Concert Reviews

No Age at Bluebird Theater, 12/01/10

With Hot White and Lucky Dragons
12.01.10 | Bluebird Theater

Hot White was first on stage and discharged its signature shards of angular, off-kilter, eruptive sound. It looked like the trio was more comfortable playing a big stage, and yet Tiana Bernard crossed over from stage right to lean precipitously forward with her bass, as Kevin Wesley jumped into the air and often lunged into his guitar riffs. During "ISSSWTD," it almost looked like Wesley was going to jump himself right off the stage in an especially heady moment.

Hot White is one of the few bands around these days -- local or otherwise -- that seems to perform with a nearly complete disregard for its personal safety. Amid Darren Kulback's freeflowing but powerful drumming, Bernard and Wesley have created, in the words of Henry Rollins on Black Flag, the perfect soundtrack for a full scale riot. But musically, Hot White is more Fort Thunder and 31G style.

Lucky Dragons probably isn't the kind of project that plays venues like the Bluebird Theater often because it's almost more performance art than just music. This time, it was just Luke Fishbeck set up on the first tier from the pit with small speakers, a mixer, a computer and other devices.

During his set, he employed an effect that sounded similar to a transducer turning vibration and contact into electronic impulses. A low-end drone played in the background while something that sounded like graduated glasses with the rims being rubbed produced frequencies that resembled a kind of melody.

Things got interesting when Fishbeck used CDs to trigger another device in a box that seemed to pick up on interruptions in and reflections of light and he handed CDs to various members of the audience to participate in modulating the sound the same way.

Ultimately, though, he handed cables out into the audience to create a kind of circuit that artist Elena Stonaker, who participated in the human feedback loop, later said felt like a little bit like a shock but that it felt stimulating and uplifting.

The circuit shifted, changed and then lost steam after a surprisingly extended tenure among the people who sat in a circle around Fishbeck. The whole time, projections illuminated parts of the stage and some of the people around Fishbeck's set-up. The interactive aspect of this performance turned what might have been just a kind of performance piece into something powerfully ritualistic in the best sense.

Without ever really leaving stage, No Age played nineteen songs, including sixteen in its main set and three as kind of an encore. It's rare to see a show where an energetic band sustains that level of excitement throughout.

Pulling largely from its latest record, Everything In Between, No Age showed exactly what is possible with a drummer, a guitarist and some assistance on electronics from a third member. At least in terms of how you can write incredibly stripped down songs and add a few effects to the sound to change up the texture.

Something about the ferocity and sincerity of No Age's performance made the group seem like the kind of band you wanted to be in immediately. Randy Randall was a maniac genius on the guitar, jumping around and raising his guitar aloft in moments of the highest sonic intensity.

The whole affair was like hearing My Bloody Valentine garaged up and sped up to a more hectic than usual pace. The sheer power and energy of this show exemplified an act creating its own place by being so engaging and powerful it went beyond entertaining to inspiring.

At one point, Dean Spunt told us we had a good thing going in Denver and said, "Let's hear it for Monkey Mania. Does anyone remember that shit?" There were some confused faces, but those of us who were part of or touched by the phenomenon of that most revered of DIY spaces in Denver cheered. The show ended with a lively cover of "Six Pack" by Black Flag -- which seemed entirely appropriate, this soon-to-be-legendary Los Angeles band playing a song by the godfathers of the scene No Age calls home.

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I greatly respect No Age. Random Detail: Ran into Ethan Converse of Flashlights and Mario Zoots of Modern Witch. To name a few. By the Way: Everything in Between is possibly the best No Age album.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.