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Growing / Earth / Merzbow / Circle, Great American Music Hall, SF, 9/2/05.

(Writing this, I realized I never did write about the fantastic Teenage Fanclub concert last month, or the PinoisePop concerts — Ninja Academy, the Skyflakes, and the excellent From Monument To Masses — that I saw with Special K and 40.)

I missed half of Growing’s set — two guitarists who were outfitted (almost hilariously) with a wall of six Peaveys and Ampegs: total MBV-like guitar drone, with loops feeding on themselves.

I’ve never really liked Earth, which is odd, considering how much I hold similar bands (and their albums) — Sleep’s Jerusalem, Corrupted’s Llenandose de Gusanos, Naked City’s Leng T’che — in high regard. Live, their music translates to stoner rock at an excruciating, audience-testing, slow pace, with the same, not-as-chunky Black Sabbathy riff repeated a few hundred times. (Indeed, the best part was when some guy in the audience yelled “Slower!”) It’s music best appreciated if one is slumped, in a stupor, on a sofa, but I was sober, and a couch was nowhere near.

The real star of the show, at least in my book, was Merzbow, whom I’d never seen live before. (I’m something of a Merzbow nut; at last count I had about 120 Merzbow titles.) I managed to wriggle front and center until I was pretty much right in front of Masami Akita himself (who did not even bother to look at the audience at any point). The man in black — black clothes, long hair, sunglasses, black New Balances — sat at a table, and faced a small arsenal of wires and knobs and two Powerbooks (one with the big sticker “Meat Is Murder”). His music resists language; there are barely any linguistic referents for this sort of sonic assault of electronic screeches, giant slabs of bowel-loosening bass rumble, waves of chest-tightening, frighteningly amplified fuzz and feedback. This was literally violent music; at some point I thought my eyeballs were vibrating uncontrollably in concert with one particular loop towards the end of his set — the sound of infernal machines on the brink of explosion. Awesome.

Circle was, in a sense, anticlimactic (the crowd had thinned considerably once they came on), but they were certainly the most energetic of the four acts. A Finnish postrock / krautrock band, Circle had two skinny shirtless guys, a big curly-haired rawk dude, and a masked drummer, beating a motorik groove to the ground. The vocalist, who looked oddly like Will Oldham, alternately orated and screamed like Keiji Haino. Much headbanging among the audience, which unfortunately inspired a couple of obnoxious drunk frat-boy types to push their way to the front. I think I like Circle’s studio albums more, but maybe my eardrums were already ruined by Merzbow before they began. It’s about an hour now since the concert and I can think my ears are still ringing…

2 replies on “Growing / Earth / Merzbow / Circle, Great American Music Hall, SF, 9/2/05.”

godammit…well, there is a band called Fe-mail playing at Metrospace in E Lansing to a crowd of ten I’m sure..someone kill me.

Go Fe-Mail! =)

D-Dog: You’ll be back for the English Beat concert in October I take it? I have tickets for the Sunday set.

But yes, Merzbow was incredible: the sound engulfing you from all sides, like there was no escape. Someone on the Merzbow list was writing about how one could simply turn down the volume on your iPod or home stereo, but this was continuous, oppressive noise which sought to do damage. (And I wasn’t wearing earplugs either!)

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