James Chance and the Contortions, Gary Wilson with Tredici Bacci, Horse Lords, Eartheater
Friday, April 29, 8 pm at Market Hotel: $13
Excuse me while I have a fangirl moment here, but when I found out that James Chance and the Contortions were playing Market Hotel I just about had an aneurysm. One of the weirder musicians out of the New York City no wave scene, James Chance, of course, fronted the outfit with his freakaleak saxophone skills, super-hyper screetching, and bleeding-throat acrobatics– a spirit reminiscent of James Brown. Chance’s devotion to jazz seeps through his music, and for that reason his live tracks, as documents of funky improvisational exercises, noisy meltdowns, and legitimate, Dr. Jekyll-worthy freakouts, are a new listener’s best bet.
It’s Chance’s visceral, bodily engagement with sound, something we can only infer from recordings, that really gets at why the guy is so enthralling– his explosive persona bursts out of the music. As such, his performances were a practice in self-exorcism and all-out demon wrastling. That throttling, confrontational wiling-out was often directed outward, too, when Chance would turn on the audience, ready for a rumble. He even famously punched out the Village Voice rock critic Robert Christgau for, you know, being Robert Christgau.
Strangely enough, when Chance first moved from Milwaukee to New York City in 1975, he came here with the intention of making it as a jazz musician. When he realized he didn’t exactly fit into the scene, Chance decided to realign his ambitions toward rock n’ roll, briefly playing with Lydia Lunch’s band, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, before going on to start his own outfit, The Contortions. Even though he was a classically-trained musician himself, Chance recruited bandmates based not on their musical abilities (of which there was usually none) but because he thought they were chillers, basically. Chance did a freaking excellent job, though, and something tells me that every one of the Contortions still has it in them to play a wrecking ball of a show at Market Hotel. Tickets have magically yet to sell out, but don’t sleep on this one y’all.
13th Chime, Anasazi, Dame
Saturday April 16, 11:30 pm at Saint Vitus Bar: $20
Turns out that 13th Chime– the legendary UK goth outfit, whose sound is so familiar, so classically goth, that I’m convinced some neo-post-punk bands feel the need to imitate their British accents– have never played in the U.S. despite having formed around 1980. Until now.
Born out of a suburban enclave of London called Haverhill, 13th Chime perfected the morbid, melancholy sound of post-punk bands that came before them (e.g. Joy Division), not to mention the look, and the same bass-driven ghost-rock we’ve been hearing so much of in the last several years. Could it be that we’re living in a time that’s spiritually similar to 1980s England? Margaret Thatcher– the UK’s Ronald Reagan, with permanently pursed lips– was doing all sorts of nasty things to the British working class, which sounds sort of like what we’re up against these days. Hopelessness, dread, and end-times speak reigned supreme then and are all too familiar now. But Thatcherite England was equally a time of sexual and social revolution for the counterculture, something that we seem to share with that era too.
Despite their mastery of the ’80s post-punk sound, at the bands original foundation in the early ’80s, they released a bunch of singles that may have earned cult status now, but in their own time were generally sort of forgotten and not widely heard. All that changed in 2009 when Sacred Bones rereleased these in addition to some demos and their “long-lost LP.” Now, it seems that 13th Chime are ready to live like the internationally touring band that they never were.
Rather appropriately, they’ll be joined by super spooky death-punk band Anasazi, a Brooklyn-based group that could easily be confused for a contemporary of 13th Chime. Fronted by actual warlock Chi Orego, Anasazi are all about that doom and gloom and are engaged in explicitly political songwriting (something that feels largely absent from other post-punk revivalists) as we saw on their latest release, Nasty Witch Rock. That newish record also sees the band veering off on to a surprisingly garage-like path toward well-worn post-punk themes.
Please be advised to arrive at the show early and promptly loll out your tongue, as the opening act, the tasty morsel that is Dame will be dropping their sound on willing participants. No surprises here in that they’re keeping with the evening’s looming goth theme, however Dame bring a wilder, more powerfully punk way of doing things than their lineup mates. And if you’re up for the physical challenge of doing more than casually bobbing your head, the band’s sassy, chanty style, cut with a looseness that can only be achieved by genuine coolness, they’ll have you dancing around in no time. Only so long as that’s not embarrassing for your friends.
Ttotals, Heavy Birds, Chomper
Monday April 18, 8 pm at Alphaville: $8
The rainy-day garage rock of Ttotals is just what we need with the arrival of this bronzer-soaked, Adderall-fueled, Lite-Brite rock riddled “festival season” and garage bands that are pumping out the same soundtrack to tepee glamping excursions in a over and over again. Ugh. Like, at first the peppy garage rock thing was slightly charming, if not all the time tolerable, but now it’s reached new car=commercial heights, and I know that you, like me, cannot abide. Perhaps Ttotals are adept at plucking out this languid-sounding psych stuff because they’re from Nashville, our nation’s capital of country music, an industry whose rather cute lovelorn whinnies have been overtaken by sugar-coated pop and cringe-worthy attempts at frat boy self-awareness. Ttotals on the other hand, are downright gloomy, their vocals occasionally drift outward to sea, making for the kind of detachment that we’re more likely to hear from post-punk and even metal bands. If you’re into it, consider picking up their trippy new tape, For the Ones in the Know.
Heavy Birds, on the other hand, take a completely different approach to psych revivalism, going the way of the earthier, organ-happy bands like the Brian Jonestown Massacre. There’s a charismatic leader at the center of this band, too (at least in a vocal sense), thanks to Ryan Drag’s invocation of Lou Reed’s early-Velvet sound. On their newest LP, Drag, you can almost hear his mouth fluttering against the mic. They’ve mastered a sense of warmth, a closeness with the vocals at least, and yet maintain a sort of expansiveness in terms of instrumentals that range from cello croons to tambourine stomps and noise guitar rips.
White Material All Night Long: Galcher Lustwerk, DJ Richard, Young Male, Morgan Louis
Saturday, April 16, 9 pm at Market Hotel: $20
It’s feeling like springtime finally, which means there are probably all sorts of manic feelings amassing in your veins, creating a regular traffic jam of beach-day visions and porch-drink fantasies in your head. You’re running a real risk of acquiring a pile-up in the section of your brain that is supposedly there to stop you from doing stupid, animalistic things. It’s no wonder that you’re beginning to feel like the world could break in half at any moment. Yup, we’re in the midst of literally the worst seasonal transition, from hellish to decent, because we’ve tricked ourselves into thinking that not only are beautiful days just around the corner, but that we deserve them.
Oh, you’re on your way to drink a piña colada in the sun? Not so fast, buddy– there’s still a chilly ass breeze lurking underneath all those warming rays. Instead, get thee to the Market Hotel this Saturday evening where you can safely release all of that screwy, springy madness onto your innocent colleagues. This intermittently hot and cold lineup features the best of White Material records brought to you by frenetic, danceable techno and tech-age ambient sounds (respectively) that will do a lot to break up all that imbalance. Who knows? You might wake up the next day feeling perfectly OK with the torture chamber that is spring.