack of oxygen. It bends your mind."

In other words, the ritualistic feel of Crash Worship is never planned. The bandmates head in no particular direction, preferring simply to let things happen. One Denver date began with the shriek, "Welcome to a world with no rules," and that's no idle boast. "It's totally evolved as the shows have," Dreiky elaborates. "It continues to evolve. Nothing is ever really stagnant."

Crash Worship's instrumental lineup is just as loose. "Anything is an instrument," Dreiky insists, "whether it be a weird, broken harpsichord, a Moog Liberation synthesizer, a hand-bell instrument called a megalira, rock-and-roll drums, drums that Simon has brought back from his travels in Southeast Asia, a Jew's harp, whistling."

Flames also belong on this list. "It's funny," she says, "because there are a few people in the band who have phobias about fire, and sometimes it's just too much for them." Blazes became a part of the action, she goes on, after "we played at a pub on a campus, and the kitchen caught on fire when we were playing and started pouring out smoke. It was great. You know--fog machine, fire and the whole thing."

Since then, the group has used these elements as part of an effort to limit its audiences' senses. The fog machine at a Crash Worship show isn't there to provide a subtle effect. Rather, it's intended to fill a venue wall-to-wall with enough haze to reduce vision to a few inches. Only the fire can cut through it, drawing the crowd around a common light.

"Like moths to a flame," Dreiky agrees. "That's exactly it. They can't help it. They're like moths: They get burned, they go back to the flame, some die, some are okay. Who knows?"

Crash Worship, with Grimace and Gladhand. 8 p.m. Friday, April 28, Aztlan Theatre, 974 Santa Fe Drive, $9, 830-TIXS or 573-0188.

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Steve Gray