Monday, November 28, 2011

Thee Oh Sees, Total Control, the Spook Lights, and Mouthbreathers, Friday night at the Granada

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 11:00 AM

There is nothing good to say about Friday night's show at the Granada because what more could you want? How could description touch it, and why should it? The show happened; people went. It was incredible and transcends review. So what's the point? OK, fine, some details.

Local darlings Mouthbreathers and the Spook Lights opened up for Australian synth-punks Total Control and San Francisco's Thee Oh Sees, a band that tours, records and blows minds more than steadily. Still, in the warm spirit of gluttony, showgoers of many ages funneled past Mass Street's newly Christmas-lighted trees and into the Granada, stoked to be at a cool show that their families would not attend.

Mouthbreathers' live set can make mouth breathers of an audience, in at least two ways that are at odds. In one sense, their pureed blend of distorted riffs and pissed and strained vocal yaps can leave audiences dumb and drooling, numb as though punched in the face. But the openers had a cold, distant kind of audience on Friday night, out of reach. The crowd stood back on the raised tier of the Granada (or sat along a railing somewhere, in tryptophanic twilight) and exhaled back and forth at each other, making low, uncivilized noises. How could this not wake them up? The force and punk gusto of a song like "Anxiety" put the band at full speed and grit, where they stayed; the bass player ripped it up and dripped sweat, while the drums made easy work of accelerated time.

Next up was the Spook Lights, with their lively set of punk uppers and rockabilly downers. Onstage, they strike a balance of seriousness and fun, of drama and joy; their singer is a showman, and the riffs are in a minor key. The Spook Lights set requires that the members apply all the chords, all the wails, and all the cymbal crashes with the flair and boldness of stage makeup, when they’re not slithering along a sex-beat. For this and other reasons, the Spook Lights looked at home on the Granada's wide stage, although their wild energy would be better suited for a venue with more immediacy, where we can feel the heat of their bodies better. Anyway, the crowd was warming up mid-set. Movement occurred. Trebled riffs trotted over wah-screed, and the singer howled.

Total Control’s live set peddled a few different moods—from the irreverent brashness of all good punk enterprises to the sadness of their synthesizer leads, which were all eventually broken by the aforementioned brashness, usually supplied by their rabid drummer, his head mostly a blur of blond. Total Control went to places in between these moods, too, often via post-punk alleyways, maybe a few indie-rock sidewalks. Their singer bounced back and forth at the hips and screamed like he actually and honestly meant it, or maybe couldn’t care less. Likewise, the crowd: Some took interest in their off-kilter structures; others talked about whatever it is people talk about at shows.

Thee Oh sees then played their meaty set of many well-commanded romps between genre and sensibility, and were adored by hundreds of people willing to throw their bodies upon the gears of the Unfun Machine. John Dwyer, principal singer and frontisplayer of Thee Oh Sees, looked and acted onstage like a dude who got kicked out of the army for being too fun. (Can you get kicked out of prison for being too fun? If so, that.) From about midnight until after 1 a.m., he bounced around the stage and yelped and sang like a true believer, switching between fully automatic six-string and 12-string guitars, a few times going Section 8 with no guitar, only just his nasal and sneered melodies. The crowd raised its arms at most times and rubbed against itself to the variously explosive or subdued and dreamy jams from Thee Oh Sees' big bag of songs. Many of these songs work nicely into their pregnant improvisations, based around simple and kinetically persuasive riffs.

The sound in the room was ace: tall and wide and booming, as appropriate. The bass player, playing a guitar rigged out like a bass, locked onto and slopped around the beats of the two drummers (yes, Thee Oh Sees have and absolutely deserve and warrant two drummers — in fact, they also have, deserve and warrant their third percussion player). One drummer, Lars Finberg, stared into his drum-mate's face with a rather pedophilic, placid smile, matching the apparent ease of their synchronous drum fills, but contrasting the endings of the songs, which they violently stubbed out like bad cigarettes. His face, still and shining in the red light, supplied the necessary and sufficient element of terror to this sublime performance.

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