Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Guest Post: Bob Reviews Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC (9/9/15)

Clearly I should just turn this site into a Washington D.C. concert blog where Bob reviews wholly inaccessible music. At least this band is notable enough to have had a joke about them in Pineapple Express.

Fun fact: I was the only person in my theater to laugh at this joke 


Since Matt is too lazy to keep this blog going consistently, I see it as my duty to provide summaries of notable shows that I see.  That, and it's a useful way to supplement my awful memory.  In that spirit, I went and saw Godspeed You! Black Emperor perform at the 9:30 Club on 9/9/15. Unfortunately, due to the capitalist dogs that sign my paycheck, I missed the opener, but the show itself was worth the ticket price ten-fold.

Godspeed, a seminal post-rock band out of Quebec, went into hiatus in 2003.  This hiatus came just before this writer was to get his license and be able to get off of Cape Cod to see concerts.  Thanks, guys.

However, this hiatus came on the heels of releasing what I consider to be two masterwork albums: F#A#(Infinity) and Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven.  (The Yanqui U.X.O. EP is great as well, for the record).  These albums blew my mind apart. They were primarily composed of 20+ minute pieces, each with movements alternating between hypnotizing violin/cello/bass drones with guitar flourishes, and then slowly they'd become more disjointed and intense and chaotic till everyone settled back into a previously-unseen-but-now-obvious melody blasted out with aplomb.

But lo!  They regrouped a few years back and have released good material to boot.  So when I heard about this show coming I bought tickets with a quickness and slowly built up unreasonable expectations for this show.

Subtly, the background house music switched to a low rumbling bass drone.  This went on for a solid five minutes as the DC crowd continued checking work phones and bullshitting with neighbors. Slowly the crowd realized what was happening and quieted down, and from there 'till the end it was one of the most respectful crowds I've ever seen.  No one even checked emails unless it was between movements (yes, this band's music has movements), which in this workaholic town is a goddamned miracle.

This respect was well earned.  The three guitar, two bass, two percussionist, and violist ensemble worked through their latest album basically in order, and it was a study in contrasts.  They'd alternate between relaxing soothing tunes (seriously, I physically felt the tension leave my neck, which my wife has always said is where I hold a lot of tension but never really believed her 'till that moment) and loud loud LOUD messes of chaos that still held together perfectly.  I mean, in my previous review I said I felt my leg hairs vibrate?  Godspeed made my CLOTHES vibrate.

The tunes were paired with 8mm videos played behind the band throughout the show. They generally alternated between scenes of urban decay and desolate prairie landscapes, which sounds really dull, but complemented each song really well.  Also, I want to say here that I really really hate light shows.  I think they are the dumbest thing in the world, and nine times out of ten are more of a distraction than an enhancement.  Give me pretentious films on a white sheet every day, please.

Godspeed's playing of their new material was more than solid, and they did a rendition of their classic tune Moya which was performed beautifully.  To my surprise, though, they finished off the set with The Sad Mafioso, one of the movements in a piece called East Hastings off of F#A#(Infinity).  The whole piece is amazing, but this movement is basically perfection.  It's in my top ten songs of all-time easily, and probably even lands in the top five.  It is haunting and soothing and exhilarating and disorienting all in ten minutes.  I firmly believe the proper setting for listening to this song is in mid-fall, driving late at night down a long road where the speed traps are well documented so you can cruise at top speed with the windows down.  Add angsty cigarettes and/or disillusioned joints at your discretion, but play it fucking loud and stick around for the last minute:

I've imagined seeing this band for over a decade now, and though the setting wasn't quite what I pictured (I thought I'd be seated, stoned to the gills, and definitely not dressed in business casual), Godspeed fulfilled every expectation I had and more.