This column fully endorses culture jamming – the art of turning mass media’s methods against itself – so another item blinking brightly on the TLU holiday gift radar is the recently released Our Favorite Things, a career-spanning DVD of music videos from mischievous sound collagists and copyright guerrillas Negativland, who’ve been making the system their bitch for over a quarter-century. Recruiting 18 experimental filmmakers to visually interpret their work, they’ve created a magnum opus of media subversion, turning beloved mainstream icons (Julie Andrews, fer chrissakes!) into couriers of sedition and attacking themes like advertising, religion, guns, war and torture. Pairing scathing commentary with a wicked sense of humor, the collection is at once odd, dark, fucked-up and uproariously funny. It’s irreverent A/V art of the highest order and a must-have for the cultural terrorist in your life.
Michigan trio Awesome Color unleashed everything that totally rules about heavy rock at Club Firestone Dec. 2. Their set was a classic trip through rock’s underbelly, taking the noise of Sonic Youth and smearing the lust of the Stooges all over it like peanut butter. By pounding out thick fuzz grooves and forcefully insistent rhythms with snap and power, these guys proved the eternal virility of rock & roll with maximum attitude.
Headlining very loudly were alt-rock giants Dinosaur Jr. With J Mascis’ famously deafening guitar noise and wanton shredding, the performance was like a deaf guitar virtuoso interpreting melodic alternative rock and was solid, if somewhat too even. Now loud is loud, and I love loud. But the volume, though impressive, was gratuitous to the point of distraction. I can’t believe I said it either, but it’s true.
The Acacia Strain show Dec. 4 at Back Booth rated highly on this week’s docket, though not because of the band. They sounded like just about every other metalcore band does live. No, this one gets a tip of the hat because of the performance of the audience. Yep, YOU, baby. There’s nothing quite as fulfilling in the concert-going experience as seeing a wildly enthused audience. If the crowd is all-out apeshit, hell, Barry Manilow could be onstage and I’d still be diggin’ it (actually, I rather like that image). And those who assembled for this show came to go completely kuh-RAY-zee. Whether it was crowd-surfing in order to scream into the singer’s generously shared mic or diving off the stage like a bowling ball into pins, this was one physical show and bodies were flying everywhere. I even spotted some poor sucker walking around with a torn ear, a mosh-pit casualty sporting what were now just dangling tentacles on the side of his head – totally gnarly and completely awesome.
Also thrilling were North Carolina’s Avett Brothers Dec. 7 at the Social, a progressive folk show both exciting and sold out (who’da thunk, right?). Not too many acoustic-based acts are capable of bringing the degree of fire they can. And with just a string-band format, they electrified the stage. In the language of folk, bluegrass and country, they’re authentic, but they bring a fresh new perspective and attitude. In so doing, they’re making folk music relevant to a new generation.
Earlier that night over at Back Booth, a first-rate bill of exemplary Florida talent was assembled for the History CD-release party – an impressively aggressive album, by the way. An outstanding set was delivered by Tampa’s Auto! Automatic!!, who were the model of what a trio should be: powerfully lean and sonically clear. But it was the acres of dynamic ability that each player packed that afforded their performance maximum sonic mileage. With enough technicality to impress the academics but enough brawn to move everyone else, this is instrumental math rock that actually rocks out. Imagine that.
The night before, Back Booth hosted another good trio, locals For Ex-Lovers Only, who proffered a jaunty ball of Smiths-inspired ’80s melodies, ’60s jangle and light garage flourishes. Their execution was ragtag and loosely stitched, but it didn’t much matter because their melodies were so incredibly likable. Also playing was Middle Distance Runner. In a set brimming with pep, they demonstrated way more pulse live than on record. Someone must be spiking D.C.’s water supply with some happy juice, ’cos they sure are churning out some bright indie pop firstname.lastname@example.org