An Alibi mega-scene report
Inspired by Mike Smith’s live music column, I aimed to do something similar, styled after the Maximum Rock’n’Roll scene reports of my youth. I planned to write about several shows I saw last month—name-dropping positive influences on the scene—but space is limited. This time, I’ll stick to just one event and hope the larger picture gets reflected in the details. I organized a slew of musical acts at Synchro Studio on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at a concert mixing freakfolk, goth/industrial, avant-rock, noise and other hybrid genres. Ever since setting up a show for Black Elf Speaks (aka USAisaMonster) in 2002, it’s become my calling to find homes for marginal music here in town.
Case in point: Colin McCann, formerly of Baltimore band Wilderness and now solo beardo troubadour Lord Dog Bird, wanted to stop in Albuquerque with folktronic nightingale Caethua. I’d never heard either of them, but research revealed that Caethua's also the curator of Maine-based microlabel Saxwand, which distros early industrial-sounding releases. Several albums from Saxwand's catalog comprise a wonderful mixtape someone gave me. … Mystery solved! I was sold on this show, and I booked Synchro, schemed on locals fitting the bill and started promoting. A week in, two more touring musicians—also fans of Caethua—want to jump on. I’m reluctant, but I find they cover similar musical territory and sound great.
The show started early, and two of Brion Gysin’s vaunted dream machines provided mood lighting throughout the night. New additions Mickey Z. and Lauren Pakradooni (aka Dungeon Broads and Pak, respectively) kicked it off. Dungeon Broads' bedroom goth electronica, moaned through a raft of effects and samples into a hair-and-hoodie-obscured mic, evoking total swoon for the earlybirds—or me, at least.
Pak created blistering noise from nothing but cassette tapes and loops. I’ve been pretty burned out on noise lately, but this crackled with simple creative energy, and it was a good reminder. Uroboros (the solo debut of Heather Trost) alternated violin, vocals, keys and a crazy Italian synth, all routed through pedals and a mixer. It was spacious, heady, sometimes Sun Ra-esque, and probably my favorite set of the night.
Between sets, DJ Muffins the Magician spun with the most ghetto rig I’ve ever seen. The decks and mixer are duct-taped into functionality, and nearly all his vinyl is dumpstered. Some turntablists are good at smooth transitions, but it’s a unique DJ who can keep people entertained while trainwrecking bluegrass, grindcore and hip-hop. Ultimately, the cringeworthy chaos Muffins produced became the glue holding the show together.
The Lord Dog Bird does one thing very well: epic, wailing anthems set to jagged guitar and goosebump-inducing organ drone. It’s quite effective, but it can get overbearing after several songs, especially given the last-performance-of-my-life exertion he delivers with each one. I cut out briefly during his set to re-up my mood enhancers.
In a bit of bait-and-switch, Caethua—who I’d touted as a witchy folk songstress—turned out to be UraRider, another Saxwand band. Clare and Naomi resembled a bizarre parody of goth/industrial styles—not a bad thing in my book. It was quite entertaining, confusing and even comical. Naomi’s violin work took the music to another level, and Clare intoned something profound about darkness at the end of their set.
Playing last in a long lineup isn’t ideal, but Cthulha are always pro. They delivered a pristine set of dramatic avant-rock and proved once again—alongside Uroboros—that locals can easily hold their own against touring acts. As usual, I wished more people had witnessed it, but was proud of all the music presented.
One thing that bugged me was how much attitude the UraRider/LDB posse copped throughout the night. From the moment they arrived—late, with no attempt to check in beforehand—and piled out of their van, they made a big production out of being boisterous and so wasted in the parking lot, later clowning on a charity pin-up calendar by Babes and Bullies (a local pit bull education and advocacy group) and generally acting smug and aloof.
They thought they were the wildest bunch ever to roll into our dusty town, and were still at it near the show's finale, serenading each other loudly in a huddle outside the front door as Cthulha played. I mostly steered clear of them, only interacting about necessary details. I contemplated ditching them, but DJ Muffins—bless his crusty heart—invited the gang to hang out and even crash at his house, where the weekly Tombstone Rock (a KUNM metal program) listening party was underway. This, I couldn’t miss.
When confronted with a bunch of real underground ragers, those hipsters sobered up pretty quick, all po-faced and antisocial. The UraRider gals kept their shades on the whole time. I knew they were uncomfortable, but I let them stew for a while. Eventually, I took pity and let them crash at my place. Why, you ask? Because Burque does things right. … regardless.
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