Faith And Disease
The Cow Haus, Tallahassee FL • July 3, 2001
Pre-holiday. Darkened Cow Haus. What’s different? Bit more ambient noise than usual. Kinda hope to myself that this is an art trick, along the lines of using crowd noise as the intro to a song. Didn’t Lou Reed do that? Ecch. I know Jared Louche did. Like this:
Sure do seem to be a lot of Chatty Cathys here tonight, swarming around the bar area, backs firmly turned toward the stage, oblivious to everything but the modulations of their vocal chords and the potential for drink spillage and hookupage.
It doesn’t get to me, though; not yet. I’m all buzzing with excitement over getting to see Faith And Disease, who completely destroyed me with last year’s Beneath These Trees. This is awesome. One of their entourage has just lit a black candle and some incense on the speaker stack nearest the stage, obviously to set the appropriate mood. And the band doesn’t as much tramp onstage, clumsily tuning instruments, as much as they fade slowly into view. They look great, clad in leather, lace, powder, dye, silk, steel — all black, of course. Like a gang; all great bands look like gangs.
Two female vocalists (one short, one very tall) take their places behind microphones and work their way through an unbearably naked (no instruments, no vocal effects, NO NUTHIN) version of “Beneath These Trees.” My mouth is hanging wide open.
These fucking songs are just tossed off one after the other — delicate, exotic, dark, pick your adjective. Pick your instrument, too. All sorts of ancient machinery and wizardry are plied tonight. Nico and My Bloody Valentine by way of madrigals and Morgana Le Fey.
The guitar player looks pretty fab, as well. He’s decked out in leather from head to toe, hair trimmed short, glasses, black nail polish, gloves, and a tie. A tie! Bowie circa Station To Station meets SS chic! And he’s rocking this look on a balmy (okay, blistering) Tallahassee night. If there were any ECW fans here tonight, they’d surely be chanting, “You’re Hardcore! You’re Hardcore!” Cuz he is.
They introduce a song as one of the first things they ever wrote together, and start into a shimmering cascade with a measured “Venus In Furs” backbeat. To think that some bands get their start playing Metallica coversS
The wave of human voices surges higher and higher. Though there is a rapt audience contingent up at the very front, the bar area was crowded with hipsters expressing the most malevolent apathy I’ve ever encountered. It’s almost as if they’re insulted that a band would dare to play so heartbreakingly beautifully over their banal conversations.
And then the most amazing thing happens: the two vocalists take the center stage again and perform an utterly electric, naked, unaccompanied, brave cover of “Hiroshima.” Man, I never thought anyone could top This Mortal Coil’s version, but stripped of the drums, and the strings, and the found sound, these two voices surge and swell over lyrics of haunted souls and childhood brutally cut short but doomed to haunt the land. Looking not for justice, but for what? My god, my whole body shakes involuntarily, unsure of how else to react to something so pure.
The vocalist fumbles the intro to the last song, out of frustration, out of anger, spits out something about how we’re not even listening anyway. Not good, never show weakness in front of a pack of assholes like this; don’t show that you’re human and can be hurt. Stay invulnerable, stay aloof, stay beautiful. It’s “Rubina Verde,” one of my favorite songs from Beneath These Trees, despite growing frustration and impatience, Faith And Disease keep it together, turning in a yearning final performance. Abruptly, they all vanish from the stage in many different directions. I’m drained, reeling from joy and sadness and anger all at the same time. There’s only one tangible target: the buzzing mass of humanity at the bar.
Good going assholes, I hope what you all were chatting so fucking intently about was the transient nature of beauty, or how showing vulnerability can actually be a strength, or even how great art will often go unappreciated in its own time. Even if it’s right in front of your stupid face.
But you probably weren’t, you were probably talking about your stupid pointless life or your boring friends or your ugly significant other, and so you chose the everyday over the transcendent. What a bunch of cunts.