Lydia Lunch’s Retrovirus
with Curtains, Shewbird, and The ‘Ludes
Will’s Pub, Orlando, FL • November 16, 2017
by Steven Garnett
Before the main event were three Central Florida acts: Curtains, Shewbird, and The ‘Ludes. Curtains, formerly The New Lows, presented nine songs in 20 minutes, a trio unobtrusive. A tablet chiseled with the pliant mandate to “Make do, make it happen” seemed to frame not only Mike Levin’s Curtains but the entire evening’s performances, and so Curtains twined dynamics and key changes, Dischord and early SST. Fabric with hook. Shewbird were Outlaws, green grass and hyped Tide, cleaning, then cracking the stucco on neo-country facades. David Minshew sings, he of the locally-legendary Slow and Blue Eyes, and extended his memories into neon gasses illuminating Baroque crystal sets. The ‘Ludes were the waxed Dodge Challengers stealing pink slips. All three formidable axe; all three sea foam blown across a beach.
From Ecclesiastes to Shakespeare, we’ve read there’s nothing new under the sun. Retrovirus exude moxie and No Wave godmother Lydia Lunch transcribed ancient sexts into what guitarist Weasel Walter described as a “set piece”. Describing the group as “scalawags”, Walter was clear nostalgia had no place in Retrovirus, and that in its near five-year existence Retrovirus are “always motivated”. Indeed this show was very much about the “arc of the set” despite PA issues. Lunch insisted the show would go on. No Wave back-seated to No Sound and Lydia’s urgent “Where’s my bourbon?”
Served on the rocks, the show went on. I already know Lydia. Wry smile. Knowing wink. Proscribed grumble. Potty mouth. P(D)A. Take “Orphans” and a code of destroy (in the nicest way) and Lunch’s spoken word gallery shindigs (in my POV) paled. For deconstructed rock and roll, the sound became functionally blues, lurching and menacing, the blackest comedy. When the band and soundboard merged, distractions were hard to come by.
During each applause new rumors circulated. A feral tabby escaped injury. The Queen of Siam’s caterwaul lubed and propelled by Bob Bert’s floor toms into this off-autumn Florida night. Not Styx, bruised Stones. Those daring to dance a rusty robot aptly rewarded for their impatience, beholding Lunch licking tattoos of her own image. This band was pure. The pedigree tyrannous. Old-timers and neo-noise kooks alike got down with sound.
Jean-Luc Godard remarked, “There are no new waves, there is only the ocean.”
Affable and disarming, Tim Dahl (GRID, Ava Mendoza’s Unnnatural Ways, Child Abuse) and Weasel Walter (Flying Luttenbachers, Cellular Chaos, TLASLA2) are the two youngest members of Retrovirus, accompanied by the legendary Bob Bert drumming. I bent the ears of the Dahl and Walter. Mr. Bert was unceremonious but courteous.
Tim Dahl is a founding member of GRID, a trio of sax, drums, and bass who are the “opposite of free jazz”, fully aware of the borderless restrictions of said genre. Going for a “composite timbre”, Dahl remarked on GRID’s purposeful choice to monkey around with mic’ing, to borrow from Flavin’s tube lighting installations, to abandon ego toward an end-goal “less conspicuous and more complex” in manner. Dahl, like Walter, represent younger musicians properly steeped in other music and beyond who eagerly pull from disparate sources to reach a “pre-” sound. That term, coined I believe by Tom Smith (look him up), wants nothing of “post-“. Contradictions will run amuck with such aspirations, but proof’s in the pudding when witnessing Dahl’s live prowess or recorded aggregation.
Walter time, chummed and elongated:
“Ideas before gear”
“Into music to find truth”
“I’m a music fan who always wanted to be part of a paradigm”
“… want my music to nail the audience to the back wall… with various efforts that honors Deicide along with free jazz or Grand Funk… “
I first saw Walter’s Flying Luttenbachers at Dottie’s in Cabbagetown, Atlanta, Winter 1996 as one tiny part of the huge line-up which performed at Tora! Tora! Tora! I was taken with the Luttenbacher’s ferocity, velocity, and without question, deliberately antagonist performance. Aware of his place in contemporary “rock” or “jazz” music, Walter concedes, “I stopped expecting people to read my mind about what I’m doing” yet to see him drumming or playing guitar, it’s abundantly clear he’s about creating not just sound but structure within sound and apparently not in keeping with commercial expectations. He says, “I do musical projects because I don’t hear [then or now, presumably] bands doing it, or filling a void.”
Retrovirus and various musical explorations of:
- Lydia Lunch
- Bob Bert
- Weasel Walter
- Tim Dahl
Lydia Lunch: www.lydia-lunch.net