I thought I'd share some impressions with you about a concert i went to the other night. This wasn't meant to be a published piece or anything but i did feel this gig was affecting enough for me to want to spin some words. Here's what came out.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor live @ the Vogue Wednesday Feb. 16th 2011
Okay, so this freehand concert reflection might take a bit of time to write because the spectacle I witnessed last night deserves the space to come to fruition in my head and heart. Godspeed You! Black Emperor was certainly not the “best” concert I have ever attended, but it was definitely one of the more interesting and intense shows I’ve been to. I’ll admit I knew I was getting myself into something special when I signed on for this, co-worker Fraser announcing one day almost half a year ago that he had bought a couple of tickets for this super-rare show by the Montreal post-spacefury rock outfit who never really tour all that much and haven’t released any new material in nearly ten years. I took the spare ticket all the while thinking how odd it was that I was committing to a band more than six months ahead of time and the band was one that I knew and admired but had never given much thought to seeing live before now. I know a good chunk of this bands music and I had an inkling of what they would throw forth in the live setting but there was really no reason for me to commit to music I felt only a passing connection to. For the most part some of this artsy drone-noise-crescendo-peak-chill-build-again music gets my dander up after a while and it’s totally not something I could sit and listen to for long periods of time while in my private moments. I appreciate it and I feel the power of monster riffs held for 20 minutes while drums go crazy, but like Latin and physiological studies, as beautiful as they might be, I feel no draw towards them and would rather leave them to be studied and dissected by the more eager. But something about the idea of this Godspeed You! Black Emperor show got me hopped up and I had a feeling it would knock my head around for a bit.Well friends, I was not wrong.
The evening began watching some young fellow who calls himself Total Life hunched over a bank of mixers and things making loud atonal noises that peaked and let loose and then turned into a somewhat passable form of dance music. It was interesting to walk into but after a half an hour I was ready for something more. There was meant to be a band onstage called Errors but apparently they never happened and so it was just electronics/mixers guy and Godspeed. So be it. Next it was time to pee and all the while I was gone I could hear this low tonal hum, like a bass guitar left near an amp but not in an annoying way. I felt soothed by the hum as I made small talk with the guy in the line about how it was the first time we’d ever been in a lineup for the guys can at an indoor gig. We were wieners at a sausage fest and we laughed and made nervous caveman-like dude gestures about this art music gig with a high volume of black shirt and beard wearing tough gutter punk anarchy steam-rave oddball folks. It was all kind of weird and exciting and surreal, us gathered under this roof to share in this unique live experience. The tension in the air was rich and I was honored to be a part of it. After about 20 minutes of the low tone hum that stoked the excitement in the air, Godspeed sauntered out and took their spots, building on the bass hum instrument by instrument, layer by layer. We staked our viewing location behind the sound booth, which proved to be the perfect place to get a full on experience. Downwind from the projectionist and directly behind the impressively busy girl doing sound we watched a band play selfishly amongst themselves while forever bathed in a light salmon hue cast on blue. No words were spoken and no acknowledgment was given to the crowd. This show was not about “hits” or favorite tracks or the perfect set list. This was about art in motion in unison with others, and in my opinion they pulled it off perfectly. Songs? You want songs? No, these aren’t really songs as much as they are movements of sound that build and become furious and intricate. The songs have names and I recognized a couple, but names of songs are hardly important when the draw is more about the music and movements. This is stormy music that hits like white light and can take you on a range of feelings from elation to exhaustion and back again. In the live setting these ‘songs’ happen while images are cast behind the band. Dreary black, white and faint off piss-yellow images of crows flying, sad cities, fields of grass blowing in the breeze, emergency lights and old fashioned cranes picking up scrap and throwing it onto bigger piles of scrap. Is this happy music and picture times? Hardly. Is it sad? No, not really. It is music that paints a bleak picture of hope. Hope that starts off as innocent and then flickers off into sketchy, eventually becoming a mix of tension, love, fury, ecstasy, fear, aggression and unrest. Songs grow wings of gossamer and take flight and just when you think the going is good the wings turn to scribbled on cardboard and barbed wire held together with airplane glue and pubic hair. It was odd and beautiful to watch happen and neither the crowd, projectionist, band nor sound tech would have been able to pull it off without the other. We were all a part of this magitragicomedy in movements whether we knew it or not. Each feeding the other and the other eating itself to feed the other, a perfect circle of fury and noise, pictures rendered and minds torn open, holes burned in film and explosions of images riding atop crests of sound waves. These massive intakes and outpourings of guitars, bass, violins, drums and samples of dialogue filled the walls of the Vogue and for stretches of time I was convinced that this was the beginning and end of all music, the white light at the end of the tunnel. A light that beckoned, so I followed and for an evening I was saved.