Double booking mayhem! Noise vs. lo-fi at Silent Barn

Post Author: Nate Dorr

With TV Ghost, Pink Reason, City Center, Coconuts, Zac Davis, Slither, Halflings, God Willing, Evenings, Fluorescent Vibes, Best Hits.

What happens when the Silent Barn accidentally double-books? Skipped acts? Shortened sets? Bills forced to move or reschedule outright? Thankfully none of these things, practice has demonstrated. Last Saturday night, through rapid turnover on two stages, the Barn showed full DIY flexibility in somehow combining two unrelated bills, Voltron-like, into a massive space robot armed with twin lasers of feedback devastation and thrumming sub-bass.

The independent bills were:

1. An already extensive noise show headlined by Zac Davis from Lambsbread and Ducktails. This one was set up by obsessive noise-scene video documentation site Acid Marshmallow and Secret Agency’s Ric Leichtung.

2. A shorter three-band lo-fi rock bill put together by Pink Reason‘s Kevin Failure.

This is a good combination. The Acid Marshmallow bill took a predictably more abstract angle, building up drones and sculpted crackle until one of the bands from the opposing bill could sweep onto stage in a cathartic wave of straight-up rocking out. Then, release attained, the audience was ready for another tide of cryptic texturing.

To give an example: the centerpiece sequence of the night could be considered the gripping build-up from Slither to Ducktails to TV Ghost.

Slither serves as excellent confirmation of my general belief that wind instruments are perfect in a noise context. In this case sax and clarinet exactly as sinuous as their name. Whereas guitars can get lost in the sort of power-noise the duo laid-down from the start, before bringing reeds to lips, the molten squiggles they soon turned loose cut straight through the mess, and jabbed straight for the unprotected eardrum. And when the noise dropped out for a moment, the duo just seized the open space in the mix to ramp up into a gloriously deafening tandem shrieksqueal that then twisted into the backdrop for the next riff. The Toledo, OH two-piece has a slew of cassette releases on Tasty Soil and their own Fag Tapes imprint, and now a new Not Not Fun 7″ split (with no less than Thurston Moore & Paul Flaherty on the flipside), so clearly someone is taking notice.

Back upstairs, Ducktails hit the stage almost immediately, in unexpected duo format. Recent Ducktails tapes have played out like a nostalgic, daylight inversion of Blues Control’s woozy, nocturnal M.O., often applying similar slow-morphing psych repetition to a whole different set of references: waving palms, running through the sprinkler on washed out Dad-shot home-video, perhaps, the title suggests, whiling away an afternoon in the basement rumpus room watching cartoons and sipping grape soda. Live this time, though, they took things into more ambiguous territories of nostalgia, balancing drifting portamento chords for keys and guitar with grace and perhaps faint melancholy. Timing irregularities lent a dreamlike quality and the end product became strangely soothing. But the set may have gone on a little too long in this state: when they finished I had to shake myself awake again.

With good cause, as TV Ghost had, somewhat astonishingly, come all the way from Laffayette, IN just for this show. Having missed their last (first?) stay in the city, I was thrilled that they were back so soon, and more thrilled to find them unexpectedly on the night’s bill. Condensing and focusing the more nebulous sounds of everything that preceded them, the quartet blasted back ferocious Siltbreeze-style garage rock with a psych-inflected panache that belied their relatively recent formation. Clearly hook-conscious through the ragged dissonance, TV Ghost gave the audience their first full release: guitarist and bassist seemed incapable of staying still and so, then, became the audience. Bobbing and weaving around the Silent Barn’s living room space, the guitarist also seemed incapable of not knocking over the band’s own gear on several occasions, and opted, finally, to finish up the set sprawled on the floor, mic lolling near his head as he yelled the final lines, hands still twitching at the guitar strings. Later, the group returned to close the show as the backup to Kevin Failure in a tweaked (but excellent) variant of Pink Reason.

Before and after that fantastic run, the night offered plenty of other notable, if less dramatic, highlights from Zac Davis’s blistering, complicated noise-rock shredding improvisation (backed only by Awesome Color’s Allison on drums), to the heavy drone-rock and lock-loop bass throb of Coconuts, to Halflings’ rapid but devastating performance, death-metal intense but always structured and moving forward.

The show also served as the debut of Fluorescent Vibes, a new group from Matt (Acid Marshmallow) and Phillip, formerly of the now defunct Miami Beach, along with Cryptic Carousel Records’ Corey Bauer. Starting and ending with a bit of Hawaiian guitar, slowed and detuned into faint disquiet, the set spent most of its length ditching the islands for shifting static seas and deep, submarine humming.