with Throcket Luther and Obliterati
House of Blues, Orlando • 7.1.98
Genres suck. Categorization dulls the brain’s ability to work it all out in spirit. Most people would rather simply accept that this is “rock and roll” or that something else is “techno” without questioning if the label even fits. Personally, I like music that defies description. Music that doesn’t strain to be neat and pretty, music that provides a direct conduit into the soul of the artist. Tonight’s HOB menu was an exquisite three-course meal that provided catharsis for some and proved a stumbling block for others.
Throcket Luther opened the evening with a psychotic energy courtesy of a lead singer who appears to have no problem with opening a vein on-stage and bleeding through his vocal cords and guitar. They loped through songs with manic grins and fuzzy chops – big, punchy, fuzztoney river of bass. Tight harmonies and snappy-tappy drums. A powerful punch, moody, a little uncontrolled, plenty melodic and aptly supported in the basement realm. These guys could break out popular, yes sirree bob. But they could also create their own little cult (or even a big Kabuki-sized one) based around their easy alliance on-stage. Big sound – neat outfits. Throcket Luther impressed and made my ears do a little walkaround the outside of my head, seeking maybe a better configuration. They shared the Throcket Love.
Second band – Obliterati. Stark, a white wall with red and blue juice running havoc all over it – then disappearing. Ah-hah, it was disappearing juice. Is the drummer for real? That’s not a drum machine? People can actually play like that? He’s not real, he’s a cyborg, I have a drum machine at home that sounds just like him. Jungle beats, he’s a gorilla with a pounding passion and keeps tight beat too. Works nicely on the song “Auto Erotic Express,” with saxophonist wailing dissonant, wind-like synths pouring out of a Nord Lead, a blowsy storm of murmurings. The lead singer, Puck in a focused mood, silver/blue streaks zipping through her hair and sparking the light rigs. She sways and channels beats through serpentine motions – she seems pleased with “Auto Erotic Express” – a song that consists of the words “Auto Erotic Express.” Guitarist and bassist pump out a discord. The revolving hypno-disc in front of the bass drum calls to me. The natty keyboardist reminds me of Jackie O – she flings out phone tones on one song against a bell-like guitar and an urgent minor flavor make this tune sound like underscore to a particularly violent “Starsky and Hutch” episode. The one where Huggy Bear overdoses on crack and ends up working at a Taco Bell for two days. The crowd, for the most part, stands with mouths agape. A few clued-in types dance around in mechanical fashion, moving their arms and legs in jerky spasms of robotics. It’s minimalist rock, themes and jams, David Lynch and Phillip Glass spat onto the face of a punk rocker with the most insane sense of self-calm. Placid urgings, mournful sax call. Lead singer prances like a cat, playfully shadowing the walk of the bass player who catches her in the act and mounts a counter-attack. Sax man is tweaking the sound into something not yet invented. Oh wait, he just invented it. Damn, that was quick. Anti-dance, anti-dance. Cool dancing to this music looks stupid. Ahhhh. That was refreshing. A three-quarter waltz leads off with a hooting, Weill-esque sax riff and grouchy guitar that adds a surf-like quality to a rising wall of kinetic consideration. Bassist and guitarist get together during the set and sing counterpoint – pendulant bass and spook house piano dissonance accompany a wandering sax solo and lead singer’s giddy wet laugh as the band ignites the keg and sparks begin to fly on a jam that sounds almost conventional before it chills out and ends abruptly like all the rest.
With a primal scream of release, the band retreats into the shadows pursued by applause. A whimsical chromatic guitar motif does a rollercoaster whoopde doo over sledgehammer bass accents. “If I wasn’t doing this I guess that I’d be doing that,” repeats the drummer, who passes this canon of thought onto others – which makes sense as they sort of begin to leave their instruments and take on other duties, and the keyboard answers the possibilities of what the drummer could be doing in huge warbly watery tones. Vaguely Talking Heads-ish in the groove that was adopted, indeed, boodies were moving, the ones that weren’t trying to figure out what the hell was unraveling before them. Next song had a nice 2/4 urgency to it with a guitar refrain that came straight out of a Bernard Herrmann score, with the sax player creating elephant noises and lead singer flexing out the message “see this hand, it’s getting closer, see this hand, lay it on you.” No, I did not completely understand what these BUNDAH WARRIORS were trying to say to me but I sort of got the idea that they were just giving me a head start and that the answer ultimately would hit me sometime about three the next morning. There’s a real free-form, “whatever comes naturally” sense about the band that, if you’re not going to expect anything in particular, is very liberating and soon you may find yourself doing a dance that you thought was stupid, but really is in all actuality, cool. When the bassist takes over the Nord Lead and begins to spit out a huge torrent of metallic analoguey stuff and the stutter drums kick in, oof. Did someone sing “tie me up in noodles and shackles?” The band scoots off-stage suddenly.
Memo to me. FUCK yeah!
Digginlillies shows up and begins to strut out some rock. Not rock. It seemed like rock until it went tripping off in that other direction. Lead singer says “we didn’t think we’d have any fans here, so we brought our own” as the group applauds the first tune. Second song features falsetto vocals and a crunchy, munchy guitar that jangles like a Tom Petty special – “just let it out” a creamy hook that screams into a falsetto refrain – Midnight Oil kind of feeling to this bad boy. Third song – rootsy guitar picking and then a booming slide into “save yourself the embarrassment, I saw what you did, cause I was there” and suddenly – -oof! – with bass roiling and drums sticking it to the wall, the lead singer gets caught up in the moment, the quiet bridge with its choked rhythm guitar and pretty dual harmonies sedates slowly, suddenly. The dynamics – excellent as drums pull back and a slow ritard grinds things down to a crawl and some slide guitar wangs out. “Does anyone out there have a record player? Remember those things?” says the lead singer, tall, blonde, earnest lad despite his ultra-brawny appearance. He hands out some vinyl singles and then WHAM – the next song rips holes into the night, a taste of Terry Taylor vocals and guitar – a cascading wall of dissonance, pounding drums and stabbing shards of guitar, the bouncy pumping of the toms and then back into the loping mourning of bending bass notes. These guys were so normal it seemed, but what the hell is normal? Pop, then drama, pop, then catastrophe, pop, then pop gets eaten and vomited out in a spectacular falsetto yodeling spree. At times, the rambling uneasiness of the vocals suggested nervous energy – maybe a relived experience? Oh, and much feedback. Last song is a long, rambling, arena-rock ditty – -kingly in size. Savage and then tender like daisies. Digginlillies. Props were given up by the crowd.
It’s not every evening that you get a chance to wade into the obscure land of “make what you will of it.” Once there, you know what they say about freeing your mind. Let your ass go and receive supreme benefits. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, take this cue – see one of these bands and adjust thyself, Mack. After this show, I was prepared to embark on a new career as an oil painter, it set off explosions inside of this cranium and made me struggle to find a definition. Can we do it again? Soon? Stick a sword into the heart of genrefication. ◼