Friday, September 08, 2006

Shellac in concert

Last night Grand Rapids hosted the legedary producer supergroup(?) Shellac. I only listened to Shellac for a little bit back in college when my friend Jeremy played it for me, but I liked it then, and it ain't everyday that a act I'm interested comes through GR, so as I had a rare Thursday night off, I took advantage.

The Wealthy Theatre is such a charming little place. It has something to do with it's very uncommercial vibe. A few years back it was reopened and it's run by some not for profit lefties of some sort or another. I'm down with that. I've been there a bunch of time with a camera on my shoulder for various lefty-type events. I met Carly Simon there campaiging for Kerry before the election (duh!).

It's kind of a strage place for a rock n' roll show, though, because it's got bolted down theatre seating. I guess Shellac likes to place in wierd joints, trying to avoid all the corporate ClearChannelTicketMaster mafia. Sounds appropriately lefty to me.

The opener was a band from Sicily called Uzeda. I settled into a nice cusioned aisle seat and soaked in some of the beauty of the theatre's interior while I waited for the show to begin. It's got two big super neato indirect lighting fixtures in the ceiling that look like planets or giant portholes. Eventually Uzeda came out with little fanfare and the female on the mic quiety introduced the band. But when they hit the first note it was anything but quiet. I half expected the molding details of the old theater to lose some amount of structural integrity. I hadn't thought to wear any earplugs, but I could have used them for Uzeda, and that was from halfway to the back of the room. I wanted to get a few pics, but it wasn't until their last song that I dared go any nearer.

Drumming. Uzeda's drummer looked like Andre Agassi, and I wasn't the only one to notice. Loud thick super-tight chunky abstract changing all work to describe the drumming in Uzeda. The drummer was definitely the star of the show. The female vocalist was a real yeller, in a good way. The guitarist's sound was a bit Jimi Hendrix and a bit Kurt Cobain, and he was pretty intense too. The bass player worked this goofy looking eyebrow curl and looked confident with his heavyness as he eyeballed the audience with a mild an expression that looked as if he expected the audience to be impressed with his gravity.

Everyone save maybe the singer was probably over 40 and they were nicely light on stagecraft on heavy on rocking for the sake of art rock. Those guys really were nailing it. Every change and start and stop were right on the money. The mathrock was in full effect. On the way out, I wanted to buy their record but I was cashless as usual and poor too, so I resisted the lure of the ATM down the street, but I won't forget Uzeda too easily.

Shellac are old dudes too. Steve Albini could pass for a nerdy sloppy younger brother of my Dad. He kinda looked like a dude who has given up any desire to lure a lady in favor of computer work or, in his case, studio shenanigans. He wore his guitar on a strap wrapped twice around his waist like a belt. Bob Weston looked like any normal guy. Todd the drummer was the rockinest looking of the bunch with his spiky mess of black hair and ripped (at the shoulders?) silvery shirt over a strung-out-wiry frame. I imagined his shoulders being sharp enough to cause the holes in his shirt.

Shellac just like to rock out. There didn't appear to be a lot of excessive structure to their simple punky throbbing, but there was a certain poetry to it. Bob and Steve took turns on the mic, and Todd banged out the beats with workaday release (I'm not sure that means anything at all). It kinda felt like I was watching these guys goofing and jamming out in their basement. Steve at times displayed a pained earnestness that did at moments galvanize and hynotize the audience. Bob wasn't disinterested, but maybe mildy amused. He was a straight man of sorts and had an everyday Joe presence and sense of humor in between songs that served as the connective tissue between the audience and band. The guys told a few corny jokes and had some pleasant banter, but they're still nerds, I think.

Shellac lays on the guitar and bass thick, and it grew a little tiresome for me before the show ended, but they wrapped it up with a really heartwrenching Albini poetry epic and at the end playfully climaxed with a three man cymbal orchestra that really should be seen and not read about. All in all, it felt like a coup for GR and I was happy to be there.

The link here is to a youtube video from the show that is super loud. Beware!


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