by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Slowdive. Ride. My Bloody Valentine. I never saw any of them perform live on stage. I can only imagine how those godfathers of shoegaze would have sounded during their early-’90s heyday. But after last night’s Serena-Maneesh show, I think I might have a little better idea.
As I bought my usual jar of Rolling Rock, I was asked by the kindly barkeep if I’d brought my earplugs. “Why, yes,” I said. “Why ever do you ask?” Because, he replied, S-M’s soundcheck was the loudest he’d ever heard in The Waiting Room, and he’s been there since the doors first swung open in 2007.
I had plenty of time to ponder his warning as S-M didn’t hit the stage until 9:45. I don’t know if it was the loudest show I’ve ever heard at TWR (actually, that distinction goes to The Faint’s first show there, which I think cracked a few ribs), but it was still pretty freakin’ loud, not so much in a deep-bass boom, but a shattered-glass sort of way. It was a relentless, ferocious roar of which there was no escaping, driven by two guitars, a keyboard, drums and a lovely 7-foot-tall blond bass player, who I couldn’t actually hear but could clearly see.
Fronting the band was Emil Nikolaisen, who, wearing a headband and hooded jacket, looked like an elf from The Lord of the Rings. No elf ever played guitar like Emil, however, who spent most of the 45-minute set torturing his axe along with a second guitarist who during one song, slammed the strings and held his guitar out in front of him as if it were a dead fox that he just trapped and was about to skin. There was a slightly frightening, almost tribal air about the entire band.
Musically, their style shifted between a morphine drip, slow and slurred and hazy, to an amphetamine rage. In either case, the drums cut through the layers of heavenly sound and were the centerpoint that kept the music from becoming completely unhinged — always sharp, sometimes rapidfire, always a necessary guidepost through the malaise.
Their live set was much more violent and dissonant than their recordings, much more of an adrenalin release, and every second, mesmerizing.
It was nearly 11 before Wovenhand came on stage. Looking like a ’70s-era Howard Hessman in his Panama-ish hat and mustache, frontman David Eugene Edwards unfurled a couple mesmerizing minor-key dirges before I had to head home (deadlines!).
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Tonight at Slowdown Jr., Darren Keen’s breakbeat/noise/drum & bass project Bad Speler headlines his monthly weeknight concert series called Good Speakers. Along with Bad Speler on tonight’s bill: Grab Ass and Bassthoven. $5, 9 p.m.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.