I made it to two nights of The Wire magazine’s five-day Adventures in Modern Music Festival at the Empty Bottle, returning Sunday night (Sept. 30) to see Japan’s Boris, who are touring with guitarist Michio Kurihara. I’ve been enjoying the album that Boris put out with Kurihara earlier this year, Rainbow, as well as the earlier Boris record Pink. The songs sounded great in concert – loud, pulverizingly loud, with bigger stacks of amps than I’ve ever seen at the Bottle. A big gong behind the drum kit. Lots and lots of fog. But this was not just a wall-of-noise sort of performance. Boris actually shows a lot of range, sounding at times like heavy metal or stoner rock but also quieting down at times, playing and singing (gulp!) recognizable melodies. At the end, as the band came back for an encore, a guy standing near me got excited as he watched Boris’ guitarists change the tuning on their guitars. “They’re tuning down! Drop D! All right!” But then, Boris played one of its most serene songs of the night, not the metal rave-up that the Drop D guy had expected. Far from anticlimatic, it brought the night to a perfect end. See my photos of Boris.
It was an odd triple bill of the sort that you would only see at the Empty Bottle or a fest sponsored by The Wire. The first group of the night was People, a drum and guitar duo with a bizarre sense of humor. I doubt I would want to listen to People’s records, but I’m glad to say I’ve seen them. With three pairs of glasses draped over various parts of his head and torso, drummer Kevin Shea talked a lot between songs (even on top of them) in a seemingly clueless or drugged-out but slightly confrontational monotone. He would start to tell a story and then interrupt himself by abruptly beginning a song when he was halfway through a sentence. After the first song, he told the crowd, “I’ll bet you didn’t think we would start by playing a SONG.” Shea’s drumming was so crazy (think free jazz) that I barely noticed what singer-guitarist Mary Halvorson was playing throughout the set. It was all pretty darn amusing, though People would have outstayed their welcome if they played much longer. See my photos of People.
The second band of the night was Damon & Naomi. I haven’t followed their music, but it was pretty much what I would have expected from people who used to play in Galaxie 500: mellow indie-pop with a soft, slow vibe. It was pretty, but maybe a little too wispy for my tastes. See my photos of Damon & Naomi.