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  The Variety Playhouse  
  Little Five Points, Atlanta, GA  
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I was ambivalent about going to this show. I like to spend my Sunday nights relaxing, as a sort or prep time for the busy work week. And yet, when i mentioned this show Malimus actually expressed an interest in going. He doesn't leave his cave in Alpharetta too often, so i couldn't really turn the show down at that point. I mean, if Mlaimus was going to drag his butt down into the city, how could i stay home?

Let me state first off that despite the less than enthusiastic nature of the reviews for their latest album, Godspeed are still cool with the kids. The Variety Playhouse was packed out, and the general age of the crowd was early 20's. Good for them.

Okay, so Malimus and i went and stole a few chairs from the upstairs area (what were the Playhouse people thinking by not having any chairs available for this show?) and sat down near the sound board. Just a few minutes after we got situated, Bardo Pond took the stage. They didn't start to play for another 20 minutes -- apparently there was some sort of wiring difficulty that confounded them for a while, but eventually it got sorted out.

Which, in a way, is disappointing. Because man did they reek tonight! I have been less than impressed with thier live shows in the past, and i disliked their latest release, but i do think that their earlier stuff was worthwhile. They started out as a good droning psychedelic band. They evolved into a boring psychedelic blues ensemble.

Even though they started playing after an intensive wiring session, it obviously didn't help. For their first song and a half i couldn't hear the guitars. It was drum and bass both moving at a ponderous pace and ... violin. Isobel Sollenberger, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and frontispiece of the group attempted to play violin for the first song. I say attempted, because what i heard was a very lifeless harmonica solo -- like the kind a wealthy white blues fan would play with his weekend band. And yet, i saw her up there sawing away on the violin. I have no idea how this came about. My guess is that she had a lot of effects on the violin. Who knows?

I care less about understanding this phenomenon than i do about stopping it. This song was atrocious. It went on and on (all of their songs are between 10 and 20 minutes long) and not only bored me, it made me angry. The song was so poorly executed that i got mad at the band, and if it had not been so crowded, i would have gone to stand in the lobby to get away from them. Instead, i was afraid of losing my seat, so i sat there and endured it.

As i said, the guitars actually got turned on halfway through the next song, but that wasn't enough to help them. They played 3 more songs after that one (a set of 6 songs at 10 minutes each), but the band never really gelled. For the last number Isobel pulled out her flute and they did one of the old numbers from the albums i actually like. I am not sure which one, but it didn't work well tonight. The band seemed tired, and the music seemed forced.

After the set Malimus turned to me and said:

If, as John Lennon said, 'rock is the music of sex', then that truly was Post-Rock. It exists after sex.

So he didn't like it either. I admit that the theory behind Bardo Pond (long droning rock at a slower pace) sounds good, but my experience is that the reality is not too interesting.

After that atrociousness, we had about 30 minutes to wait while the stage was set up for Godspeed You! Black Emperor. And let me say that they were worth having to sit through Bardo Pond and being tired all day on Monday. Their set was magestic and beautiful.

I do not, unfortunately, know the names of much of what they played. There were only 7 or so songs, each about 15 minutes long. The one in the middle was Monheim off of Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven. This was one of the most stunning live performances i have ever seen. The song is great to begin with, and the band was up there on the stage swaying in the dark while the music built to a cathartic frenzy. That one song was entirely worth the $12 admission price.

Otherwise, their live show is a good representation of their recorded work. However, they seem to be experimenting with different "leads". That is, in the past the drums had always seemed to be the lead instrument. They provide the pace and drive the song along, signalling changes in tempo or structure. But there was at least one piece where the violin was clearly the lead instrument. And there was another song in which individual guitars separated themselves from the guitar drone to perform what was almost a solo. I think there was even a segmentn where the cello sounded front and center.

Another interesting thing is that the whole show was an arc. They started with one song that really quickly built to an orchestral frenzy that lasted for minutes, then they spent an hour and a half experimenting with textures. Then the last song started with frenzy then slowly faded. The visual on the first and last songs was the word "hope" in line scribble floating over a cityscape. and part of the cityscape at the end was Atlanta! i recognized the Nationsbank tower, and the one with the wierd "step" features on it's roof, and they also showed a SouthTrust building... the imagery was wierd -- black and white filming of the tops of the buildings lit up, and clouds floating by them.... Eerie when accompanied by their slowly fading music.

On the whole i loved their performance and am very glad that i went. I heartily recommend GYBE to anyone and everyone. Their music comes across so well in a live setting. Just hope that they have picked up another opening act by the time they make it to your town.

Related Links:

Yanqui U.X.O. by GYBE (the album they were touring for).
Minions disliked Bardo Pond in 2001 as well.


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