|Pictured above: A portrait of Nancy Reagan by Thomas Kincaid (on bath salts).|
Two things brought me to Dreamland on March 22nd: I wanted to see MA Turner’s set (he’s an old friend and I’m writing an article about his ZOZ Collection for The Louisville Lip) and everyone had told me that Guerilla Toss was phenomenal.
None of the people who encouraged my attendance showed up that night. So screw you guys. This review is for you.
MA Turner opened with a 17-minute solo set that would seem surprising to anyone who’s never seen him play before. Despite his exemplary guitar skills, MA often looks like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. If I didn’t know better from having seen him play in so many bands, I would have suspected that he was hitting random notes. The problem with that view is that it misses MA’s unique approach to music. As he explained to me at the show “I don’t make music for fun.” I called bullshit since his previous band, CROSS, had been one hell of a Sabbath revival full of metal-inspired hooks.
Still, MA is right in a way. In the video I recorded of his set, you can watch him contort his body to get the right sound. Note that “the right sound” doesn’t have anything to do with hooks or beauty or song structure. He expresses the full range of human experience. That means crying, yelling incoherently, and stuttering in fear and disbelief. Casual listeners will head outside to puff on their futuristic cigarettes. Those of us who trust MA to take us somewhere new are always rewarded.
Check out MA’s entire set: here.
Next up was some band from the Northeast. After MA Turner’s vitriolic performance, I couldn’t take their rococo pop. It sounded a little like Big Fresh. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just wasn’t in the mood so I spent time outside watching people exhale water vapor.
Humongous milled about, passing a bottle of bourbon between members until they felt suitably released to play. The band has been around for over a decade, but they don’t play out much. It was a treat of loudness that captured a particular Louisville sound that became too-briefly popular in the early 00s. Loud guitar riffs with little to no reverb. Horns that I only wished I could hear better. Vocals that fell somewhere between shouting and chanting.
A guitar string snapped early in the set. Matt Pickerill asked the audience and bands for a replacement, but no one seemed to move. Matt said “fuck it” when he probably should have said “fuck you guys” and rocked the next song sans important string. I couldn’t tell the difference. My church pew vibrated just as much without the string.
Guerilla Toss set up on the floor (fuck asshole elitists who dare play on the stage!), which immediately reinforced comparisons to Lightning Bolt. After half an hour of screwing around and 15 minutes spent in Decca’s basement watching a few Freakwater songs, Guerilla Toss showed that, stage or no stage, they could command an audience. After one song, Kassie, the group’s singer, asked that everyone move closer because it would make her feel more comfortable. To my amazement, people crowded around and between the band members. I’ve made similar requests from stages, and no one has ever moved an inch. It may help that Cassie was wearing a half-shirt that showed off some rather impressive abs.
When did noise rockers start getting into shape? GToss seems like they’ve been touring constantly for the last couple years. Where does a traveling musician find time for exercise? She even remarked to a hippyish guy that, no, she’d never done yoga.
The 99 percent male audience revealed their incisors and moved in. You could feel the brains of reflective straight guys in the audience as they resisted the urge to grab some tit like they were at a Styx concert.
Apparently this is what it takes to make Louisvillians dance. News to all: tapping your foot, nodding your head, and folding your arms across your chest does not equal dancing. I know it’s a Louisville tradition, but it’s boring and contributes to our city’s reputation as a shitty place for touring acts.
Some reviewers have criticized Guerilla Toss’s lack of song structure. Head over to that pompous hipster site that begins with a P and ends with an “ork,” and you’ll find constant complaints about how the keys and guitars rarely add to the song.
I can’t disagree given that the keyboardist/synth player smacked his keys randomly during several songs while watching Conrad Rooks’ Chappaqua projected on the screen behind him. But the performance was so intense that I can overlook noise for the sake of noise. It felt raw and insane. It made me wish that I’d grown up in NYC, where I could have possibly caught Sonic Youth shows before they started dragging 50 pounds of pedals across the world.
Kassie’s voice sounded like a chipmunk trying to get someone’s attention as it slipped into a meat grinder. I mean that as praise. She yelped notes I’ve only heard from Kazu Makino. It was confusing, delirious, and sexy.
My one complaint: the bassist/guitarist never took his pants off.
Written by Special Guest Writer: Matt Thompson. Matt writes for the Louisville Lip, which you should read and subscribe to here.