Seeing Battles at the Imperial on Tuesday night was an absolute steal at $20 a ticket.
I got to see a set of amazing experimental rock musicians from New York that I knew, and a pair of the same that I didn’t.
Up until I looked the show up online to see where and when it was, I’d never heard of Buke and Gase before. I checked out a song, thought it was pretty good and went on my way. It was only when I saw Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez take the stage with their strange assortment of instruments (I was thinking “jingle shoes” but “toe-bourine” is better) that I slowly started to realize what I was getting into. Given that there’re only the two of them, drums consist of a bass drum that thumps away and the aforementioned “toe-bourine” crashing away as the distorted sound of their signature buke and gase phase in and out behind Dyer’s voice that coated in an Emily Haines-esque distortion that you’d find in your average Metric song. I feel like comparing anything about their set to any phrase with the word ‘average’ in it really undermines how different their sound was, so try not to take that out of context. The duo really killed it up there, playing about 10 songs, give but not take a couple. Leaving the show I was a big fan and hunted them down to hear more. There’s a live set of them online that you should probably watch all the way through because if you’re reading this, you’ve most likely missed your chance to see the crazy talented pair on stage.
Battles’ set was being put together as I was still on a thrill high from Buke and Gase, and things managed to stay weird with Ian Williams strange upturned keyboard set-up and John Stanier’s crash/ride (or whatever it actually was) cymbal being approximately as high as I was tall. The set built up with ‘Dot Com’ from the newest album La Di Da Di; starting slowly from Dave Konopka’s pedals with the other pieces being put together as the song got louder and fuller. Any reservations I had about that cymbal being too high to hit or falling into the crowd and splitting someone’s skull open were quickly dashed as Stanier smashed away on the thing without a care in the world. Gloss Drop’s ‘Ice Cream’ featured the vocals of Matías Aguayo and the recording of his voice mixed with the island-y synth-y sound made me think of some of Animal Collective’s newer material which I’m very happy with. ‘FF Bada’ (La Di Da Di) had choppy guitar from Williams and Konopka that came together on top of Stanier’s solid backbeat and ‘Futura’ (Gloss Drop) definitely had that neon future feel to it that would’ve fit in with a 70s sci-fi film.
I hadn’t listened to the new album yet so every song from La Di Da Di was a new adventure to me and when ‘Tricentennial’ came thundering in on a floor tom, I was right into it. The song was driven on by Stanier as the man was sweating more than I’d seen any other human being sweat in my life. I’m sure the shaking of jingle bells during ‘Tyne Wear’, especially while slamming on the snare at times, wasn’t doing a whole lot to help with a cool-down. Things went right into ‘Summer Simmer’ and all three of these songs from the newest album really showed off some great musicianship and how well these guys knew and played their respective parts. With some of the time signature changes and trade-offs between Williams and Konopka’s parts, you’d have to be insane not to have plenty of respect for these guys. The crowd was most excited to hear the one song they played from the first album Mirrored, ‘Atlas’. The song seems like a good mix of the strange guitar/keyboard lines that come together, sometimes as very distinctly separate parts, on top of the thumping, driving percussion line that Stanier sets down. The song definitely deserves the acclaim that it’s gotten from critics in the past.
And with that, an extremely short encore-wait occurred, both because of Konopka’s (and most likely the rest of the band’s) disdain for the tradition and the fact that there wasn’t really anywhere to hide other than sitting on the stairs at the side of the stage with nothing to hide you from the crowd, before they closed with ‘The Yabba’ (La Di Da Di) which they were thinking was spooky enough to be Hallowe’en appropriate. I think I’d agree with their choice, it’s a really interesting song with some cool instrumentation and a touch of madness.
And with that the band left the stage with Stanier leaving a pool of sweat in his wake.
Battles put on a really solid set that really showed off their skill and unique sound. Buke and Gase did the same thing. So all in all, it was a pretty perfect line-up and the bands complemented each other well. I really can’t think of a better band for either to play with and was really blown away by a band I’d never seen live and a band I’d never even heard of. If possible see both these bands, especially if they’re in the same place for $20; you can’t get much better than that.