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Last Month in Music
Last Month in Music: July 2013
By Mike Smith
That was probably as close to a personal manifesto as I’ve ever composed, and I stand by it. Art should be dramatic, fun, startling, risky and willing to offend. Artists should be intuitive, responsive and open to unplanned moments of brightness and intensity—at least if they want me to care about what they do. Some don’t, I’m sure. And that’s fine too. But these are some of the things I thought about when Mauro and I saw Fort Hobo play on July 4 at the Iron Haus.
Fort Hobo is always one of the most thrilling live shows in town—with Andy Lyman frenziedly strumming his bass like a guitar, the tragically-soon-to-relocate Nate Daly intently pulverizing his drums, Adrian Toto flaying the air with his electric guitar and zine legend Billy McCall leaping around yowling and thrashing and hurting himself on almost everything. On the Fourth of July, Billy was dressed as a clean-cut, prep-school dweeb, adding irony to the insanity and patriotically dedicating songs to America. “This one’s for the USA,” he’d say. “And our freedom to be spied on literally all the time by our government,” and then all the musicians not anchored to a drum set would charge forward, into and across the living room of the Iron Haus, into the packed, palpitant, spasming crowd, into a hothouse of flying sweat and limbs and clothes.
I know Fort Hobo has songs—one’s about Albuquerque and “Breaking Bad” and the tram, one’s about a guy who robs a liquor store but the liquor store’s a DEA front, and aliens are invading the Earth at the same time—but I can rarely pick them out when they play live, any more than I could pick out solitary waves from a restless ocean. It was all just punk-rock energy, a wave coursing through the room, a force in the form of humans and their instruments, a magnetism moving from the musicians into the crowd and back again, intensifying every time, until Adrian yowled something primal, swung his guitar over his head and smashed his guitar hard down over his amp, snapping its neck. It was exactly what the energy of the show demanded, and my esteem for the band doubled upon seeing them perform so responsively, so intuitively, so correctly.
I saw many other standout sets in July as well, and I’m sorry I don’t have room to do more than mention them here. Among others there was Pancho, of Jenny Invert; Seahorn, formerly the Great Depression; Cthulha, classical metal unlike anything else; Bigawatt, the queen of noise-soul; and Anna Mall, who rocked a theremin and a loop pedal. All of these performers bring their whole selves to their art, and leave themselves wide open to inspiration—and the lives of their audiences are all the richer for it.
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