The Thunderdome, Tallahassee, FL • September 20, 2001
There were like a hundred-million bands booked to play The Thunderdome tonight, up to and including a karaoke squad from Orlando; hardly essential listening, and my voice is still a somewhat-amusing croak, and it still feels weird to be all, “oh, I’m going to go see a band, oh I’ll have fun and nothing’s wrong with the world these days.” So I show up really late. After briefly wondering why everyone’s hanging around outside of the club instead of, say, INSIDE where the band is playing, I venture inside to see this really shitty hardcore-type band bashing away while the scrawny singer is swinging a microphone stand curiously close to the nine-strong “audience.” Next, he starts setting off fireworks. What a fucking twat. Those Roman candle mini-rocket things and those weird ground-based spinny things go ricocheting everywhere. As if The Thunderdome wasn’t structurally questionable enough to begin with.
The “set” ends — well, more like sputters to an impotent halt — and I wander outside to sit on the sidewalk and watch the smoke filter out the door. But I do get to hear Thunderdome head honcho and Cream Abdul Babar guitarist Danny yell dark curses at that band. Downright depressing. After a couple minutes of that, my attention wanders to watching a meek-looking fellow with awesome long hair, quietly loading equipment into The Thunderdome all by his lonesome. He looks like Alan Ginsberg, just with more hair, he is, of course, man-myth-legend Joe Preston a.k.a. The Thrones.
Man, I saw a Joe Preston augmented-Melvins open for GWAR years ago, and my friends and I all agreed that Preston was hands-down the coolest member •frizz-haired, spaced-out, unfeasibly thick glasses, and a general aura of apathy to the creativity-quashing rituals of playing a rock show. After seeing The Thrones, I realize not much has changed. Let’s face it: after seeing The Thrones two nights after seeing The White Stripes, I realize that bands with more than two members suck and are lazy; what’s their excuse for not making a noise as big as the two aforementioned bands? Darkthrone, Soft Cell, Suicide, Aphex Twin, Mortician •all duos or singles. I rest my case.
“Hi, we’re The Thrones.” And then the Lord’s Drone kicks in. The Thrones’ sound is based around a few central elements •vocals, distorted, grindcrusher bass, programmed drums, various samples, and keyboards • that somehow combine into a mammoth roar. Mr. Joe Preston stands casually in the middle of this maelstrom, gloriously unaffected by his own spectacle.
Thrones music can be a Godflesh-esque racket, bolstered by some of the most evil bass playing I’ve heard in a long time, it can be a melancholic void, with vocals tossed out into an endless night, or it can be a quiet, bubbling idyll. The Thrones force all of these extremes to co-exist and make sense, just like he/they makes the apparent absurdity of a one-man band a genuinely thrilling prospect.
Preston asks if there are actually any Tallahassee natives in the house tonight, and then has to defend his hometown of Eugene, Oregon from a few scoffers. Then he goes right back to being a lunatic sound alchemist. Exciting stuff.