Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Traumatone Fest Day One

Well, i’ve consistently put off writing about my/ The Endless Blockade’s experience at Maryland Death Fest and at this point i’m obviously not going to bother, it just isn’t relevant anymore. I wrote a lot in my notebook at the time about scenes and culture not being made of bands and records but of collective and individual responses and experiences of those bands and records. I could go on at length but it’s not really very interesting to most people and is essentially drawing from some vague understandings of Phenomenology and Existentialism. And the bottom line is that in all honesty MDF was a largely mundane experience for me and i felt no real connection to what was going on. It was fun in the moment but ultimately had no real lasting value for me.

Last weekend we (The Endless Blockade) played Traumatone fest in Toronto on Friday night, Slaughter Strike, another band with members of Blockade played Saturday. I guess the general idea was a merging of different genres but with the underlying theme being a unity of approaches; a difficult to quickly define sense of honesty of approach combined with a confrontation of the senses. The event now being over i guess to me the common thread with many was the transformative aspect of sound on performer and audience.

Remlap opened Friday night with a good display of harsh pedal noise; he had a nice balance of technique. If the sound was visually represented it would look like a thick line with occasional gouges into defined shapes becoming being engulfed again into the thick line. Definitely a great opener and i was excited to see some harsh noise coming out of Toronto that doesn’t involve either a member of Blockade or Ryan Bloomer somewhere in the mix. I hope to play more shows with Mr Remlap in the future.

Ride At Dawn played their third show, now minus a bass player and not really suffering that much for it. Vocalist Ryan is always great to watch, he definitely goes off (as the kids would possibly say) but not in the way that’s generally acceptable for performers. He has this loose uncontrolled spazzing out, like a black metal Ian Curtis sometimes, not the considered approach of most metal and hardcore singers. Musically they’re not what they think they are. I guess they probably started out intending to pull a Bone Awl/ Ildjarn style punk black metal vibe but it became something else along the way. One song always reminds me of two lines from a Suicidal Tendency song (i forget the title of it and i can’t be arsed digging out the record to find out which one it is) extrapolated to a five minute primitive bludgeoning.

To me this is where the evening started to change into something else entirely.

Body Collector from Michigan was much anticipated by many as being another scrape and screech US harsh noise act but managed to be much more. The set itself was great, a very controlled build up of ugly bass click and drone with very restrained metal work building to an expected and welcome piercing crescendo.

Anyway, that was his set on the most immediate level. I guess what held my interest was the change you could see him undergo as the set went on. If you have any familiarity with Timothy Leary’s eight circuits of consciousness model it was clear to me that Chris was going between what Leary described as circuits one, five and six at various stages of the performance. Reverting back and forth between an intentionally devolved mindset into new ways of perception with the performance itself as the transformative catalyst.

And given that Chris comes from Michigan, primarily used archaic cassette decks and scrap metal pulled straight out of the garbage and was obviously in the throes of some kind of new internal process i have no choice but to refer this as some kind of soul music for the Kali Yuga jugend.

Orn played a very hateful set of 60BPM sludge, the kind of which hasn’t really been seen since the mid 90s. Sure, a bunch of people try and do it now and you have all these fucking useless bands that think owning a Khanate and Corrupted mp3 collection means they have all the right pieces in place but there’s nothing to it. There is an overabundance of bands who exist simply based on tempo and/ or volume; i.e. the “we want to be the slowest band in the world” mentality. This is meaningless. Power and content in music that demands power and content does not come merely from tempo. People take the most obvious facets of a genre and have no deeper understanding of what it is that informs the culture. Much of Black Metal and Power Violence are both stellar examples of this shortfall in thinking.

Orn played with vigour and honesty and once again, the descent into a more primal mentality that managed to disconnect from the surroundings was apparent.

The Rita. Fuck, how to even adequately describe the sounds, actions and atmosphere that occurred when Sam played? Language fails me in being able to describe this as anything but an atavistic regression on a grand scale.

The whole fest pretty much revolved around the notion of bringing The Rita to Toronto and giving him a suitable show so expectations from many were high. I was one of those with high expectations and they weren’t even close.

The set was far more varied than i would’ve anticipated from one of the people responsible for giving the world the HNW micro genre. Sharp blasts of flesh stripping noise punctuated by staccato Ur-rhythmic muted noise started what was a very physical set. As time went on (this is a perfectly composed ten minute set i’m poorly describing here) the set morphed seamlessly into his more well known deadened noise crunch; a celebration of nothing and emptiness as a universal state, not as a value judgement and signifier of the extremely inconsequential. An intellectual approach achieved by removing the intellect entirely; sound as pure Prana.

Again, i have to bring attention to the change in performer. Sam is someone who for all intents and purposes has the mannerisms of a librarian (absolutely no pejorative bias intended whatsoever). During his set he was so utterly possessed by sounds and both responding to and affecting change with those sounds that any clichéd talk of being “in the zone” or whatever is like comparing a goldfish to a great white shark.

The set finished with what a casual observer would possibly call a mosh pit. Yeah, fuck that, that wasn’t a mosh pit. Moshing to noise is an idiots game. This was Sam responding physically to his sound and the audience in turn catching a sudden glimpse into same void that was staring back into Sam. This was spontaneous reaction to an indescribable force manifesting in the only way people could, moving with that force.

Utter perfection.

Blockade finished the night off. I’m not really that interested in our music being entertaining, if that’s what someone else gets from it then that’s fine, but it’s not our primary concern. Recently some of our Canadian shows have been getting more and more confrontational and bordering on violent and i guess this show was the logical end point to those recent developments.

Kids want to mosh and Matthew’s thing is now to stop people doing that, not out of some kind of anti-hard dancing crap, more out of a denial of release for the audience.

Anyway, tonight there were a number of punches and kicks thrown, both by myself and Matthew at the audience and from the audience toward us. At one point i figured out the game was Matthew stopping people moshing and then people in return fucking with Matthew so i took it as my roll to clean up and elbow those people in the head, like trying to get the last word in.
It was pretty charged in there, i almost blame writing the song Raised by Wolves two years ago which essentially alluded to this idea of creation being an intentionally destructive aspect of humanity and vice versa.

If you’ve ever seen us play and thought i was an arsehole for generally throwing my shit around and yelling at my band mates when setting up, this is all part of the mental preparation we do for playing. And if you’ve ever thought i was an arsehole for entirely different reasons they’re probably valid too.

At the end of the set it seemed like there was a lot of broken glass in the venue and blood stains all over the floor and Matthew’s shirt, seems like he busted someone’s head open throwing the microphone at them and i caught someone square in the face with my headstock. Both bleeders seemed OK with it for some reason.

End of night one.